Lecturers sometimes moan about having to give lectures at 9am (although perhaps not as much as the students “attending” them), and the 4pm seminar is just as dreaded.
So spare a thought for staff at the University of Exeter who may be asked to teach until 9pm – or to start lessons at 8.30am – under proposals now out for consultation.
With teaching spaces squeezed by an expanded student intake, Exeter has proposed three options to staff and students: extend the timetable to 7pm three days a week; start teaching at 8.30am and finish at 6.30pm three days a week; or finish at 9pm on a Thursday. Staff would not be asked to work more hours: those finishing at 9pm would start later on that day.
A new block to house more lecture theatres would cost about £12 million, money that could be invested elsewhere if the changes were introduced in 2015-16, Exeter adds.
Without any change, the “real pressure in timetable capacity” felt now would become “a more acute issue” by 2015 given projected student numbers, the consultation document says.
The plans have been criticised by staff, who say they would make lecturers pay the price for Exeter’s rapid growth. According to Ucas, Exeter took about 1,000 more undergraduates this year than it did in 2011-12 – a 35 per cent rise in two years.
Staff have warned that those with families or care commitments would be particularly affected. Others say that they would resent having to sacrifice part of their private lives to make the timetabling changes work.
The University of Exeter Students’ Guild has already said that it does not support any of the proposals, adding that it had “serious concerns” that changes will “negatively impact on the student experience”.
Exeter’s University and College Union branch did not want to comment until the consultation had ended, but it indicated that there was a lot of opposition to the proposals from its members and other staff.
The university, which says that overall student numbers have grown by just 4 per cent since 2011, said that any changes would be introduced on a pilot basis and claimed that staff and students had been involved in drafting the plans.
The process had been “guided by our concern to deliver the highest standards of educational experience within our resources, as well as supporting the varied expectations of our student community and our academic staff”, a spokesman said.
Other universities were already teaching until 7pm and some were starting teaching at 8am, he added, while stressing that Exeter was committed to family-friendly policies allowing flexible working.