‘We feel like we’ve been forgotten’: Politics students respond to having no in-person lectures

Third year SPAIS students at the University of Bristol have no in person lectures this year

The University of Bristol’s Sociology, Politics and International Studies department (SPAIS) has decided to not run in-persons lectures for third year students this year.  

So far this year, with the exception of introductory lectures and intermittent dissertation lectures, students have received their lectures through online videos, with the option of in-person lectures not available. Students now have two two-hour seminars per week, culminating in a total of four contact hours.  

Students have also reported that they were not told that this change would be implemented, or the reasonings for it. We talked to some third year SPAIS students and course reps to see how they felt about this change. 

Chloe*, a politics student, feels as if herself and other students “were not consulted on this issue at all”, stating that herself and her peers “would prefer in-person lectures instead of online ones”.  

Lucy*, another politics student, said that she feels as if she is being “ripped off” as she is paying so much money for just four contact hours per week, and that she has been “forgotten and let down by the university”.  

Based on feedback from students, Jai, a sociology course rep has said that this change has made a lot of students “feel neglected by the university in comparison to other subjected who seem to be treated as ‘more important’ and seem to take a higher priority”

Alex*, a politics course rep said that he is “disappointed and annoyed over the lack of in-person lectures for third year SPAIS students” but he is “not very surprised” due to the fact that “the only care SPAIS holds its commitments to is strikes – not to their students”.  

The department were recently asked about this change in a course rep meeting. Hannah*, a sociology course rep, said that the SPAIS department defended their decision by saying that there was “a pedagogical reasoning underpinning it” and that they were “helping students become more independent learners for later in life”.  

When asked for comment, Professor Therese O’Toole, the Head of School for SPAIS, said that these changes are “based directly on feedback from students” who stated that they “preferred teaching delivered in small groups to large, less interactive formal lectures, and that they liked accessing the pre-recorded lectures and other materials online in their own time and at their own pace”. 

This feedback was done through “the Staff Student Liaison Committee in the 2021/2022 academic year” and through “student surgeries where student views were requested”.  

It is for this reason, according to Professor O’Toole that there is a new “standard mode of provision for third years”, which is “two-hour weekly seminars for each unit – instead of one-hour weekly seminars and a one-hour lecture”. 

When asked about these comments, Hannah and Lucy both stated that the feedback groups that were used to decide this change are too small, with Hannah adding that they are “unrepresentative of the whole cohort in general”.  

If third year SPAIS students have any concerns or questions regarding this issue, they have been encouraged by Professor O’Toole to talk to the SPAIS department via their student representatives, Education Programme Directors or to Professor O’Toole herself. 

*Individuals are referred to by pseudonyms for anonymity  

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