Students speak out on Llanbadarn campus

Llanbadarn Entrance

Llanbadarn Campus – Tomos Nolan

THE BEGINNING of this academic year saw the return of large numbers of students to the newly renovated Llanbadarn Campus. Now home to the recently formed Institute of Management, Law and Information Sciences, both students and lecturers have had over a month to settle in to the Llanbadarn campus after transition dates for some teaching staff were delayed over summer.

The move was widely criticised during the consultation period with students, many feeling that they had been “physically side-lined”, and “treated like second-class students” according to one student who has recently been moved over to Llanbadarn.

However, the University has invested a great deal of money into the new campus. According to University promotion the figure equates to £3.5 million in refurbishment and renovation, with the aim of creating “a new business and professional environment” over the period of 2012 to 2017.

Since the raise in tuition fees in 2012, most UK undergraduates will be paying nearly £6,000 a year more than those currently in their third year and are therefore justifiably demanding higher standards as a result. The challenge posed for Aberystwyth University is to meet the standards that new students are expecting, many of which do not seem to think that the Llanbadarn Campus fulfils.

To investigate further, ASM conducted its own survey on Llanbadarn Campus over the course of three days, asking a variety of students about their thoughts and experiences of the new campus.

The most startling figure from our survey was that 80% of those asked either felt that the University had ignored their opinions in the move or that they were not informed they would be on a separate campus prior to arriving at the University. Most people asked seem to be criticising the communication from the University to its students.

Llanbadarn Campus Entrance - Tomos Nolan

Llanbadarn Campus Entrance – Tomos Nolan

One issue that repeatedly came up was the condition of the library, menial social space, and the lack of services on campus, with 50% saying that those on Llanbadarn had got a bad deal compared with those on Penglais campus.

One of the main demands from students was for a Union Shop. Students’ Union President Ioan Rhys Evans told ASM that the Students’ Union was “in talks with the University” over providing Union space on Llanbadarn.

Another major criticism was that the transport is impractical and too infrequent. Many commenting that if their lecture went slightly over they sometimes had to sprint to catch the bus from the Rheidol building or face waiting on campus for another hour.

Even so, out of the majority of students asked, 52% felt that the transition had been smooth and an overwhelming 70% liked the new campus. When ASM visited the campus, we found that the rooms were modern and well equipped; we also saw a wide range of different sized teaching rooms.

Third year Law student Andrew J. Hall provided the following statement, reiterating several issues that students have with the campus: “The Llanbadarn campus is, in a nutshell, not yet finished.  We are told improvements are on their way but that does not make it easier for students already here.  Students are being taught in lecture rooms in which the lack of blinds makes it impossible to see presentations when the sun shines, or worse in a room where the roof leaks when the rain falls.”

“Traveling around campus is not necessarily a better experience at present either.  The lack of lighting on campus is, ironically, an illuminating example of the move’s apparent lack of foresight and planning.  Presently there is no lit route to or from the isolated student car park.  Another issue is the lack of signposts around campus; the urgency of the situation is best demonstrated by confused students desperately exploring various corridors in hope of finding a toilet.”

“Finally, and perhaps worse of all, students feel somewhat abandoned by the rest of the institution.  With no Union presence, no recreational facilities, limited social spaces and a lack of key support services, some feel they are cared for less and less over here at Llanbadarn.”

Only 20% of those surveyed by ASM felt there were no current problems at all with the Llanbadarn campus.

In response to the findings, Andy Henley, Director of the Institute of Management, Law & Information Science (IMLIS) has said, “the key message from this small survey of 50 Llanbadarn-based students is that the vast majority are impressed and satisfied with the investment the University has made in the new Llanbadarn Centre teaching and learning space.”

Henley upholds that staff in IMLIS are continuing to listen carefully to points raised by students, and are meeting regularly with their student representatives to tackle remaining issues with the site. “As with any major project, sometimes these issues don’t come to light until people move in and start using the facilities”, he added.

Henley stated that “once the project had been approved, the Students Union were represented on the project forum, and IMLIS staff held lengthy discussions with departmental SSCCs, as well as holding open meetings to which all those students, who were to become Llanbadarn-based, were invited”. He carries on to say however that although it was complete in such a short period of time, it did mean that current 2nd and 3rd year students would not have known about the move when they first started their courses.

Henley’s statement coincides with ASM’s evaluation that the vast majority of students asked are satisfied with the new facilities, and that this accords entirely with the feedback that IMLIS staff have been getting from students.

Despite an overall positive reaction to the new campus, the findings do highlight significant discontent with the facilities in comparison to the Penglias Campus and a large number of students are unsure about the completion of Llanbadarn, particularly the development of the library.

Henley has stated “students can be assured that we are continuing to work as fast as we can to resolve any remaining concerns and ensure that as wide as possible a range of facilities are available to staff and students at Llanbadarn Centre.”