Heriot-Watt to reorganise academic year
University to adopt two semester system in a bid to revise learning and assessment
Monday 05 November 2007 | 03:33:49 UTC, The Journal Issue 1
Following in the footsteps of the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University will change the structure of their academic year from the current three term system to a two-semester arrangement in September 2008.
The move comes after the National Student Survey (NSS) highlighted that Heriot-Watt students are in need of less assessment and more teaching. The NSS results expose that 35 per cent of students at the University consider exams to be nothing more than a memory test.
Liam Burns, President of Heriot-Watt University Student Association (HWUSA) said: “We remain over-assessed and under-taught compared to other institutions, with far too many exams and not nearly enough meaningful feedback. Our National Student Survey results have made that clear.”
In June 2006, the Planning and Management Executive confirmed approval of the move to a two-block structure of the academic year.
The restructuring of the academic year is designed to provide more time for learning by increasing the teaching weeks from 23 to 24 and reducing the exam assessment periods from three to two.
Undergraduate and post-graduate students will typically have eight rather than twelve modules annually planned to deepen the learning experience.
Bob Craik, Vice-President of Heriot-Watt University and director of the Restructuring Project Board said: "Fewer, longer modules will enhance student learning whilst retaining flexibility."
Flexibility is paramount to Heriot-Watt's idea of education. The University plans to introduce flexible learning materials including Vision, a virtual learning environment that will permit students to continue learning at a time and place that is suitable for them.
The new structure of the academic year aims to offer students adaptable and varied work-based learning experiences ranging from placements to projects in order to develop skills essential for students’ careers after graduation.
New block dates means that students are no longer finishing later than contemporaries at other institutions, giving them better opportunities to gain valuable work experience, volunteering placements and graduate placements in the summer.
Heriot-Watt’s provisional semester dates for 2008/2009 will be from 15 September 2008 to 19 December 2008 and 12 January 2009 to 3 April 2009. 27 April 2009 to 22 May 2009 will be a period of assessment.