Overcrowding on campus

 Jason Dashti & Euan McTear

OvercrowdingA 6% increase in the number of students on campus from last September has seen the student population at Glasgow University rise from 16,045 to 17,018, causing problems such as overcrowding in lectures and the library.

Despite predictions that increased tuition fees may lead to a decrease in student intake, the opposite has taken place. From September 2012 to 2013 the number of undergraduate students taken in at the University of Glasgow has risen from 4854 to 5311 students.

The result of this has been a strain on the University’s infrastructure in several different ways. Many students have complained of struggling to find desk space at the library or the oversubscription of lectures. This has led to an increase in the number of students being placed in overflow lecture theatres with a video link to the main lecture on previous years. In other cases, classes have taken places in a single room despite the number of students exceeding the room capacity.

This has proven to be a point of contention for students. Joseph Lee, a student who has experienced overflow lectures this term, said: “Big departments are not in themselves a bad thing. However, overflow lecture theaters in practice leave students disengaged and less likely to return to lectures.”

Other students have made the same point that getting up to travel to university early in the morning to see a video of a lecture – which can be accessed online at a later date – is not worth the effort.

Students also conveyed technical issues with the videos of the lectures in the overflow rooms. Students have reported problems with the streamed lectures, including delays and stuttering in the feed and some videos even completely failing, resulting in some cancelled lectures. Josh Horsman, in his second year, told the Guardian: “I struggle to read the lecture slides, as the lecturer is the main focus of the video, which affects my ability to take notes.”

Even in the main lecture theatres, students are feeling the effects of an over-abundance of students. Leah Jones continued: “I’ve found that people have been struggling to find seats in lectures, meaning that they have to sit down in the aisle.”

This is not the only aspect of academic life to be affected by the increase in campus population which students are upset about. Finding places in the library has been as difficult, even for those simply looking for a place to sit. Second year student Katie Wardlaw said: “Trying to study in the library is aggravating as it’s hard to find a computer that’s free, and loaning out books is always difficult.”

The University has responded to student concern this term regarding the increase in number of students on campus and the effect on academic experience. A spokesman told the Glasgow Guardian: “We are aware that at the start of term there were some timetabling issues and that there was high demand for places at the library. Staff are working hard to address these and to ensure that all of our students get the very best from their time at the University of Glasgow.”

To address the issue of an a continued growth in the number of students, the University told us that it “has invested very heavily in infrastructure, IT and student facilities over the last few years and will continue to do so.” Although many students may feel unaffected by the issues, a large proportion still feel that their academic experience is being diminished.

Linsey Spence referred to the negative effects of being in an overflow lecture theatre: “I feel that being unable to engage with the lecturer in any way – from asking questions, to getting clarification on parts of the lecture that are hard to understand – a bit distancing. I think something is lost in this instance and it can work to undermine and alter academic experience.”

The University defended the increase in student numbers, stating: “The reputation of the University of Glasgow in offering a superb learning and research environment, as well as providing an excellent student experience, is clearly seen in the increasing numbers of students who want to study here. This is tremendous news for the University, and further confirms our belief that Glasgow is in a strong position going forward.”

Some students also agree that the increase in numbers is a good thing. Second year student Kamila Kawecka said: “Overflow lecture theatres are not ideal, but I wouldn’t like the idea of less people getting accepted just because of minor admin problems and grievances.”

In 2008/09, the population on campus was just 15,877, rising to 17,018 in five years – an increase of 7%.