Room bookings in ‘still bad’ shocker.
Quelle surprise, UCL facilities have proven insufficient, and students are bearing the brunt. A lack of lecture theatres has forced various UCL departments to hold lectures at the Royal National Hotel (with on-site parking, a range of facilities, and great value central London rooms, all from £88 per night; 3-stars on TripAdvisor).
Physics has been worst affected by the inadequacy of lecture theatres. Current Physics third-years have endured lectures in the venue every year since they arrived at UCL.
Camilla Tac, a second year, started a petition against holding Physics lectures at the Royal National. She told The Cheese Grater that the university ‘guaranteed Physics they wouldn’t have lectures there anymore’ — two years ago. But nothing has changed.
A hotel conference room presents particular challenges to a subject like physics. Physics students cannot look at presentation slides on their laptops as they need to handwrite derivations to keep up with the lecture, and there is no desk space at the Royal National.
This situation is only worsened by technological issues. One two-hour second-year Quantum Physics lecture was cut to forty minutes due to technical glitches.
Khush Thakar, president of Physics Society, told CG that the screens in the conference room ‘decide when to turn on and off,’ meaning students ‘can’t follow anything [the lecturer] is trying to say visually.’
A spokesperson from UCL said ‘we are sorry for the impact this is having on the learning experiences on the learning experiences of our students’. But despite a clear awareness of the issue, there are no immediate plans to stop using off-site lecture venues.
A spokesperson commented that UCL Estates ‘are working urgently with the faculty to find interim solutions including relocating rooms and further improving the quality of equipment available.’
A Gordian Knot
UCL did not address why the room bookings issues so disproportionally affect the Physics department, a key point of Tac’s petition.
Certainly, there is no easy solution. The class for Quantum Physics (which includes Natural Sciences and Maths and Physics as well as Physics students) totals 240, and UCL has only four lecture theatres able to accommodate a group of this size. The Physics lecture theatre has only 53 seats, but each year in Physics numbers 190, not counting Maths and Physics and Natural Sciences students who take a significant number of Physics modules.
As UCL admits ever more students each year, the student population has outgrown the limited space available. Handing exorbitant sums to hotels can only be a stopgap.
This article appeared in CG Issue 63.