The University of Bath has announced a two-week extension on a consultation period over proposed changes to the academic year shape after fierce criticism by the Students’ Union over their handling of the issue.
In an open session last week to discuss the changes, Students’ Union President Jordan Kenny lambasted the University for its communication over the consultation, with Mr Kenny stating, “The SU stand isn’t 100% against the changes, but rather against the consultation.”
However, a University spokesman has since said that student responses were meant to be “facilitated through the leadership of the Students’ Union President”.
He went on to say, “At the request of the Students’ Union President, we have agreed to extend the consultation period for a further two weeks until Thursday 12 March to give more time for the inclusion of as many student perspectives as possible.”
The University argues that the creation of three ‘terms’ would allow more time for research and give more opportunity to link modules, increasing understanding of the course.
But campaigners argue that the move 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’.
A more in-depth explanation of the pros and cons can be found here
The University was criticised for beginning the ‘consultation period’ in the midst of exams, with one academic representative source suggesting the University had already made up its mind and was “simply ticking boxes” by opening it up to students.
But the University told bathimpact that the decision had not been made but was rather a “speculative model [which]had been an effective conversation starter”,
“As a result we now have a clearer understanding of what is valued about our current semester-based system by students and staff, and where you feel that improvements can be made,” they went on to say.
At meeting last Friday, Mr Kenny called for students to turn their “voices into action” over proposed changes to academic assessment.
Whilst he recognised the growing discontent amongst the student body, including a 2,500 person strong petition against the changes, he stated that recent interest in the changes had not been productive enough
“There has been a lot of noise,” he said, “but it isn’t specific enough to make a change. Around 80% of it, I think, is negative noise rather than negative fact.”
Along with Paul Goodstadt, SU Education Officer, Mr Kenny also discussed the potential impacts of the changes, noting both positive and negative impacts of a new academic timetable.
“In terms of pedagogy, the ideas are well-thought out and founded,” he said, “but the changes will impact a lot.”
This will impact anything from the length and cost of student accommodation contracts, the cost of bus passes, when roadwork could be done, as well as more individualised concerns for international and disabled students, as well as the potential for increased stress.
Also criticised by attendees at the session was the seeming lack of uncertainty on how the new assessment would work. Whilst Mr Goodstadt stated the plans would “spread the way and weight of assessment throughout the year,” including more emphasis on in-class tests and coursework, others were less convinced.
One disgruntled Academic Representative said: “Staff have been given so little guidance on the topic. This shouldn’t have been a consultation until they actually had a concrete idea.”
These criticism, however, were not unexpected with the University stating, “we launched this consultation knowing that the idea of change can be difficult”
“Wanting to encourage exploration, we didn’t make any firm proposal, but chose to illustrate a potential alternative through a three-term model without a formal winter examination period,” they went on to say.
Moving forward, the Students’ Union plans to consolidate all of the feedback they have received and present it to the University. This might include a working group of students presenting their own recommendations. If the feedback is overwhelmingly negative, they will look at more active ways of protesting the changes.
Currently Mr Goodstadt is in contact with Academic Representatives who might offer feedback from their respective departments, but is also in ongoing conversations with staff, including members of the Senior Management Staff and unions.