The University has signalled that a move towards the controversial semester system is not a question of if, but when.
The semester system would consist of two 15 week semesters instead of the three 10 week terms the University currently has. These 15 week semesters would be broken down into 12 weeks of teaching followed by a three week assessment period.
Sir Christopher O’Donnell, Chair of the University Council, told Nouse, “ultimately, we will have to move in that direction,” adding “there is a question as to whether it’s when and when could be [a] very short or very long timetable”.
This contradicts the University’s public stance that no decision has yet to be made and that student input will be considered.
In the last few weeks, members of the University have indicated they were only examining the possibility of replacing the current three term system with an academic year based around two 15-week semesters.
Professor John Robinson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, learning and information, commented on the proposal saying, the University Teaching Committee was thinking “more carefully about semesterisation” but there would be “student input [in the process] through the YUSU and GSA offices on UTC (University Teaching Committee)”.
But the comments made by the Chair of Council suggest that student input may be worthless. O’Donnell said the change to a two semester system would benefit the University because it would put York in line with other international institutions, making it easier for international students to visit for a semester: “particularly from places like the US and in many parts of Asia”.
The majority of universities in England do not follow the semester system, though some Scottish institutions do.
Graeme Osborn, YUSU Academic Officer, highlighted many of the main issues about switching to this system in a blog post last week. Osborn asked for student feedback on these, which included: an earlier start and end date; a very short Easter break; and whether 15 weeks without a break is too long. Following O’Donnell’s comments however, there will be questions as to whether any feedback can be fed “into the discussions” as Osborn wishes.
The earlier start would impact students in a number of ways. Freshers’ week could start several weeks earlier, while the present Easter break might be replaced with a long bank holiday weekend.
The impact upon societies and sports clubs has yet to be considered, although it is thought that performance societies and sport clubs would be the most affected. Sport clubs could benefit from the earlier start, allowing them more pre-BUCS training, however, different breaks would disrupt the fixture list. Performance societies would also be affected, having to reconsider the number of performances they put on throughout the year.