When the LSE opened its course enrolments for the 2020/21 academic year in July, many reported what appeared to be a significantly lower number of modules available in comparison to the previous academic year.
The spread of COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted the way teaching is conducted, with lectures moving online and an option for students to take online classes. As such, some departments have chosen to reduce course choices, citing “health precautions” and “logistical problems” caused by the virus.
Many students, particularly third years, have expressed disappointment over the drastic reduction of course choices in some departments. In the Department of Government, while the number of first and second year courses did not change, ten out of twenty-six third year courses were suspended. This figure excludes the number of courses that were permanently withdrawn. Similarly, in the Department of International Relations, thirteen third year modules were available in contrast to twenty last year. In total, 103 modules across all departments and years were suspended this academic year.
The lack of course offerings in some departments have led to courses filling up very fast. Students in Government and International Relations reported that modules ran out of space in the matter of hours, with some having to email their department heads in order to be able to take the modules they require for their degree programme. When asked, one student described the course selection process as “chaos,” with course spaces filling up so fast that “when I next checked the page, all the courses I actually needed to take for one of my papers were unavailable”. Another student revealed that some students considering a Master’s programme at the LSE have been impacted by the limited course choices and how quickly they filled up. They can no longer pursue their niche due to modules being full or cancelled.
However, the reduction in course choices was not common to all departments, with some departments either increasing the number of course options or continuing to suspend courses that have already been suspended in the previous year. For example, the number of suspended modules in the Department of History was in line with previous years, and an additional module was each added to both the third year undergraduate and postgraduate options. When questioned, the Department of History reported that “these courses are part of our ongoing commitment to diversity and decolonise our curriculum” and that “during challenging times, it is even more important to understand and address inequalities in our world”. The Department of Management also reported that the five undergraduate modules suspended this year have also been suspended since last year.
With regards to the reductions in the number of modules on offer this year, an LSE spokesperson provided the following statement:
“In response to COVID-19, we have had to make significant changes to teaching and learning in Michaelmas Term, including a temporary reduction in the number of courses being offered. This decision has been made to ensure the health and safety of students and staff as well as equality of access to teaching and learning for all.
Due to social distancing guidelines, we have reduced class sizes. We are also aware that students may not always be able to attend campus this term, and so are aiming – where possible – to run each seminar or class at least twice to ensure students can join in person or online where necessary. Taken together, these factors have resulted in fewer available teaching spaces and greater pressure on timetables, which unfortunately requires a reduction in the number of courses on offer.
This has not been an easy decision to make, and we know that students appreciate the variety of courses on offer. Departments have considered carefully which courses to continue offering and have tried to keep course offerings varied to enable students to shape their own degree programmes as much as possible.”