Image: The Boar

University faces backlash from students over final exam timetable

The University of Warwick is facing backlash from students for the Main Summer Exam Timetable released on 17 April. In response, the University has suggested that those affected should apply for mitigating circumstances.

Many exams have been moved between two and four weeks earlier than originally outlined in the Provisional Timetable. For one Mathematics module, its exam now takes place on the same day as the final lecture.

Students have taken to social media to share anxiety over these changes and some have been advised to apply for mitigating circumstances by their departments and tutors, citing the University’s timetabling as the cause.

While they have been emailing departments to convey their concerns, the University said on their website that “this is the Final version that has been agreed after consultation with academic departments”.

The new timetable, which was released five days “earlier than planned”, now schedules all exams within 13 May to 20 June. In the Provisional Summer Exam Timetable first released on 28 March, multiple exams were set to take place on 2 July which is outside the official end of term.

A second Provisional Timetable was then released on 29 March, with exams for some finalist courses scheduled for 20 June, after the Graduation Ball is due to take place three days before.

For the final timetable, the University expressed that they had noted “the problems experienced with the delay and subsequent removal of the Provisional Timetable”, and were “pleased to confirm” the publication of the newest timetable.

I feel that Warwick’s reluctance to accept full responsibility for the impact on learning and welfare that the timetable problems have had amounts to negligence of their duty of care for student’s wellbeing

– Jasmine Dhesi

In an email addressed to all students, Warwick’s Academic Registrar Dr Chris Twine apologised and said: “I appreciate that the delay and inaccuracies in an earlier provisional timetable has caused some anxiety and uncertainty. I hope therefore that the early publication of the Final Timetable will help you with your study preparations.

“Once again, please accept my apologies for the lack of a provisional timetable this year. We have fallen short of the high standards we strive to achieve for our students.”

Adding that departments were “extensively involved” in the publication of the final timetable, Dr Twine stated: “An extensive review of our processes is now underway and we will be working with academic departments and the Students Union [sic] to identify significant improvements for future years.”

The new timetable has triggered a new wave of complaints due to clashes and major differences from the Provisional Timetable.

It was revealed that the last lecture for one Mathematics module, MA209 Variational Principles, takes place 90 minutes before the exam for it.

Students have been writing to the University to express their anxiety. This includes second-year PAIS students, who have written a letter to the Exams Office, criticising the timetable that has put their first exam two weeks after a coursework deadline faced by most of the cohort.

An open letter to the Academic Office was also launched online. It suggests for the weighting of the exams to be changed to compensate for “the lack of organisation over the last few months” and has gathered over 2,000 signatures.

Jasmine Dhesi, a second-year French and Italian student told The Boar: “The University’s failures to provide a provisional timetable show a disregard for student’s time and well being. More worryingly, this incident seems to be part of a wider problem in the attitude towards students shown by the Warwick administration.

The examinations team have responded to feedback from academic departments and published the final timetable earlier than originally planned

– Warwick University

“I feel that Warwick’s reluctance to accept full responsibility for the impact on learning and welfare that the timetable problems have had amounts to negligence of their duty of care for student’s wellbeing.”

She added: “The commercialisation of higher education has raised student’s expectations of the ‘service’ they are ‘consuming’ so the failure to provide a key part of that service, a provisional timetable, is understandably being taken very seriously by students like myself.”

A second-year English Literature student commented: “I have course work and exams that now overlap, and barely have time to finish modules before they are examined. Whoever has passed this timetable appears to have done so completely inconsiderately.”

“Being an arts student I, like the rest of my course already have minimal contact hours, little help over long vacations, and now my term 3 ending in week 4. This is hardly the £9k education I am paying for. Once again we have been let down by Warwick.”

Third-year Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) student Andrei Dogaru said: “Although I didn’t appreciate the uncertainty around the exam timetable, my exams are on average later compared to the provisional version, which gives me more time to study; as a finalist, I find that helpful.”

The Boar contacted the University for comment on the criticism that the timetable has received from students. They said: “Due to significant, critical and unforeseen difficulties, the earlier provisional timetable was taken down and students [were] asked to disregard it.

“The examinations team have responded to feedback from academic departments and published the final timetable earlier than originally planned.”

We would like to reassure you all that we share many of your concerns and will be liaising with the University Exams Office who are responsible for constructing the timetable

– Politics and International Studies  (PAIS) Department

When asked about the affect the timetable may have had on students’ mental health, the University stated: “Boards of Examiners and the Notification of Mitigating Circumstances process will operate as it has in previous years and the details can be found here.”

Warwick Students’ Union (SU) Education Officer Larissa Kennedy tweeted after the publication of the Final Exam Timetable that there had been “an inordinate amount of stress for students“ and also advised students to submit for mitigating circumstances if they have been affected.

Various departments have since responded to concerns raised to them by students regarding the timetable. Head of the History Professor Rebecca Earle emailed students of the subject stating that the final timetable is “a great improvement on the earlier draft, but some anomalies remain”.

She said: “We all know that the provisional timetable is, as the name implies, provisional, but this year it has been exceptionally provisional, and I appreciate that the differences between the provisional and the final versions in some cases [have] been extremely unsettling.”

The department said that they have been “in communication with the central administration to raise concerns”. Students who feel they have been “affected particularly unfairly by these events” have been invited to contact Professor Earle.

In an email regarding the recent timetable, the Politics and International Studies (PAIS) department said: “Whilst it was published ahead of schedule, (PAIS) students across all year groups have raised a number of concerns. We appreciate and understand that this may have caused some anxiety and uncertainty for our students.

“We would like to reassure you all that we share many of your concerns and will be liaising with the University Exams Office who are responsible for constructing the timetable.”

We all know that the provisional timetable is, as the name implies, provisional, but this year it has been exceptionally provisional, and I appreciate that the differences between the provisional and the final versions in some cases [have] been extremely unsettling

– Professor Rebecca Earle

The department said that changes to dates for PAIS exams are “very unlikely”. They explained: “A number of students have requested that there are no further changes, however, so that they can plan ahead with more certainty.”

They further advised students to apply for mitigating circumstances if they have been affected by the timetable.

An email was also sent to all Mathematics undergraduates by Department Administrator Louise Hasler, who said: “I understand that the earlier scheduling of some modules is leading to anxiety in some students.

“Unfortunately, due to the complexity of scheduling a University-wide timetable, it is unlikely that the timetable will change now except where clashes are identified.”

She continued that the department “are noting where there have been significant changes in timetabling” but are “not able to say if any mitigation will be applied to results due to significant changes”. The department is currently waiting for more advice.

The email concluded: “I am very sorry for the problems with the timetable this year; which are unprecedented. This is a centrally run process, and unfortunately events have been beyond the control of the Maths department.”

UPDATE (20/4/2019): Student-Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC) chairs across the university have launched a survey on Facebook asking students to feedback on the impact of this year’s timetables.

They are “collaborating to produce a unified and representative student response”. Students have until Thursday 25 April to answer the survey.

UPDATE (25/4/2019): Second-year History and Politics SSLC, Annie Ghandi Hartley, said on behalf of the SSLC chairs and select course representatives: “SSLC chairs from a number of departments (In addition to some course reps) are working together to collate data for a formal letter to the Registrar.

“We are doing this via an online form to gain information and create statistical analysis: the more students who fill out the form the more information we have.

“The form closes at midday on Thursday 25th April so students have until midday to voice concerns formally via our form.”

She added that “informally” students “are very welcome to continue to contact SSLC reps , whose names can be found on the SU website, for advice or with questions”.

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Comments (2)

  • I signed the open letter, giving my role as “Lecturer/Associate Professor/Principal Teaching Fellow (Department of Statistics) 1986-2018”.

    The stress put on (most obviously) students, but also departmental administrative and academic staff, is unbearable. I retired early because of all this stuff. Please recognise how Warwick Uni is creaking at the seams, and ensure that central facilities, not least the software to manage exams, timetabling etc., are fit for purpose and are tested beforehand on the most difficult cases, rather than being imposed under a “one size fits all” ideology. Thank you.

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