Key Information for Students

What is the new structure of the academic year, and when will changes happen?

The major changes include the removal of the examination period at the end of Semester 1, the introduction of a progressive continuous assessment model across both semesters and the introduction of a series of innovative Development Weeks.

Prospective undergraduate students can be confident that the new assessment structures will be in operation for all Level 1 undergraduate students from September 2016. There will be no mid-year examinations in January 2017 for Level 1 undergraduate students (unless required by an external regulator). Instead, during the University assessment period in January 2017, Level 1 undergraduate students will undertake a timetabled student development programme.

If you are a prospective postgraduate student, you should be aware that the proposed changes will take effect from September 2017 for taught postgraduate programmes.

For students who enrolled in 2015-16 or earlier, the major change to the structure of the year will take place in 2017-18, when the project will be fully implemented across all levels of study.*

There will be no end of semester exams in January 2018 (unless required by an external regulator) and second semester teaching for undergraduates will begin on Monday 8 January 2018. Second semester teaching for undergraduates will finish on Friday 20 April 2018. Any end of Semester 2 examinations for undergraduates will take place in the period from Monday 23 April to Saturday 12 May 2018.

For postgraduate (taught) students, semester one will begin on Monday 25 September 2017 and finish on Friday 26 January 2018. There will be no end of semester exams in semester one. Semester two will begin on Monday 29 January 2018 and finish on Friday 1 June 2018. Formal examinations, if required, will be scheduled within the second semester. Dissertations for Master’s degrees will be submitted by Friday 14 September 2018.

Semester dates are available in full on the Academic Affairs webpage. 

For undergraduate students, the Semester 2 assessment period will be followed by Student Development weeks, where you will be able to choose from a rich menu of options, including (for example) cross-disciplinary learning, problem-solving skills in the real world, critical analysis, commercial acumen, numeracy for business, leadership, language skills, workplace tasters, skills development, employability enrichment, community engagement, and entrepreneurship and innovation.  Many of these activities have been designed and will be delivered in conjunction with employers and are aimed to enable Queen’s graduates to realise their potential within the workplace.

* Students should note that some degree programmes may introduce assessment changes across all levels of study in 2016-17, although in these instances second semester teaching will still begin on Monday 30 January 2017.  Further details will be available from your School. Alternatively, you can contact your School’s Student Representative or your programme representative on your School’s Staff Student Consultative Committee. A number of clinical and professional programmes currently use an alternative timetable, and this alternative timetable will continue.

What will be the benefits to students?

In the new academic year structure, many students will experience changes in how and when learning outcomes are assessed.  In so doing, we expect that the learning experience and employability of our students will be enhanced.

On some programmes, there is a tendency to over-assess learning outcomes.  In the new academic year structure, there will, on a range of programmes, be a rationalisation of the number and types of assessments used. This will in most cases involve a move away from formal examinations where these are used as the primary mode of assessment. Associated with this, students will receive timely feedback, thereby enriching the learning experience.  The removal of examinations as the primary mode of assessment for most modules will enable students to display their knowledge and application of knowledge in an inclusive manner.  Finally, the new academic year structure will remove the stressful examination period in January and will thus enhance student wellbeing.  

In order to ensure that students have the opportunity to demonstrate a wide range of skills and abilities, both to examiners and to future employers, academic staff have reviewed all degree programmes to ensure that there is a sufficient diversity of assessment tasks.

Undertaking a range of different forms of assessment will allow you to demonstrate a variety of skills, and will enable a full assessment of your knowledge, evaluation and understanding of your subject(s) of study.

Due to the associated change in the academic calendar, graduating undergraduate students will complete Semester 2 exams earlier than is currently the case, and non-final year undergraduate students will be able to choose during the Development Weeks from a range of skills and CV-enhancing opportunities before leaving Queen’s for the summer break. 

The Development Week activities will enhance your employability skills. Just as importantly, though, they will provide you with a number of further opportunities: to gain skills beyond those embedded within your programme; to meet people from across the University; and to realise ideas in a supportive environment. 

The Development Week activities will, where possible, be student-led and will aim to encourage openness, collaboration, creativity, experimentation, and experiential learning. 

What will happen to exams?

Formal, closed-book and centrally scheduled examinations will still take place, where this is appropriate for the discipline. Many students, however, will see a reduction in this type of assessment, and examinations will only occur at the end of Semester 2, unless professional bodies have requirements that examinations take place at other points in the programme.

Where can I get further information?

For further information, including contact details, please see the Student Ambassador profiles.

Further information regarding the academic year structure can be obtained from your Staff Student Consultative Committee Representative and directly from the Director of Education at your school.