The current calendar labels all weeks between early January and the end of the May exams as teaching, revision or exam weeks. This creates a natural expectation among students that all their tutors will be available during the revision period. But staff have to find time for research and scholarly activity, and indeed there has to be some time when people can take leave. If there were weeks which were identified as a break for staff and students, then we wouldn’t be creating student dissatisfaction over this.
It’s obviously easier to suggest problems rather than solutions, but here are some concerns about the current schedule:
- Although 12 weeks seems about right in terms of teaching material and contact hours, by the end of term, and particularly at this point in term 2, both students and staff are exhausted, just a the time when many assessments are due and marking is required.
- The lack of alignment with school holidays at Easter (and especially the lack of a University break around Easter) causes particular problems for students with children or younger siblings (and for staff).
- The lack of an Easter break means the NUS conference coincides with coursework deadlines, which is hard on the delegates, and staff cannot attend the many CPD conferences traditionally held at this time of year.
- The timing of PABs gives students insufficient time to prepare properly for resits, while the lack of time between exams and SAPs means that some staff are spending their Spring Bank Holiday weekend every year flat out marking and moderating exam scripts.
Some of these problems may be insoluble but having a break in March would significantly reduce the pressure on both students and staff and allow them to achieve their best work. A later resit period would give students more time to prepare while perhaps allowing more time for marking in May. If resit PABs could be held as soon as possible after the resit period (with hopefully few students having resits and therefore no need for a long time for marking) then that will help students make arrangements for the following session.