Minutes of the Fifty-fifth (Extraordinary) Meeting of the General Assembly held
on Wednesday 20 November 1996.
The Vice-Chancellor was in the Chair and 216 members signed the attendance
roll. Two apologies for absence were received.
In accordance with Statute XV.6 the Vice-Chancellor had called a meeting of
General Assembly at the request of not fewer than twenty-five members, to
consider the following motion:-
The Chair advised that any opinion
expressed by General Assembly as a result of the meeting would be submitted to
the 310th meeting of Senate on 27 November 1996 to inform discussion.
- "General Assembly requests that Senate should initiate the implementation
of a system of semesterisation encompassing two twelve week semesters (semester
one before Christmas and semester two between Christmas and Easter) and a six
week exam period after Easter".
At the invitation of the Chair, Dr W R Bowman presented the pedagogic and
structural arguments in support of the 12/12/6 option as described in the
agenda paper. Members received a second presentation in which Professor P
Golding stated that the motion had been proposed to highlight the divergent
views expressed by members of the Semesterisation Review Group. Professor
Golding reiterated the pedagogic arguments in favour of the 12/12/6 option and
stressed that the quality and integrity of teaching, learning and research at
Loughborough University must be the prime consideration when deciding the
structure of the academic year.
In response to the arguments forwarded in favour of the 12/12/6 option
Professor J P Feather reported that many Admissions Tutors and the
Admissions Office had agreed that an earlier start to the session would be
feasible. It was noted that the Directors of the External Relations Office,
the Residential Organisation and the Careers Service as well as the student
representative on the Semesterisation Review Group all advocated the 14/16
Professor Feather outlined the areas of common ground between supporters of
both the 12/12/6 and 14/16 options and detailed the background to the existing
system. Finally, a model for the 14/16 option was presented as follows:-
In the ensuing discussion
individual members of the General Assembly raised the following points:-
- Semester One to be completed before Christmas.
- An extended Christmas vacation to be introduced.
- The session to begin mid-September and end in May.
- Module Boards to be held electronically.
- Viva Voce and Final Programme Boards to be held in Week 15 Semester Two;
Part A and B Boards to be completed by Week 16.
The Chair expressed his personal view that many of
the concerns expressed were the inevitable result of the student:staff ratio
having increased by 50%, rather than the result of semesterisation. In the
assessment process, setting and marking represented the bulk of the work,
irrespective of the number of exam periods in a session.
- The meeting was asked to note that some Admissions Tutors had expressed
concern at the proposed early start to the session due to the clearing process.
It was felt more concessions were likely due to the shortage of time, further
reduced by the August Bank Holiday which it was considered would adversely
affect communication with candidates and remove the opportunity to carry out
interviews. In response it was noted that the use of the clearing system was
optional and that Departments should aim not to use it.
- Concern was expressed at the implication that supporters of the 12/12/6
option were not considering the effect on students. It was advanced that one
week between teaching and assessment was insufficient for revision.
- It was felt that the vision presented of quality and improvement in
teaching was not consistent with the mission of Loughborough University where
less than half the income came from teaching an increasing number of students.
- As the true definition of `semester' was a teaching period of six months,
neither system discussed could be said to be semesterised. Both September and
the inter semester break were considered to be invaluable periods for research
which should be sacrosanct. It was suggested that Loughborough University
should refer to models of semesterisation in other European countries where the
system had been operating successfully for many years.
- The view was expressed that both systems proposed were illogical and
resulted in more examinations and consequently greater effort. To reduce this
a reduction in the number of modules per programme was proposed. The
separation of module and programme boards was considered to be logical and
- Fourteen weeks teaching prior to Christmas without a break would be too
stressful and lead to increased levels of illness. In some years the 12/12/6
option did not fit into the period between 1 January and Easter. A system
of three 10 week terms was proposed.
- More consideration should be given to timing of laboratory classes when
setting the semester pattern.
- `A' level admissions from mid-August to mid-September and then a 14 week
semester before Christmas would be impossible to cope with and would lead to
severe stress on staff.
In a subsequent show of hands the General Assembly voted with a large majority
in favour of the motion.
Author - Mr N A McHard, Academic Secretary
Date - November 1996
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