Interview: Sian Dickie and Charlotte Boulton on timetables for semester 1

Alex Gervás interviews Education Officer, Sian Dickie and Postgraduate Officer, Charlotte Boulton about the timetable for Semester 1

Alex Gervas
5th October 2020

With the beginning of the academic year looming in, I interviewed Education Officer, Sian Dickie and Postgraduate Officer, Charlotte Boulton about the timetables for semester one. 

How certain is it that the university will be able to keep face-to-face teaching for semester one?

Charlotte Boulton (CB): The university is planning to uphold its kind of commitment to up to three hours of present in-person teaching. That refers to the traditional face-to-face teaching that you would expect from like a seminar or a lab. Obviously, things are always subject to change because coronavirus doesn’t care about the plans you’ve made.

What about those who have immuno-depressed systems or feel too anxious to go to class?

CB: The way that it’s going to be organized is through the student portal S3P. You have to register whether you are on-campus or off-campus. This will help with timetables so that there’s a little mark next to your name; if you’re not on campus they won’t timetable you for an in-person class. Hopefully, the university will be understanding of people having to take absences because of things like self-isolation or illness or any other reason.

Sian Dickie (SD): I’m sure if people were feeling particularly anxious, it’s something they’d be able to change or let their lectures know they’ll be absent from in-person sessions. 

It was suggested that classes would start from 8 a.m., right?

SD: The options were early mornings, which would have been from eight, and then late evenings or Saturdays. I know nobody would have liked to go on Saturday either.

CB: I think the Union and the University all acknowledged that none of these options were ideal, but something had to give to allow them to facilitate in-person teaching. We didn’t want to take Saturdays from students who needed a weekend off to recharge, or work. […]

SD: There’s a lot of different ways you could look at it. The late evenings weren’t great either, because you think about people getting home far away from campus. If they’ve got children, they might need to get their kids to school in the morning. We put across several different perspectives, and we tried to give voice to as many kinds of student groups as we could. Still, at the end of the day, it was the university’s decision.

Why are Wednesday afternoons so important for student activities?

CB: Traditionally there's been an agreement between the universities and Students Unions to keep Wednesday afternoons free of teaching, mainly for undergraduates and in relation to BUCS. Universities would reduce teaching so that people who do sports could do sports and that has led to Wednesday afternoon being traditionally seen as a free afternoon where a lot of societies would do events. University, of course, is about teaching and learning, but it also is about getting involved with extracurricular activities like societies, student media, sport…

SD: I think society stuff is even more important now than what it would be on a regular year. In terms of student retention as well, keeping students interested in the university, it's really important to have that time, but obviously things change.

When can we expect timetables to be released?

SD: It obviously has to go through approval for teaching staff, and it needs to be discussed at a departmental level as well. I’m hoping that they’ll get it done for roughly the same time as they did in previous years. Still, obviously things are a little bit different with teaching starting at different times. So, I would just say expect your timetable, hopefully, and at least before teaching starts.

CB: I would generally assume that around the time of induction, things will be in place. We’re having an online induction program this year, which is just in over two weeks. I don’t think we could say, we couldn’t say an exact date of when to expect it by, but just to reassure students that staff are working really hard to get it out as soon as possible.

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