By Lara Holly Gibbs, MA Gender Studies
On 17 November, SOAS announced their term two teaching guidelines in an email to all students. The announcement requires that all students on taught programmes must return to campus. However, all exams will continue online in term three as part of SOAS’ continued blended learning strategy. This means exams will be online for a third year in a row due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The email also addressed timetabling, group study spaces, safety, and long-term planning.
While the email stated that SOAS ‘will not be making major changes to the mode of delivery for most modules,’ the recording of seminars will no longer be compulsory. Some students who are studying remotely are unhappy about this decision.
“If they don’t provide any online teaching in term two, it means that we’re forced to come back to London.“
Lou Boucher, a final year student, expressed concern saying, ‘If they don’t provide any online teaching in term two, it means that we’re forced to come back to London.’ Boucher is currently studying remotely in France. Boucher has begun to contact their teachers asking if they can continue running online seminars and has also been in contact with other students in the same position.
Boucher also explained that she will only have three hours of seminars during term two. She highlighted the difficulties of moving from another country during the pandemic, including the financial and psychological aspect of moving to London for such a short period: ‘it’s really uprooting yourself and moving for three hours of teaching.’ In response to SOAS, Boucher suggests that an alternative to in person seminars should be offered.
In terms of recording seminars, SOAS’ email states: ‘Staff are welcome to continue to do so, but it will not be required as a reasonable adjustment for students accessing their lectures from abroad or different time zones.’
In the first Union General Meeting, which took place on 24 November, the extension of online tutorials was passed as a motion with 234 votes in favour.
According to their email, SOAS’ approach to exams is part of their ‘long-term blended learning strategy.’ Noha Amin, a first-year student, prefers exams being online as it allows for a more comfortable setting. Fellow first-year student, Mia Dyson, also prefers online examinations, however expressed concern saying online exams ‘don’t distinguish between open and closed book exams very clearly.’ Despite the preference for online exams, Amin finds in-person teaching to be more effective and that this way it’s easier to focus during lectures.
In terms of safety on campus, Dyson feels that the university should have ‘stricter monitoring of Covid-19 regulations in the university.’ However, both Dyson and Amin feel the transition back to campus is happening at the right pace.
Photo Caption: SOAS student doing an online lecture (Credit: Zo Wu).