Threat posed by a third semester

November 18, 1994

I welcome Richard Jones's awareness of the problems which any move to an early September start to the academic year would cause, which underline Natfhe's policy to resist any such proposals (THES, November 4). The Flowers report failed to recognise both the educational arguments for students to learn over an extended period with time for consolidation and reflection as well as the pressures that academic staff are under even now in new universities with 12 weeks of continuous teaching/assessment. A 15-week semester before Christmas is not feasible or desirable for either group, and could only have been suggested by people who are unaware of the pressures of increased numbers.

I agree that the idea of a November start was given short shrift in the report, and needs to be examined further. However, there is only minimal disruption of the summer research/vacation period if formal exams are consolidated into one "end of year" period, rather than the current twice-yearly disruption which many new universities are currently enduring. Our policy is for a return to "year-long" modules as the norm, to allow proper learning, but where modules take half a year it is pure fantasy to imagine that a realistic level of student choice is curtailed by deferring exams for a few months. Do we really expect students to move universities twice a year?

Both Natfhe and the AUT are united in opposing an earlier start to the year, or to a third semester, which is a profound threat to academic communities.


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