The pro-vice-chancellor for education asserted that 'this is not a talking act'Louis Ashworth for Varsity

An SU-hosted workload forum this Thursday (25/01) found that 59% of students struggle to complete their work to a good standard.

The pro-vice-chancellor for education, Bhaskar Vira, told attendees at Newnham College that “boundaries need to be imposed” to improve student welfare.

This comes after 62% of students claimed that “the intensity of the academic workload in Cambridge is a barrier to making friends and having a healthy social life” in the SU’s 2020 Student Loneliness report.

Professor Vira began the discussion by stating: “Cambridge offers huge opportunities to students, yet it is hard for them to indulge them if they cannot keep up with their day-to-day work.”

He added that the University is currently reviewing its teaching and that the “solutions discussed here today can be brought forward to this review”.

The PVC emphasised that the University is “very serious about this and that this is not a talking act”. He continued: “Boundaries need to be imposed from the top down and the bottom up.”

A short opinion poll revealed that 59% of students present were rarely able to complete their work to their satisfaction due to the volume of work. 55% felt that the volume of work to be completed on their course was the number one cause of unmanageable workload.

The discussion centred on the relationship between term times and holiday periods, the relationship between study and rest, and the way work presents itself to students.

Many students pointed out the lack of boundaries between study and rest times: “We are constantly connected and cannot switch off to take a day off, even when we are sick,” one said.

A similar consensus was expressed regarding holidays. One student explained that “[their] supervisors told [them] holidays are not a holiday, they are a vacation in which you vacate your room but are still expected to work”.

Gabriel Bath, an undergraduate student in History, told Varsity: “I really enjoyed the forum. I think it was very valuable to be able to discuss these issues with the heads of departments and give them a sense of what students are experiencing.”


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“I was scared that this was going to be all talk and no show but I feel like this could actually become something productive and helpful for students who are struggling,” Bath added.

Fergus Kirman, SU president, told Varsity: “I think this event was valuable in terms of ensuring that student voices could really be heard by important people in the university.”

“I hope this is just the start of sustained student engagement in tackling these really serious issues that we know that the university has but also focusing on the solutions that we think that we can get.”

“[The SU] hopes this will lead to real substantive changes for students and how they experience their time in this university,” he said.