Over the last few weeks we have been working hard to represent the student voice across various University meetings discussing changes to timetabling for semester 1 of the 2020/21 academic year. In order to provide in person teaching on campus within the COVID-secure 2m distancing guidelines, and because there are limited rooms that meet the 2m guidelines, the University proposed potential extensions to the usual teaching timetable. These options included extending the teaching day to 8pm, introducing teaching on Saturday’s or utilising Wednesday afternoons for teaching. In order to avoid using Saturday’s and evenings as much as possible, it has become clear that the University are going to have to introduce teaching, at least for semester 1, on Wednesday afternoons.
In usual circumstances, Wednesday afternoons are kept free of teaching for most undergraduate students as the University recognises the value of student participation in sports, BUCS, societies and other extra-curricular activities in this time slot. Due to the 2m physical distancing guidelines that the University is following on campus, more rooms are needed to allow for the University’s commitment to give you up to 3 hours of present in person teaching on campus in semester 1. This extra demand on space has led to additional demand on time to ensure that you have opportunities to attend in-person teaching, as there are limited rooms that meet the 2m guidelines leading to capacity constraints, which is why the University wants to use Wednesday afternoons for teaching.
NUSU believe that the student experience of meeting new people, engaging in student activities and having dedicated time to extra-curricular activities is a hugely important part of student life. In these meetings we have been vocally pushing for more consideration of the value of these activities and how extending teaching to Wednesday afternoons will impact the time you have available to engage in activities and events. We have made our opinions clear to the University that we are concerned about how the student experience will be affected by the extension to timetabling, particularly for any of you who wish to get involved in societies, sports and volunteering activities that would usually take place on Wednesday afternoons. We feel confident that we have made our position clear and the University has taken the views of the student voice into consideration. Unfortunately, we have been unable to reach any commitments to minimise teaching on Wednesday afternoons, as, of now, the Timetabling staff at the University are unsure about how many programmes will need to use the Wednesday afternoon timeslots to allow for present in person teaching.
We understand and empathise with any of you who feel frustrated or upset by the changes to timetabling and limitations to opportunities for societies, clubs and other student activities to use the usual ‘guaranteed’ free time of Wednesday afternoons, especially in the context of COVID-19 social restrictions and increased importance of connecting with other students and feeling part of the university this year. We are disappointed too. As students ourselves, we understand the importance of these activities for integrating into Newcastle and the student community. NUSU are actively working to provide a range of alternative activities and events, at various times across the week, that maintain the student experience during the adjustment to a unique university experience this academic year. We have requested that there is Sabbatical Officer representation in any reviews of the timetabling for semester 2, to continue to make the student voice heard in these important decisions.
Charlotte Boulton (Postgraduate Officer) and Sian Dickie (Education Officer)