Anger at clashing classes

October 22, 2004

Durham University union leaders have called for an inquiry into a timetabling "fiasco" that has frustrated and confused staff and students since the start of term.

Administrators were forced to pull the plug on a computerised timetabling regime shortly before students arrived for the new academic year, when the system produced numerous clashes in scheduled lectures and seminars.

The Association of University Teachers said this week that the problems had not been fully ironed out despite efforts to resolve them by reverting to a version of last year's timetable.

It is unclear whether the software used to generate the new timetable, rumoured to have cost about £100,000, is to blame, or whether it is due to human error.

John Ashworth, Durham AUT president and principal of St Aiden's College, has written to Sir Kenneth Calman, the vice-chancellor, calling for a public inquiry.

He said: "This has affected everyone across the university. There is no doubt that our members have been put to considerable disquiet and dismay."

A Durham academic, who did not want to be named, said: "It has been a complete fiasco. Not only have they got it wrong, they have not been very helpful in explaining what is happening."

A Durham spokesman said all staff had been kept informed of developments via email.

Nicola Parker, Durham's academic registrar, said: "This has been an extremely worrying situation for all concerned and I apologise to staff and students."

AUT leaders at Newcastle University, which has been using the same software, known as Syllabus Plus, said the only problems they had encountered were down to human error when staff workloads increased and they received insufficient support.

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