An indicative ballot has begun over planned cuts to academic staff at the University of Birmingham.Written by Sabrina Dougall on 26th June 2015
ELLIE changes cause concern for students
The ELLIE (English Language and Literature in Education) course, due to close in 2013, currently only has a handful of staff left to support the final cohort of students, some of w...
The ELLIE (English Language and Literature in Education) course, due to close in 2013, currently only has a handful of staff left to support the final cohort of students, some of whom have raised concerns about the quality of teaching and a lack of module options.
Students were given assurances that no teaching staff would leave the department and that all students would receive the same level of support as in previous years. Redbrick has learned that since 2010 a substantial number of ELLIE teaching staff have left the University and that the provision of teaching has suffered as a result.
The choice of dissertation topics for the final year of ELLIE students are limited and in some cases students have been forced to turn to staff no longer employed by the University for assistance.
Assurances via email
Professor Cillian Ryan, College Director of Education, assured ELLIE students via email on the 6th December 2010 that ‘your current studies will in no way be affected [by the closure of the course]’. Students were later told that management would ‘do their best to ensure that all lecturers stayed on until the end of the academic year’.
Despite these guarantees the remaining 16 ELLIE students have faced significant changes to how their course is run during the past few years. At present only a single lecturer is responsible for teaching the majority of the modules on offer and for providing students with academic support.
Grace Leavy, an ELLIE student, commented that, ‘As there is only one lecturer it can sometimes be difficult as we all have to share her time'.
Students have also complained about the limited amount of time they were given to choose their third year modules. All 16 were required to select and submit their choices in less than a day. Later they were told that students on other courses would be given priority in selecting these modules and that they were unlikely to be given places on all of their desired modules.
Casey Charles, student representative for the ELLIE course, told Redbrick of her frustration at the current situation, saying, ‘When we found out that our lecturers were leaving before the course had finished, we were all furious and understandably concerned for the future of our degree. Personally I am disgusted by how the University of Birmingham has treated both students and staff during this time. The whole process has left a very bitter taste in our mouths’.
Students have expressed their concerns about how their qualifications will be viewed by potential employers, with one student remarking that they would ‘likely be sceptical of recruiting students from a discontinued course’. Many have said that had they known of the planned upheaval, they would not have made the same decision when applying to university.
Fears mounting over IAA
The experiences of those studying ELLIE have been a source of concern for those affected by the planned closure of the Institute of Antiquity and Archaeology, with fears mounting over whether or not their department will follow the same path.
Georgina Thomas, a joint honours English Literature and Classical Literature & Civilisation student commented, ‘From the action currently being taken in response to the closure of the IAA, I would hope the University is starting to realise that cutting is not the key to success.’
Professor Richard Dunnill, had previously told Redbrick:
With nearly 3,500 members of academic staff it is not uncommon for staff members to leave or join the University during the course of a year. When this happens the University always aims to ensure that the quality of students' academic experience is not affected in any way.
In this case the staff involved have agreed to continue to provide on-going supervision for their existing dissertation students and the University is extremely grateful to them for doing this. Day to day support for these students is being provided by the Programme Leader. One way in which she is doing this is to use the extension process as a further way of providing students with additional time and support in a way which recognises their needs in such a situation.
A new statement from the University of Birmingham has said:
We have done everything possible to ensure the decision to phase out the ELLIE program has not adversely affected students. This year, there is actually a greater choice of English and Education options available and feedback thus far has been very positive.
If individual students have concerns about this or any other programme it is really important that these are reported to the University directly, either through the Programme Director or the School Director of Education. We have had no negative feedback from employers about the perceptions of the program, indeed Birmingham graduates remain some of the most employable in the sector.