Yesterday Government students who had enrolled on the GV509 module, “Power, Agency and Radical Democracy” were informed that the module would no longer be taught in the coming academic year, and that they would have to find alternative choices.
The email was sent by the Student Administrator of the Government Department, without any explanation for the module closure. The lateness of this cancellation also means that many courses are now full, severely limiting the already sparse choice of modules in the Third Year for Politics students.
A number of students, including myself have emailed the Head of Department, Paul Whiteley, and below is the reply I personally received.
The reason for this is simple – we cannot staff the course with our current resources. I am sure that you will understand that we cannot always run all the courses we would like to, particularly in these difficult times.
There are a number of problems with this response. Initially, if there was a possibility of the Department not being able to run the course (module), then do not offer it to students without investigating whether adequate resources are available. Secondly, why has it taken so long for this decision to be taken, especially as now, many other modules are full?
However, most important is the final point, “we cannot always run all the courses we would like to, particularly in these difficult times.” It is clear from this that the Higher Education cuts are starting to mean that at Essex, modules are being closed. How long until courses, or even departments are closed? Whilst students from next year are being forced to pay £9,000 to study at Essex, the courses available to them are decreasing. This is false economy.
A point to cause further alarm is that this module that has been closed is unlike anything else the department offers at this level; a module that was only open to twenty students. In this case, the first modules to be cut are those that offer an alternative to the norm, or those modules which look to critically analyse and develop a different interpretation to the standard modules of the Department. The closure of this module is indicative of the trend within the HE sector, the decline of critical thought within our Universities, and a realignment of University study to serve the market, to merely provide students the tools for employment.
This is just one example from one Department, in one University. How many other students in other Departments at Essex have received similar emails to notify them of module closures?
Last year, the student movement erupted against the savage cuts to Education, with tens of thousands on the streets against the new proposals for Higher Education. This module closure cannot be isolated from the wider questions around cuts to Education, access to HE and the decline of critical thought within our institutions. We must reinvigorate that movement nationally, as well as on our own Campus to tackle these problems.
I call on the Students Union Exec to write an email to the Department stating that we will not tolerate module closures and therefore seek a reinstatement of the module, and also that the Students Union will throw itself into defending our modules, courses and Departments against closure.
Campaigns Officer, University of Essex Students Union