A question of sport

Gina Mete & Claire Diamond

IMG_0190Glasgow University Sports Association is preparing to take on the University over the number of classes students have on Wednesday afternoons.

Some departments are known to have scheduled compulsory classes on Wednesday afternoon, in breach of the University Senate policy of keeping the afternoon free for sports. The extent of the problem is currently unclear, but the figure has crept up over recent years – in conflict with the UK-wide convention which dictated that Wednesday afternoons are free from classes to allow students to participate in competitive sport.

GUSA President Stuart Law has been collecting information from students and has asked those with Wednesday afternoon classes to get in touch.

The national governing body for Higher Education sport, British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS), arranges competitions for supposedly class-free Wednesday afternoons. The University of Glasgow’s decision to schedule classes in spite of this has led to many students having to decide between missing classes or letting their team down in key fixtures.

Law commented: “It is a priority for GUSA to ensure Wednesday afternoons are free for sport.  Students should not be denied the chance to take part in University sport and recreation on a Wednesday afternoon. In a time when gaining a degree qualification is not enough, students need the chance to get involved with sport at Glasgow at all levels, from playing on a Wednesday afternoon to captaining a club.

“Often sport and physical activity is a valuable release for students and allows people to achieve academically. Preventing students this valuable opportunity is not only unfair but impacts on student wellbeing.”

Law continued: “GUSA are currently looking into this very seriously with the hope that the University will value sport and give everyone Wednesday afternoons off to take part in sport.”

This has been a recurring issue at Glasgow University. In 2004, Senate urged departments to, “wherever possible, move teaching away from Wednesday afternoons,” after noting that many departments were not following the guidelines. It was raised at Senate again in 2012, where it was agreed that all incidences of Wednesday afternoon classes would be monitored, yet the problem persists.

The Glasgow Taxis Cup, an annual varsity competition between Glasgow University, Strathclyde and Caledonian, even held its 2013 final on a Wednesday afternoon.

Oli Coombs, SRC VP (Education), explained that while a few students have managed to make arrangements with their individual Schools to change classes, it is a widespread problem that needs a permanent solution. He said: “It shouldn’t be happening. We shouldn’t have to be sorting it out on an individual level.”

He added: “We’ll work with GUSA as much as we can to try and resolve this … We think it’s an important issue, not only for sporting activities, but also for volunteering opportunities.”

Sian Collins, Secretary of Glasgow University Netball Club, has had problems with her timetable: “My conflicting class is a tutorial, which I don’t want to miss, but for important matches I feel I will have to sacrifice the class. The fact that the University are trying to diminish an opportunity to promote a healthy lifestyle is unacceptable – they should be promoting sport and recreation as a positive outlet for students.”

Another student, Aine Laverty, a committed member of the Glasgow University Women’s Hockey Club, has found it “completely impossible” to coordinate her classes and matches since entering fourth year.

Laverty’s Wednesday afternoon class does not only affect her participation in Wednesday afternoon events, but also her chances of making weekend teams. Laverty said: “With the standard of players this year, selection for teams is heavily dependent on availability, commitment and dedication to the team. The selection and trial process is a long one, taking many weeks to secure places on teams, meaning that during these weeks I am attempting to make as many games as possible, as missing them would put my space on the weekend team at risk.”

A spokesman for the University of Glasgow told the Glasgow Guardian: “The University encourages students to participate in sports and exercise activities and is proud of the wide variety of options available to students and their enthusiasm in taking part. We have traditionally supported this participation by keeping Wednesday afternoons free of classes as best we can.

“However, as the number of students at the University has grown over recent years so has the number of courses, modules and options. As a result timetabling has become more challenging and has seen more classes taking place on Wednesday afternoons. It might be possible to move classes from Wednesday afternoons to other times of the day but that would require consultation with students and may be unpopular.”