Q&A session with DVC leads to debate over size of Cornwall campus

By Nicola Elson

Photography: Russell Barnett



Deputy Vice Chancellor 1
Left to Right: Tim Quine, Interim Deputy Vice Chancellor for Education, Professor Wendy Robinson, Associate Dean (Education) College of Social Sciences and International Studies, Tom Murray-Richards, Undergraduate Education Officer (Exeter), Grace Fisher, FXU Exeter President

A range of students met with Professor Tim Quine, Interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Education for Exeter University, on Friday afternoon to discuss feedback on our teaching system. The reoccurring theme seemed to be the conflicted opinions of what we want this campus to be, with many students complaining about the lack of module choices on their course, but praising its personal, individual feel.

Two third year history students were keen to mention the dropping of some third year history modules, one of which included the very popular public history course, which led to them taking modules that they wouldn’t have taken if they’d had more choice. They also expressed concern over the amount of staff, whose depleting numbers meant that they were losing more third year options. However, they continued to praise the campus for the intimate feel and personal relations with lecturers that sets it apart from Streatham. Dean of Students Wendy Richards offered a solution to this, suggesting a short, intensive course that would allow expertise from Streatham to come down to this campus – whether this would be popular among students was debated, but it was agreed that students wanted the opportunity for more choice.

Tim Quine highlighted that Penryn Campus’ individuality comes from its distinctive modules – for example, Ecology and Conservation and the CSM courses – but when it comes to the Humanities subjects it is harder to come up with a ‘flavour that is different’. He bought up an idea that he had been chewing on, that is popular in universities in other countries; an interdisciplinary program, where students would have the choice to move between subjects. Although the idea is still in early stages, Tim believes that this could be a move that will bring popularity back to the Humanities courses offered at this university, and will solve the problem of there being few subject choices. Tim explained ‘you’d be in a third year module with quite a diverse group of students with different backgrounds’, and it would give the Cornwall campus that distinctive ‘flavour’ which separates it from Streatham. However, this was received with trepidation, as one student made the point that each subject has a different marking and referencing system, something that would be ‘too risky’ for third years to try and adapt to.

Another concern that was raised by a 3rd Year Mining Engineering student was the relatively static state of Camborne School of Mines in the fast-changing mining industry. He stated that ‘the school have almost been complacent, dare I say, with the way the industry’s changed so drastically’. Tim seemed to agree, although anxious not to offend the school’s way of teaching, and he did not delve into the issue. Again the topic of staff came up in relation to CSM, and it became clear that the students felt that as a university they needed a higher number of lecturers.

This provokes the question: what is it that we want from our campus? Tim acknowledged that ‘what you always end up with is a small department in Cornwall and then a big department at Streatham, and if you make the comparison between the two you’ve got a big department, loads of options, loads of staff, and a small department, small class sizes, less choices and lecturers that know you’. If we are looking for more staff and more module options, are we also looking to lose the intimate, personal feel that distinguishes our campus from Streatham? As a student body we need to decide which direction we want this branch of the university to go in, whether to expand and accommodate, or to stick to its roots and send the people who want more to the bigger campuses