Timetable troubles

May 18, 2001

Burgeoning student numbers are putting pressure on timetables and forcing universities to extend their teaching hours.

Some institutions are even considering teaching on Wednesday afternoons which are traditionally reserved for sport and extra-curricular activities.

At Bath University, lectures begin at 8.15am and end at 7.05pm. "We are a quart in a pint pot on this campus," explained a spokesman. "We are on the skyline of a world heritage city, which is a very beautiful location but means we can't simply slap up new buildings." Some "relatively modest" developments are planned, he added.

Despite the long days, the students are understanding. "Space is at a premium and as the long-term developments benefit the students, we embrace the temporary structural shift," said Ed Tyler, president of the students' union.

Warwick University says it too may have to extend teaching hours. "Looking ahead, if we are going to teach all these people properly, we are going to have to extend the teaching timetable," a spokesman said.

Lectures will go on until 7pm next year on a trial basis, while another option is teaching on Wednesday afternoons. "There is still a lot of discussion about what the final, long-term solution would be," he said.

A poll revealed that students would prefer teaching on Wednesday afternoons to early starts or late finishes, but a vocal group of sports players had put up strong opposition.

Other institutions teaching outside the normal working day include Keele, which teaches subsidiary courses until 7pm. All students take two principal courses and two subsidiaries, which makes timetabling complicated.

"It is the reverse side of having very wide choices," said one academic. "The timetabling becomes more and more difficult." Some subsidiary courses are therefore taught in a 5-7pm slot.

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