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Your thoughts: the shape of the academic year

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The University is currently undertaking a thorough strategic review, as part of its Strategic Foundations Programme, to ensure that we are appropriately configured to face the challenges of the next decade.  It is important that our ways of working, our organisational systems and our programmes are not only fit for purpose, but flexible enough to advance the University’s strategic priorities in a fast-changing and uncertain world.

The ‘Portfolio Review’ pathway is a critical strand of this strategic work.  It is conducting a detailed assessment of how we organise our teaching and assessment, so that our resources and expertise can be better utilised to deliver an excellent student experience.  The aim is not simply to find cost-savings, but rather to create the capacity within our existing resources to invest more in value-adding activities. 

The structure of the academic year provides the basic framework within which most of our formal teaching and assessment activities take place, and whilst a change to the academic year will not, in itself, create new capacity, it can unlock opportunities for change that do not currently exist. 

Following initial engagement with colleagues from across the University, two proposed models have been identified: the semester system, and a three (teaching) term ‘trimester’ system

The two models: semesters and trimesters

Both of these models offer advantages over our current arrangements:

  • They will enable modules to be fully assessed/examined during the term or semester in which they are taught.  This is an approach that most students tell us they prefer.
  • Both models allow for a greater proportion of the academic year to be available for teaching to take place, with a smaller amount of time set aside for formal summative examinations. This allows for an increase in teaching capacity, without the need to extend the length of the teaching day.  In both cases the overall length of the academic year remains 30 weeks, to avoid any encroachment into other activities.

The weighting of teaching weeks, revision weeks and assessment periods varies slightly between the two models.  The differences are as follows: 

 

Teaching weeks

Revision / reflection

Exam weeks

Current system

20

2

8

Semester system

22

2

6

3 Teaching Terms

21

3

6

For further information about the two models, please follow this link: https://www.reading.ac.uk/web/files/leadershipgroup/academic-year-staff-engagement-background.pdf

Share your views

Following our initial engagement with colleagues we would like to seek further insight from a wider cross-section of the university community on the two proposed models in the form of a survey.

We would like to invite you to share your thoughts and views, and to help shape our academic year structure, by taking part in our survey: https://reading.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/the-shape-of-the-academic-year-at-reading-your-thoughts-2

The survey is open until Friday 4 June 2021 and should take around 15 minutes to complete.

The responses we receive will help to inform a recommendation to be taken forward to Senate on an academic year structure for implementation.  It is hoped that this new structure might be in place for academic year 2023/24.

If you have any queries or would like further information, please contact one of the Academic Year Project Co-Leads, Charlotte Coleman c.coleman@reading.ac.uk and Peter Miskell p.m.miskell@henley.ac.uk, or Project Manager, Em Brady e.e.brady@reading.ac.uk.

 

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