Students have been left feeling frustrated after a total of 302 modules have been temporarily suspended across University departments this academic year.

This number consists of 183 optional masters modules and 119 undergraduate modules, Forge Press can reveal.

A further eight masters and 12 undergraduate modules have been completely withdrawn by the University.

For some students this has reduced opportunities for face-to-face learning and affected the range of topics that will be taught.

Jessica Kirk, an MSc Statistics student, will no longer be able to study her chosen modules. 

Speaking to Forge Press, she explained that the department has made all modules on the course, six in total, compulsory for each student. Unlike previous years, students do not have a choice of which topics they learn.

For Kirk, having been an undergraduate student in the department last year, this means that she will be repeating modules she has already done. 

She said while she understands the department is “overstretched at the minute”, they have been “pretty vague” about the situation. She was informed of this change just three weeks ago after emailing the course leader.

Kirk was also told that Masters students would be watching lectures that had already been delivered online to undergraduate students. 

She said: “I just don’t see the point in them pushing [the start date] back because they said they had to sort out how the Masters was going to work. All they’ve decided to do is let us watch lectures that have already happened so we may as well have just started in September. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Of the £10,500 annual course fee, Kirk said she is “not really sure why it is so expensive at Sheffield when all they’re doing is making us watch old lectures”.

Kate Gilby, an MA student at the Department of History, nearly missed out on studying a module on Revolutionary England before it was reinstated at the last minute. 

She told Forge Press the prospect of missing out had been “gutting” after facing a similar situation with modules last year. 

Cuts to teaching have also affected both undergraduate and postgraduate students in the Department of Politics and International Relations. 

In an open letter to Vice Chancellor Koen Lamberts, which has been signed by over 50 students at time of writing, they outlined their frustration at the reduction in contact hours this term.

For modules where 10 topics were taught in the last academic year, students will now be taught just five. They feel this has impacted their value for money, writing, “We are due to receive significantly less for the same price. This is simply not acceptable”.

“We fully acknowledged that face to face teaching cannot be continued to the same extent as last academic year due to Covid-19. We do not want to put the staff at risk either nor other students. 

“Nevertheless, what we are requesting is that our loss of face to face contact hours are compensated fully by online lectures, seminars and not independent learning.”

Aerospace Engineering modules have also been “significantly changed” due to Covid-19 restrictions, the University of Sheffield Aerospace Engineering Society has said. 

While they feel “in general our lecturers have dealt with it quite well”, some modules “have been changed quite a lot particularly due to lower budgets this year.”

The society said: “Freshers are normally used to very practical learning in which they have a lot of in person labs and are able to use the Diamond facilities but unfortunately many of these have had to go online. They are still having some but a lot less than normal.”

A spokesperson for the University said: “To ensure our course content stays current and relevant the University reviews modules annually. This means that individual modules may be updated or withdrawn in response to student feedback, new research discoveries, changes to funding, professional accreditation requirements and variations in student numbers.

“Departments were also asked to consider which modules could be best adapted to ensure a high-quality blended learning experience in line with the University’s response to public health advice and government requirements during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This review resulted in the withdrawal or temporary suspension of less than 10% of undergraduate and masters modules. All students were advised of changes in advance of registration and in line with OfS’s Guidance.”

Image: George Tuli


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