By Eugene Smith
Just under 6,000 Durham students have completed a survey responding to proposed changes in the length of the University term, with the protection of pre-exam revision time revealed as respondents’ most important priority.
According to figures disclosed to Palatinate, 46.9 percent of students ranked preserving revision time as the most important consideration, whilst 23.6 percent placed preserving a three-week post-exam period as most important, 22.4 percent chose maintaining the length of the Easter holidays, and 7.1 percent of respondents primarily preferred keeping graduation directly after term, rather than a few weeks after.
Durham Students’ Union (DSU) released the online feedback form at the end of January after it emerged the University Executive Committee had proposed extending the summer examination period, mainly out of a need to accommodate the influx of students soon to be relocated to Durham City from Queen’s Campus.
The potential effects of the proposed changes were said to include a reduction in revision weeks, a shortening of the Easter holiday, delays to graduation and/ or a shortening of the post-exam period.
The survey, created due to a prior lack of student consultation on the proposed term changes, garnered around 5,800 responses in six days, constituting 52 percent of the target undergraduate population.
Lisa Whiting, the Academic Affairs Officer for the DSU who organised the survey, said: “With 6,000 responses, this is something students definitely care about, and my job is to make sure their views are considered when the final decisions are made.
“My hope is that the University will only make minor changes to the structure of the academic year — taking into account student views on pre-exam revision, holidays and the post-exam period.
“However, if this isn’t the case, then I will express my frustration to the University that the views of students have not been used to inform the overall decision.
“I will also work with the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education to ensure that the University puts plans in place to mitigate potential negative impacts on students – e.g. if the year is extended so that students are required to pay for two more weeks of catered accommodation.”
The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), Professor Alan Houston, told Palatinate: “This term the University Executive Committee delayed consideration [of its proposals] to enable the DSU to survey the student body and to permit me to meet with JCR Presidents. These expressions of student voice helped shape the final draft.
“The proposal is now progressing through the University’s governance channels. The next step is discussion by the Senate, which includes representatives from Durham Students’ Union.
“If the Senate supports the proposal in principle, then we will undertake further consultation with students and staff before any final decisions are made.”
The option currently recommended by the DSU is to keep the term structure “largely the same as it is currently”, with the only difference of “an additional examination week added into third term, thus extending the term by one week”, and concurrently delaying graduation by a week.
The secondary preferred option is to begin Michaelmas term one week earlier, making it an eleven-week teaching term, and to convert one of Easter term’s current revision weeks into an exam week.
Photograph: Durham University