Opposition has grown against a proposed decision by the University of Bath to alter the shape of the academic year.
Almost two thousand students have signed an online petition requesting the University drop the proposed changes which would see the removal of the January assessment period in exchange for a longer, combined summer exams.
Currently, students take part in two, two-week ‘assessment periods’ each year with the Inter-Semester break separating the two teaching periods.
However, the suggested altercations would remove the January exam slot, as well as the week-long Inter-Semester break, and moving it to a single assessment period over May and June.
Additionally it would extend both the Easter and December breaks, but shorten the Summer holidays by just under a month. Teaching periods would remain the same.
Student campaigners are suggesting, however, that the transition would ‘greatly increase stress during assessment, as students would sit their entire years exam in one period’, and ‘require students to revise for modules they had completed five months before exams’.
Those in favour of the changes suggest it could reduce pressure on lecturers to both mark Semester 1 assessments and begin teaching on semester 2 teaching. It would also allow lecturers more designated blocks to conduct research.
They also claim it would benefit students, allowing transferable skills between all the years modules and giving the opportunity for more, short-term internships. Others, however, claim by reducing the summer period it would alter the potential for longer-term placements, reducing employability.
The proposed changes are currently under consultation, with students, lecturers and researchers being asked to add to the debate on the issue.
The move to a ‘term’ time structure comes after a University Senate agreement to consider the shape of the academic year and explore options for a more ‘flexible and stable’ timetable for research and teaching.
Bernie Morely, Vice-Chanellor for Learning and Teaching, said in a video discussing the changes, “For nearly twenty years the academinc year here in Bath has been based on two semesters, each containing teaching and assessment. With very short periods for Easter and Christmas research tends to be concentrated during the summer”
“But it could be that a term structure based on two terms of teaching and one term for teaching could bring us more advantages as we move forward,” he went on to say.
It would appear, however, that the University will have a tough time convincing students of these advantages.
Sam Lamont, a second-year Politics & International Relations student said, “The current spread of the year works well for students, maximising options for extracurricular participation while still encouraging a high standard of education. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.”
Research supplies a significant portion of the University’s income, bringing in £30.7 million of research grants in the 2013/14 academic year.
Paul Goodstadt, University of Bath Students’ Union Officer for Education said on the changes, ““The consultation that is taking place has engaged a wide range of students and it is great to see so many passionate responses to the proposed change, not just in the form of the e-petition, but also the vast number of responses we’ve had from academic reps, sports clubs, societies and students that have been contacting us individually with their views. The Students’ Union is taking an active role in the consultation process and will be ensuring that the views of every student are being listened to.
“The fact that the petition online has elicited such a response from students has been fantastic and it will certainly be used to determine the stance of the Students’ Union as discussions continue over the coming weeks and months,” he went on to say.