The Issue with Optional Modules

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As students we all have a lot of choices to make. Study or sleep? Books or beers? Dissertation or Domino’s?

One important aspect of many university courses is the opportunity to tailor your degree to suit you. Optional modules are incorporated into our degree programmes to allow us to diversify our learning and make choices based on our own interests.

As a second year humanities student, I have had issues with optional modules in three out of four semesters, so understandably I feel a little cheated out of my so-called ‘flexible’ degree.

Because of class oversubscription, I missed out on one foreign language module – my chosen Minor subject – so I had to do two (stressful) semester’s worth of learning in one to catch up.  I also missed out on two chosen double-weighted modules, both in my second year.

I understand that it must be difficult to assign all students to their preferred modules, but it gets frustrating when it happens repeatedly. Fortunately, my suspicions that I’d somehow incurred a vendetta against me were pacified by a couple of friends who have had similar issues.

Yes, class sizes may be limited by room size. So perhaps larger classes should be allocated larger rooms, whether they’re on Highfield or Avenue Campus, or split into smaller seminar groups.

Some courses are consistently more popular than others, so why not assign them more teaching staff (who are paid largely from our tuition fees)?  And distribute resources accordingly, dependant on demand?  We submit our choices early, way before the beginning of each semester, so adjustments should be able to be made appropriately.

Also, if a student has missed out on their preferred modules in the past, surely they should be considered first in the allocation of following modules.

Whilst choosing which university to go to, many of our decisions will have been swayed by the modules available. If we were particularly attracted to a set of optional modules at Southampton, that made it a distinct choice over the other universities. Similarly, many people pick modules relevant to their career aspirations. However, we may end up missing out on these and studying half-heartedly for modules that we aren’t interested in or will never find useful.

We are paying already extortionate tuition fees of £9000 per year, as well as accumulating substantial student loan debts. With a total of less than nine hours of lectures and seminars per week, I often wonder where my money is going – particularly when I can’t even study the modules that I have been offered.

I do not intend to rant – I understand that module allocation is a very difficult job. I only mean to question the way in which optional modules are advertised and dealt with.  It is extremely disheartening to look forward to a semester of interesting, career-relevant learning only to find that you’re spending £4,500 per term on completely different modules. Overall it is my opinion that the university should absolutely bend over backwards to accommodate the choices of the students and adjust courses as necessary; I would be very interested to hear from others who have had similar experiences.

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Discussion1 Comment

  1. avatar

    There is also pressure in terms of what modules you choose, with the idea that these will define and map out your future career and what you can specialise in (wholly relevant in a law degree). I understand university to be a time of learning and furthering your knowledge on the subject you have chosen. Just pick modules you are interested in and want to know more about. The best way to succeed is ensure you have passion and interest, don’t worry so much about whether these modules will be things you want to pursue outside of uni!

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