As Education Officer at the SU, I’ve spent my time this year trying to make your learning experience the best it can possibly be - so to see the disastrous mess of the summer exam timetable derail so much of that is beyond frustrating.
Please rest assured that I, and the rest of the team at the SU, share your anger about the exam timetable. The Officer Team, the Education Team, the Advice Centre and your Course Reps are working together and doing all that we can to challenge the University on your behalf. I know that one of the most infuriating issues has been the lack of transparency from the University throughout this debacle, so I’ve written up the issues and how the SU has responded so far, as well as our intended current and next steps (if you’re up to speed on everything that’s been happening, feel free to skip to the bottom for that latter part!)
I’ve tried to keep this as brief as possible - if you want further info on what we’re up to, drop me an email via email@example.com (please bear with me when it comes to a response, as I’ve been inundated with emails and messages about this and I want to go through them diligently so we can accurately capture the issues students are facing).
There is, unfortunately, a caveat to be added here: unfortunately, it is unlikely that the SU will be able to affect a wholesale revision of the exam timetable at this stage. Like you, we have been reacting to the situation ever since it unfolded, and realistically the only course of action available to us is to try and limit the impact on the University’s negligence on students while making recommendations to ensure that this does not happen again.
Despite everything that the Uni has done wrong, you’re going to smash your exams and the SU is 100% behind you. Stay tuned for more information coming soon about how to apply for mitigating circumstances if you feel that your studies have been adversely affected - in the meantime, best of luck with revision and assessments!
THE ISSUES AND THE SU’S RESPONSE SO FAR
1) The lateness of the provisional timetable
The initial provisional exam timetable was due to be released in the week commencing 18th March - however, without any consultation or explanation, the date was then changed on the website to w/c 25th March. In response to this, the SU immediately contacted the Examinations Office demanding an explanation for the delay and the attendant lack of communication, highlighting that this completely contravened the SU’s mandate for the implementation of earlier exam timetables.
The University’s response on 26th March noted staff turnover and curricular optionality as reasons for the delay, but assured the SU that staff were still working to deliver the provisional timetable. A provisional timetable was then released on the 28th March, but this version had several inaccuracies, including but not limited to:
- Scheduling exams outside of the allocated summer examinations period (including some in July, after the end of term);
- Timetabling some finalists’ exams after they were due to graduate;
- Missing students’ exams from the timetable.
Due to the volume of students’ concerns, the SU began soliciting, anonymising, and compiling students’ complaints and communicating them to the University on a rolling basis, and made a public statement with 7 key demands:
- An apology from the University and an explanation as to how and why this happened;
- Assurances that this will not happen again in future;
- Any missing exams to be added into the timetable;
- No exams to be held outside of the designated Weeks 4-9 exam period;
- Finalists’ exams to be moved back to the start of the schedule;
- A commitment to releasing accurate timetables earlier;
- The final exam timetable to be confirmed as soon as possible.
2) Failure to produce a correct provisional timetable
Despite the above response regarding the provisional timetable, the following week the Examinations Office began informing students that there would be no provisional timetable - again, without having consulted or informed the SU. This was then communicated to the SU on 4th April and stressed that the full timetable would not be available until w/c 22nd April (the original date for the final exam timetable). In response, the SU advocated for the Examinations Office to:
- Focus efforts towards the release of exam timetables as early as possible (w/c 15th April at the very latest);
- Ensure that students’ mitigating circumstances in relation to this are well contextualised in light of all the distress caused.
3) Incorrect final timetable
Following on from these additional demands, the University released the ‘final’ timetable on 17th April (and had the audacity to congratulate themselves for getting it out earlier than planned, despite this being 4 weeks later than an accurate provisional timetable was due!). Furthermore, students have reported to the SU that there are still exams missing from this timetable, in addition to further issues with this ‘final’ version.
CURRENT AND NEXT STEPS
In response to the continued issues with the ‘final’ timetable, the SU is currently liaising with the Course Reps on your Student-Staff Liaison Committees (SSLCs) to capture the Departmental picture of many of the issues being raised. A massive thankyou is due to all those student representatives who are giving up their time to do this, despite preparing for exams and assessment themselves! If you still have issues with the timetable, please fill in the form developed by our incredible SSLC Chairs.
The SU is also acutely aware of the direct impact of this situation on students’ mental health and are, therefore, recommending that students affected apply for mitigating circumstances. We are also working to produce online guidance for students who would like further support, and are asking Senior Tutors to communicate how students submit forms for mitigation. We also encourage students affected to access the relevant mental health support services.
The SU has been highlighting problems with the lateness of the University’s exam timetable releases for several years now - and, indeed, earlier this year passed policy to mandate us to call for an earlier exam timetable release. We are therefore restating our demand for the University to commit the resources necessary to ensure that this is possible, and this will be one of the many recommendations in a report we are compiling using students’ feedback to ensure that a fiasco like this never happens again.
Sadly, the University’s lack of communication and transparency on this issue has once again highlighted a much wider issue around its governance, and students’ lack of agency in shaping the way that their university is run. The fact that this happened in spite of our repeated communication of students’ concerns is a damning indictment of the role that the student voice plays in the way this University operates. (Why, it’s almost as if treating a teaching and learning community like a business, and treating students like customers doesn’t actually work… but that’s another issue!) It is therefore essential that we move towards the democratisation of our University and the realisation that students have the power to change things for the better by organising, campaigning, getting involved in SU democratic processes and speaking up about their experiences. Together, we have the power to change things - let’s make sure that we use it.