Semester exams vote

February 24, 1995

Students at Liverpool John Moores University are to be balloted by their union over the timing of semester-end examinations.

End of semester pressure is one of the main complaints raised by students who dislike the two-session system introduced by LJMU at the beginning of this year.

Richard Welch, a final-year business studies undergraduate, said: "I had three assignments to hand in on a Friday and exams followed on Monday. The pressure was ludicrous and there was no time to revise properly."

Students reject the suggestion that better time management would help. "You can't start the essays until the lectures have got far enough," argued Iona Horsburgh, a final-year media studies student who was confronted with two 3,000-word assignments and examinations at the same time.

Both said that shorter courses designed to fit the semester structure are less intellectually satisfying. Mr Welch said: "I had hoped the last year would give me a little time for thinking about my subject - instead it has been non-stop and any sense of enjoyment has been lost."

Ms Horsburgh pointed to lecturers under pressure to cram content into courses - including one who concluded the semester with a four-hour lecture covering all the content he had missed.

Semesterisation has also created difficulties for students whose local authorities pay grants in three parts. The system worsens existing financial problems because the students' money runs out several weeks before the end of term. Wendy Stonefield, student affairs officer for the union, said that demands for their emergency Pounds 30 loans were up by one third on last year.

She said: "We don't want to be negative about semesters. We recognise that having gone to the trouble of adopting them, the university will not drop them. But there are fundamental problems."

The university is similarly concerned that it should not be seen as uncaring. Frank Sanderson, dean of LJMU, said: "We recognise that there are problems, and this is one of the issues we will emphasise in our annual questionnaire for students. There was a two-year lead-in to the introduction of semesters, with full consultation. Any change will lead to vociferous complaints from some students, but there are others who have said how glad they are not to have to study for exams over Christmas."

Jennifer Latto, provost, said there is no inherent reason why semesters should place more stress on students.

"The best time to assess this will be at the end of the first academic year using semesters rather than in the middle. The new structure does fit far better with the university's preferred learning strategy," she said.

Professor Sanderson said that the university was asking local authorities to make two-stage grant payments to fit in with the new structure.

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