AN English professor at the University of Aberdeen has defended the decision to provide alternative texts to students in certain courses after an article in The Times accused him of "censorship".

The Times investigation used Professor Timothy Baker’s course Vulnerable Bodies, Precarious Lives as an example of universities being concerned “about exposing students to themes covered by modern female novelists”.

However, the academic said that this interpretation of censorship “significantly misunderstands how literature is taught and what the purpose of teaching literature is.”

The course provides students with alternate texts on weeks where the content of the primary text may contain sensitive material such as sexual assault or extreme violence.

But rather than providing less controversial alternatives, Baker said the course simply gives another “equally challenging” option.

“It’s a very new course and I wanted to include material that I thought was challenging not just for students but also for me,” he said. “Some of those texts are ones that I myself have complicated emotional reactions to.

“The alternative texts make sure that students felt they weren’t forced to engage in material that - for whatever reason - they were uncomfortable engaging with but still had an equally rich experience.”

“It helps them feel empowered to engage with material in the way that best suits them and students like it!”

The course also provides students with warnings ahead of reading and discussing certain novels, an experience which one of Baker’s former students, Anita Markoff, said was incredibly helpful.

“One of the books on the course had mention of rape and suicide. Tim said at the time that if you didn’t feel comfortable discussing that in the class tutorial then there was no pressure to do so.

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“I thought it was super, super helpful because you don’t know what people in the class are going through in their personal lives.

“Personally, I had experienced some things that made that week quite difficult and I really appreciated the heads-up.

“For me, at that time, I needed to make sure that I had a counselling session booked for that week because it did actually really affect me.

“And some people obviously may think that that’s such a snowflake thing to say but it did. It affected me and it was good for me to know in advance that that was going to come up.”

Baker went on: “This is a tiny course in a university in Scotland. It affects a handful of people. But I think it’s a way to say that studying the arts in general is being seen as a frivolous thing.

“I think anything that people in the humanities are doing to encourage critical thinking is actually being seen as a problem.”

In June, Sheffield Hallam University axed its English Literature degree over concerns that its graduates "don’t end up in highly skilled jobs".

Award-winning author Philip Pullman led the outcry in the wake of the university dropping the course, telling The Guardian: “The study of literature should not be a luxury for a wealthy minority of spoilt and privileged aesthetes, but a spring of precious truth and life that every one of us is entitled to.”