The letter blames the decision on a failure to find lecture space and an ‘overcautious assessment’ of Covid-19 risks. Varsity

Land Economy students launched an open letter yesterday (28/10) demanding in-person teaching, in a bid to increase the pressure on the Department as they start their Week 4 review into current teaching arrangements.

Coming as the Department announced lectures might remain online for Lent, the letter, addressed to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Graham Virgo, and Director of Teaching, Professor Martin Dixon, blames the decision on a failure to find lecture space and an ‘overcautious assessment’ of Covid-19 risks.

The letter ends with a demand that following the review, “lecture space is found and allocated” and “all supervisions are conducted in-person where there are no health risks.”

Land Economy students have been learning online since the start of the pandemic. Unlike other students this term, their lectures and supervisions have remained virtual since the Department has no lecture space that can “safely accommodate” the cohort.

In February 2020, the Land Economy Department lost their lecture space on Mill Lane to Pembroke College, and have since struggled to find anywhere else that, according to Dixon, “meets the applicable standards.”

The letter has questioned this explanation, asking “why there was not sufficient forward planning to acquire lecture facilities before the Department was left unable to use the Mill Lane facilities?”

Land Economy is not alone in opting for online lectures this term - Medicine, Engineering and Economics have too. What makes Land Economy stand out is its size: unlike these subjects their cohort is small - 69 people according to its website. “Given our small cohort size, it is pitiful that subjects four times our size are able to have in-person interactions, but we can’t.”


Mountain View

‘Disappointed and disheartened’: Lack of lecture space forces Land Economy students into online learning

Students are also skeptical of the Department’s claim that a lack of recording equipment lies behind the decision to keep learning virtual. “With the wealth/alumni the University has, it is deplorable such resources have not been found.”

A majority of supervisions have also remained online, with the Department citing the risk posed by Covid-19 and the fact that some staff live outside of Cambridge as a reason. One student said only ⅖ of his supervisions were in-person.

According to the students, this makes it “harder to connect” - missing out on the “benefits of density” that physical interaction offers: innovation, meetings, sharing knowledge. “This is not what we came to Cambridge for.”

In an email to students yesterday morning (28/10), Martin Dixon said that despite the Department “constantly pressing for a resolution”, not even “unsuitable space” had been found.

With the prospect that the situation could continue beyond Michaelmas and into Lent, the letter’s authors will hope that their signatories (now numbering over 30) will sufficiently pressure the Department into finding a solution following their review this week.