By Kirstyn Evans, Third Year English
Those students who have experienced either a 4pm-6pm seminar or lecture, know that they are often more tiring than a dreaded 9am start. For most, this time already interferes with hobbies, societies, and jobs – so what impact will extending teaching hours to 8pm have?
The University of Bristol has decided to extend teaching hours on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from the usual 6pm to a later 8pm. This change, whilst made in the effort to promote social distancing in the new term, will potentially result in the further erosion of student life as we knew it.
Practically all students will be affected – societies will struggle to plan events, sports teams will be limited with training times (that is, if they are allowed to train), and non-University related hobbies and social events will also suffer.
However, these changes will harm certain groups of students more than others. Studying English, I realise I have far less weekly contact hours than someone studying a science or maths-based course.
But why is this relevant? It is because the more contact hours you have, the higher chance you have of needing to attend late seminars or lectures – meaning the new policy will disproportionally affect students who are on courses such as Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.
These changes will harm certain groups of students more than others
Those studying such courses already have a large portion of their time dedicated to their studies, so running classes until 8pm seems like a low blow for those who are perhaps already making sacrifices in other areas.
Another hard-hit group would be students who hold part-time jobs in order to support their studies and accommodation costs at University.
These students are most likely to be disadvantaged students from working-class backgrounds. For many of them, the cost of working alongside their courses has an overall affect on the studies and general well-being.
Earlier this year, it was also stressed that ‘students from the most affluent areas [are] still more than twice as likely to enter higher education than those from deprived areas’.
Now, this is not to say that students from more affluent backgrounds do not hold a part-time job alongside their studies – it is just that working-class students struggle to get into prestigious Universities in the first place.
Students may be forced to choose between their studies and a part-time job
With this being the case it worries me that they now may be forced to choose between their studies and a part-time job that gives them the financial security to participate in University life.
During my first year of study, I worked in retail for 16 hours a week –four hours on a Thursday evening (5pm-9pm) and six hours every Saturday and Sunday.
This doesn’t seem like much, but when taken into account alongside the time spent in the one society I attended and the work that had to be done outside of my course, it became too much even with only the one 6pm finish a week.
If I were required to attend a seminar or lecture until 8pm at that time, my work and social life would have suffered even more than it already had.
I fear that students in a similar position to this may be left behind, and that those on more demanding courses may suffer huge blows to their mental-health and well-being.
Yes, we attend University for the purpose of studying, but we also attend University for the unique experiences it offers outside of our courses and should not be expected to sacrifice our whole lives for the sake of a degree.
Moreover, we should not allow our University experience to be eroded further even if we are living through a pandemic.
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What do you think of the extension of teaching hours?