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University year to start in January?

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 kevin stephens 27 Jun 2020

Admission based on actual rather than predicted results. An end to Clearance chaos. Curtailment of long summer holiday. If they can do it quickly enough a solution to Covid impact on academia. Sounds good to me.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/jun/26/ministers-may-move-university-applications-to-after-a-level-results

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 marsbar 27 Jun 2020
In reply to kevin stephens:

If they are going to move things around maybe now would be a good time to move exams out of the hayfever season. 

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 Dave B 27 Jun 2020
In reply to kevin stephens:

Can you explain what you mean by curtailment of long summer hols ? When were you thinking holidays would  occur?

I think its a bit late for this year, uni's are already advanced in their plans for Sept /October starts... Though I'm sure many University staff would appreciate a bit more time to prep. 

I guess another big question would be how institutions would survive financially with a potential 3 month break with no income, if the uni year were to start in January 

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 kevin stephens 27 Jun 2020
In reply to Dave B:

I was merely quoting the article. Read it and see

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 Dave B 27 Jun 2020
In reply to kevin stephens:

I read it yesterday and again just no , but can't locate anything about holidays. Could you tell me where it talks about this and then maybe give your thoughts?

Personally, I've never found a long holiday in the summer, but I world agree I have had long breaks from teaching over the summer... Except when I've been teaching MSc students. 

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 kevin stephens 27 Jun 2020
In reply to Dave B:

From the article “A January term start would also have an impact on applications by international students and shrink the long summer holiday for students.”

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 Dave B 27 Jun 2020
In reply to kevin stephens:

Thanks. I couldn't find that. What are your thoughts on that? 

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 kevin stephens 27 Jun 2020
In reply to Dave B:

It seems too long with atrophy of mental capacity 

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 Dave B 27 Jun 2020
In reply to kevin stephens:

I think with a January start, unis staff would be strongly encouraged/told end to do something with the students from July to January anyway, to keep them engaged. Would make it quite hard to do the other tasks. 

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 kevin stephens 27 Jun 2020
In reply to Dave B:

If the change can’t be put in place until next year then a one off extra term (Oct 21 to Dec 21) May help students catch up with lost time from lockdown, particularly science and engineering students who need (and have paid for) lab and other facilities. Maybe this one off term could be funded by the Government?

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 Offwidth 27 Jun 2020
In reply to kevin stephens:

Despite being a supporter of post results admissions  I predict chaos. From the 50 or so big things that have gone wrong for them this week, this government seems incapable of handling anything right.

Just to be clear, there is no such thing as big summer holidays. Universities function year round with post grad and industry graduate apprentice teaching and of course research. Undergraduate teaching is not even the biggest work area for some research intensive institutions.

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 kevin stephens 27 Jun 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

Of course I appreciate all of that, some of my clients are universities and I know how they operate. I was thinking of the undergraduates

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 hang_about 27 Jun 2020
In reply to kevin stephens:

You've hit a nerve with many academics. I still get asked when I go back after the long holiday. Teaching masters, running a research group, writing papers and grants. It's like telling an engineer that the ' gas engineer' has fixed the boiler. Winds them up no end!

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 kevin stephens 27 Jun 2020
In reply to hang_about:

No reason for hit nerves as it should have been clear that I was specifically referring to undergraduate studies.  My better half is an ex academic supervising PhD students.  And as it happens I'm an engineering consultant with a number of universities on my client list who I have advised on energy strategy, carbon neutrality and particularly optimisation of large combined heat and power plants which include gas fired boilers.  So I'm  well informed on how universities operate and the working life of academics.

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 Welsh Kate 27 Jun 2020
In reply to kevin stephens:

I think PQA is an excellent idea (I'm head of admissions at a multi-subject humanities school in a Russell Group university), not least because it it likely to help address the disadvantage the current predicted grades system provides to applicants from disadvantages schools.

I'm not keen on the idea of a January start date for the UK HE academic year for a load of reasons including the gap that will create between A levels and starting degrees (this year we'll have first years starting in late Sept who've been out of education since mid March which is not helpful and not a model to repeat), how that will put us out of synch with all our northern hemisphere partners making research and student exchanges problematic, and how it's almost certainly be followed by an expectation to include a 'third semester' (a contradiction in terms, but what the heck) so students get through degrees in two years which may be financially attractive but is likely to hinder intellectual development and an in-depth understanding of one's subject, and would make it very hard for academics to do the other - very significant - parts of their jobs (and take leave).

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 kevin stephens 27 Jun 2020
In reply to Welsh Kate:

> I think PQA is an excellent idea (I'm head of admissions at a multi-subject humanities school in a Russell Group university), not least because it it likely to help address the disadvantage the current predicted grades system provides to applicants from disadvantages schools.

> I'm not keen on the idea of a January start date for the UK HE academic year for a load of reasons including the gap that will create between A levels and starting degrees (this year we'll have first years starting in late Sept who've been out of education since mid March which is not helpful and not a model to repeat).

But don't many freshers start University after a 12 month gap year?  Maybe a 6 - month gap half year would be better?  This could also be a great opportunity for a few months work experience prior to starting studies.  This is something my industry (engineering consultancy specializing in energy efficiency) may be interested in supporting

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 hang_about 27 Jun 2020
In reply to kevin stephens:

Apologies. I fear they will also try to reintroduce the 2 year degree though

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 kevin stephens 27 Jun 2020
In reply to hang_about:

Am I right in understanding that a major argument against a 2 year degree is that they don't leave time for research and widen the gulf between teaching and research staff?  Or is that gap already too wide and undergraduates don't benefit as much as they should from input from researchers, despite increased income from 2 year degrees helping to fund directly or indirectly the researchers?

Post edited at 14:01
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 James Moyle 27 Jun 2020
In reply to kevin stephens:

I think any of the alternatives would be an improvement on the current system. If you take the International Baccalaureate, exams finish by the end of May and have results on the 6th July. I can't see why A-levels can't do the same to get the University Term started earlier.

However, there needs to be improvements to marking to make sure that it is more accurate including a greater reliance on AI to speed things up. The number of mistakes in grading seems to increase year-on-year. I'm an assistant Head - I don't have stats to back this up, but it certainly seems this way at my school and schools with which I collaborate. We are increasingly having to not only appeal against the grades, but also the remarking (can you believe that a remark is done by the same person who originally marked the paper!), to finally get to what we know is the correct result.  Consequently, students are having to take defer a year to get into their preferred University.

Anyway, I've gone off track, my point is, yes have post qualification applications, but lets get the marking process in order so that the speed and accuracy of the grading is better.

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 Dave B 27 Jun 2020
In reply to kevin stephens:

Is great you're in favour of supporting placements. It's super important. Sadly, currently, many students don't get the opportunity.

Thanks for any students you do support.

One can only hope that more employers are also keen to provide paid placement, else we'll end up with many students suffering financially (more than currently). 

Summer provides lots of employment opportunities as other employees take holidays and use services where there is seasonal employment. There are fewer of these I think in the autumn term. 

Id have to think if I'd prefer earlier exams for A level students and earlier results or a a different Uni year structure.  I know the further wouldn't affect me per se, but it would affect the coverage of material at A level. 

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 Welsh Kate 27 Jun 2020
In reply to kevin stephens:

Am I right in understanding that a major argument against a 2 year degree is that they don't leave time for research and widen the gulf between teaching and research staff?  Or is that gap already too wide and undergraduates don't benefit as much as they should from input from researchers, despite increased income from 2 year degrees helping to fund directly or indirectly the researchers?

It may depend what sort of disciplines you're looking at. In humanities it's normal for the majority of teaching staff to be research active, and students benefit hugely from exposure to ongoing research. We have have a summer placement system at my uni where students are paid to assist with research projects and have got involved with publications from it, or have ready-formed dissertation projects.

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 Offwidth 27 Jun 2020
In reply to hang_about:

2 year degrees are already running in some institutions. I think the main reason more courses are not running is a lack of demand. I hear plenty of moans about if 50% of kids  really need to go to Uni but a much larger proportion than that of middle class kids already go.  Very few of them want two year degrees... a lot are doing 4 year degrees.

Then there are undergraduate summer schools,. school kid outreach Uni visits, admissions open days. Then we have supervision, support, assessment and marking of referred undergrad students over the summer so they can pass and remain with their cohort of friends. Then the delight of appeals and academic irregularities and discipline code issues. Plus placement interviews, visits and support, module selection discussions, references and other support for the graduate cohort. Then we have all the quailty reporting and validation and acreditation requirements and the prep for the next year (hard work for new modules). The idea there is no undergrad work around in the summer is just plain wrong.

Leave entitlement is generous for academics but most I know don't take it all most years as they are just too busy and most answer work emails at times when on leave and when at work most spend way more time than the 37.5 nominal working week. I've left now after 36 years on the job. It started as a worthy joy and ended as a worthy grind. More massive change at a time of real financial uncertainty (due to covid) is the last thing staff need.

Post edited at 17:40
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 hang_about 27 Jun 2020
In reply to Welsh Kate:

Same as this in the sciences. Most staff are research active. By the time exams are over and after dealing with Master's students, the 'long summer vacation' is actually only a few weeks. Most staff don't take anywhere close to their holiday entitlement as summer is busy. A 2 year degree will mean a complete separation of teaching and research staff. It will be a treadmill to everyone's disbenefit.

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 hang_about 27 Jun 2020
In reply to Offwidth:

Our posts crossed. I can only agree with everything you said. It's going to be a tough few years.

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 Welsh Kate 27 Jun 2020
In reply to hang_about:

Agree with you and Offwidth, a good glimpse of the summer life of an academic. Enjoy your retirement, Offwidth.

And yes, I agree that its not just next year that's going to be tough.

Post edited at 17:47
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