When is the academic calendar finalised?

QUESTION:

Dear Ask Executive,
Please could you give a specific date on which the 2015/16 academic calendar will be finalised following your statement that “the academic calendar remains under review and further meetings are planned with Faculties to review the impact of the 2014/15 changes before the 2015/16 calendar is finalised” in your response dated 06/01/2015.

Does this comment indicate that the calendar will not be released until following the end of the next academic term (when the impact of the calendar for 2014/15 can be reviewed)?

How does this fit with the “managing academic workloads and the professional contract” policy which states that workload planning activities “would normally commence in March/April and the overall plan of work should be determined by the line manager in consultation with the individual by the end of the July before the start of the following academic year”?

In addition will students planning to start in 2015/16 be left in the dark about the academic calendar dates until much later in the year? What impact is this likely to have on student satisfaction in relation to information provided to new students prior to starting a course with us? If a student enquires about term dates for their course what should they be told?

ANSWER:

The term dates for 2015/16 have been agreed. They have been communicated to Student Finance England (SFE) and are published on the University’s website.

The timing of Easter in 2016 is such that the two week Easter holiday encompasses the weeks including Good Friday and Easter Monday, while also permitting nine weeks of teaching pre-Easter and three weeks thereafter.

The purpose of the interim review of the academic calendar, commencing later this month, is to evaluate the impact of changes that have already been implemented (introduction of an independent study week in semester one and an earlier semester one examination period) and to assess whether such changes should be retained in the 2015/16 calendar.

Can we have more details about the Easter holiday consultation please?

QUESTION:

Dear Ask Executive,

Please could you share full and specific details of the ‘limited student consultation’ identified in your Ask Executive question response of 23/10/2014 in relation to the movement of the traditional Easter holiday period?

Also, it was indicated that the moving of the Easter holiday period was intended to improve the student experience and attendance post Easter – please could you provide specific detail as to working groups assessment of the potential impact which moving Easter might have on these factors. The indications I am receiving from students would suggest that the opposite is true as a result of this move.

Could the minutes of these meetings be shared?

Thank you.

ANSWER:

The change in the calendar which impacts on the Easter break in 2015, resulted from a desire to establish (wherever possible) a consistent pattern to teaching in semester 2, where 9 weeks of teaching would take place prior to Easter and 3 weeks after Easter. In particular, this sought to address student and staff concerns that the post-Easter teaching period often comprised a very small number of teaching weeks which had led to poor student attendance and, in some cases, those weeks had been converted into revision rather than teaching sessions.

At the time the changes to the calendar were being prepared, the Students’ Union invited students to comment on different aspects of the proposals. While the total number of students who responded to the survey was relatively small, nevertheless there was positive support for the change to the Easter schedule.

The academic calendar remains under review and further meetings are planned with Faculties to review the impact of the 2014/15 changes before the 2015/16 calendar is finalised.

Should Week 10 be rearranged for Easter?

QUESTION:

The Monday of Week 10 in Semester 2 is Easter Monday.
Should Week 10 classes be cancelled, re-arranged or put back so that teaching finishes on the Monday of Week 13 rather than the Friday of Week 12?

ANSWER:

As teaching on the Monday of week 10 of the 2nd semester cannot takes place as it coincides with Easter Monday, staff are asked to re-arrange any affected teaching sessions and to do so in consultation with their students.

Why are the Easter holiday dates not in Easter?

QUESTION:

Why are the Easter holiday dates for Staffordshire University not covering the actual Easter period? A quick check of a few other nearby universities shows that we are an exception here. The University of Central Lancashire, Derby, Birmingham and Wolverhampton all have at least one week of holiday period covering the actual Easter period when people with families need to take time off.

I have looked in to this further since my initial question taking in the universities of Warwick, Leicester, Loughborough, Coventry, Cambridge, Oxford, Huddersfield, Keele, Manchester, Salford, Chester, Liverpool, Edge Hill and Liverpool John Moores in addition to those detailed in my original question and so far have found no other university to have positioned their Easter Break in such an extraordinary place.

On asking students about this matter, the majority of whom were quite understandably working under the assumption that the university Easter break would be placed where it usually is (i.e Easter) there was considerable concern about the impact this would have on their work (earning money doing work only available in that week) and family lives (taking holidays with their younger siblings on half-term).

ANSWER:

At its meeting on 6 February 2013, the Academic Board approved the creation of a working group to review the academic calendar for the academic session 2014/15, in order to ensure that it fully supported the student experience, student retention and the efficient use of University resources. The working group met on five occasions and comprised representatives from Faculties, Trade Unions, Partnerships, Students’ Union and wider student body, Recruitment and Admissions and the Student Office. At its final meeting in October 2013, the working group reviewed on the final draft academic calendar from three Faculties and one School, as well as six central services. In addition, a limited student consultation was also conducted. The 2014/15 academic calendar was approved by Academic Board in October 2013.

The change in the calendar which impacts on the Easter break in 2015, resulted from a desire to establish (wherever possible) a consistent pattern to teaching in semester 2, where 9 weeks of teaching would take place prior to Easter and 3 weeks after Easter. In particular, this sought to address student and staff concerns that the post-Easter teaching period often comprised a very small number of teaching weeks which had led to poor student attendance and, in some cases, those weeks had been converted into revision rather than teaching sessions. 70% of students who responded to the consultation supported this change.

The 2015/16 academic calendar has been approved in principle by Academic Board and the Easter holiday period is the 2 weeks which contains both good Friday and Easter Monday, while at the same time still maintaining a 3 week teaching block post Easter. All aspects of the 2014/15 calendar will be reviewed in the summer of 2015 before the 2015/16 calendar is finalised.

Why doesn’t the Pavilion stay open for staff?

QUESTION:
We all understand that students go home for the holidays resulting in less people on campus, but why is it deemed acceptable to close the Pavilion to staff during this period? Dolche Vita provides a very limited range of sandwiches and cakes, but especially with the cold weather that we are having, staff often want something more substantial and there is little alternative available.  Surely you could still offer a limited range of hot food?

 

ANSWER:
The Pavilion is closed mainly due to the lack of sales experienced during the vacation periods. We have tried opening the Pavilion several times when students are not around and offered some really attractive promotional deals for staff; despite this, sales still tend to be very poor. Coffee and snack sales remain high in the Costa outlet hence the reason why we choose to close the Pavilion during vacation.

Normally we would offer a small table service in the Courtyard Cafe offering cook to order food, however we have been exceptionally busy with the migration of our kitchen operations from Cadman to the Brindley Food Court during the Easter period; In anticipation of this we notified staff on RSS in early March of potential minor disruptions to service as a result over the vacation.

We have, throughout the vacation, provided a hot soup offer daily, along with sandwiches and Panini’s. We will review our daily offer over the summer vacation and possibly increase the menu in The Courtyard Cafe during this period…. again we apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers during this transition and thank you for your patience.