Sports Student Perspective

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With only one week until the consultation period closes for the saving of sports programmes at the University, as a Sport Studies student I can only encourage students, staff, parents and everybody who will be affected by the sports programmes closure to continue to fight against this proposal. Students had their first opportunity at the beginning of the week to meet with the Dean and some members of the School of Education School Management Strategic Group. I feel that it is important that those who were not in attendance are briefed on what was discussed.

Many students have been unhappy with the handling and communication of this issue since day one, and in my opinion this was further demonstrated by the management’s inability to avoid double-booking a lecture theatre to meet with students for the first occasion. This was hardly a good step towards rebuilding an already dented reputation among sport students.

Students were, in fairness, explained the current situation and reasoning by Professor Nick Foskett who was supported by the head of school, Professor Jacky Lumby. Three other members of the Strategic Group were present although their presence appeared to be insignificant and I couldn’t even tell you their names or roles. As a student who has a keen interest in this matter, I must say that I am still extremely confused about who is playing what role in the process and to whether we, as sport students, were meant to be working in partnership with or contesting against the people who we met with.

A range of interesting questions were raised which frequently led to a response which included the words ‘research’ and/or ‘strategy’. It was interesting that whenever questions were asked about extra-curricular involvement, volunteering, and the 2012 Olympic Games to new a few, Professor Foskett encouraged students to write to the Vice- Chancellor, Professor Don Nutbeam to raise their concerns. It seems as though this is all students can do in objection to this proposal.

It is extremely concerning when you look at the history and interest of those involved in this process. For example, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Don Nutbeam has conducted numerous research in the health industry (a quick search of his name in Google Scholar shows this, OK not the most effective method but it is evidence nonetheless!) and as the University’s website states, he is a “world-renowned expert on public health”. On top of this, as the Wessex Scene reported, he enjoys sport. It would be concerning to know that those in such high positions at the university are making decisions against their own interests. Why would somebody wish to make this decision methinks? I could only suggest that this may be for financial reasons, but I guess we would never know…

Finally, one of the areas which is difficult to understand is that students who had the opportunity to raise their concerns at this meeting were being given answers by somebody who has been appointed as the vice-chancellor at Keele University from 1st August 2010. I do understand the short time-frame and that there never would be an ideal time to make this decision, but this is perhaps one step too far. Interestingly, Keele offers no sport courses. At least they won’t have to go through the same process as us in future years.

It seems as though students now understand the reasons behind closing the course but it is difficult to believe that all the other factors that surround sport (at the university and in the community) override the ambitions of the university to focus on their research agenda. Does the research that the university produces give a true reflection of the quality of the university? Questions need to be asked about this form of measurement which has ultimately led to the place we find ourselves in at the moment.

Andrew Osborne

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