Page last updated at 05:46 GMT, Monday, 22 March 2010

Students feel closure pressures

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

Katie Bird
Katie dreams of working on Britain's Paralympic team

As universities across England plan to shut courses in readiness for a new funding climate, we hear from students and academics on one course earmarked for closure.

Students on Southampton University's sports studies courses are angry.

They learned, when they returned from their Christmas breaks, that the university wants to begin phasing the course out from next year.

Nineteen-year-old Katie Bird will, like her fellow first years, graduate in 2012 - the year Britain hosts the Olympics.

She chose the sports studies course at Southampton because she dreams of working on the Paralympic Games team.

She said: "There is a module on the Olympics as a whole in the third year. The reason why I did this course was because of this one module."

This, she thought, would leave her well-placed to find a management role on the team in 2012.

But now she is worried that this lecturer might leave and that whoever replaces them may not have the same expertise.

And she blames the university's plans for closure for all the uncertainty.

We don't want our students to have any upset
Sports studies lecturer

She said: "We are all very annoyed about it. We feel we are fighting a losing battle, that there's not much that we can do.

"They are telling people in the next year that this will be the last year.

"I think it's a disgrace really because there is a common misconception about what sports studies includes and the way that the department works and what the lecturers do."

The course is not being closed for financial reasons or because it is unpopular - staff said there were up to 11 applications per place.

Southampton University said it wanted to close the department because it was "not underpinned by world class research".

A recent review said that resources should be used by the university in areas where the connection between high quality research and teaching existed.

It said the quality of the course would be maintained, but lecturers teaching the course find that hard to believe.

Adam Catchpole
Adam wants to be a PE teacher

Speaking anonymously, one said: "We are all professional here. We don't want our students to have any upset but we all find that particular stance difficult to accept.

"Staff can leave at any time, and migration happens all the time, but a situation has been created where migration is more likely to happen."

He also suggested that when courses were phased out, universities were unlikely to keep up their investment in text books and facilities.

Would-be PE teacher Adam Catchpole, also a first year, is very concerned about the "quality of the delivery of the course".

"I am just not sure that it is still value for money because there will be a lack of investment from the university going into the course."

A university spokesman said it had assured its students that the quality of teaching would be maintained and that any staff vacancies would be filled with high-quality replacements.

Local impact

He also stressed that all courses would be appropriately resourced until they closed.

The spokesman said: "This decision has not been motivated by financial concerns. It is about world-class research supporting our teaching and learning."

He added: "We are assuring our students of our utmost commitment to minimising any impact on their studies during this period and maintaining the quality of their degree.

"Their academic programmes will continue for the next four years uninterrupted."

A final decision on whether to close the course is being taken on Thursday, 25 March.

If it goes ahead local sailor and Olympic hopeful, Chris Russell, who works closely with the sports team at Southampton says there wil be a big impact on the local community.

"The university clearly no longer sees sports as important despite saying it will support local people in preparation for 2012," he adds.



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