Southampton University to cut Sports programmes

Posted on January 9, 2010 by

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The University of Southampton has decided to phase out its sports programmes from the School of Education, leading to a mass outcry from Sports science and other students, as well as an online facebook campaign and petition backed by a pro-athlete in team GB.  The courses include Sports Management, Sports Studies, and two foundation degrees in youth work and working with children.  The students on these courses were only informed by email in the last week before christmas, in a manner many have decried as insensitive.

Nick Foskett, head of the School of Education, told the protest group that “The University reviewed course provision and research performance across the School of Education, and has done so in order to ensure that courses meet the demands of the University as a leading research institution. Sport and foundation degree programmes are not part of the University’s research profile and following the external review of the School, it is a strategic decision to propose the closure of the programmes.”

Students and campaigners disagree, saying that the benefits of sports to the university, society in general and to the Athletic Union are worth keeping it for.  Chris Russell, a former Southampton student and now a pro-athlete with team GB and aiming for Gold at the London Olympics has thrown his weight behind the campaign, writing directly to the Vice-Chancellor and setting up a petition.  Support has also been offered by the Save Our Sociology campaign at Birmingham University, who face a similar cut of sociology courses which they have successfully made the uni reconsider .

It would appear that the university is committed to only maintaining degrees and courses that produce ‘excellent’ research, which campaigners have suggested loosely translate as research that makes enough of a profit.    All of the top research universities in the country are in serious competition to produce the most international research in order to continue receiving government funding, leaving less profitable pursuits at particular risk as universities attempt to maximise their degree to profit ratios in order to survive.  As was noted in a previous article in the Blowhole on the funding cuts for universities this year, changes in funding will likely result in unprofitable courses being cut and expensive courses effectively becoming research units for private companies across the country.  It would seem that sports studies may be the first to fulfil this prediction here.  Despite the scorn some students may treat subjects such as sports studies with, they are on the frontline of what many more will have to face in future, and should be supported through this difficult time to follow their degree choice.  Many students will now be asking, “Will my course be next?”.

The consultation period with staff and students ends on the 22nd January, followed by a meeting of the Union Council to confirm the decision.  SUSU are apparently running a survey on the issue, and have suggested that other foundation degrees at the university are facing a similar fate.  A peition can be found here.

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