A list of frequently asked questions is below. Please feel free to contact your School Student Representative or another student member of your School’s Staff Student Consultative Committee (SSCC) if your question is not answered below. You should be aware that very detailed information on specific programmes may only be available through your School. In this case, you should contact your student representatives on SSCC.
Queen’s is seeking to enhance the academic experience of our students, and at the same time improve students’ learning experience and future employability. Removing the first semester examination period will allow the development of more varied forms of assessment, and will encourage students to integrate learning between modules and semesters. The range of assessment types will ensure that students are given the opportunity to develop and demonstrate a wider range of skills that are directly applicable to employability and, additionally, to display their knowledge and application of knowledge in different ways.
Students who enrolled in the first year of undergraduate programmes in September 2016 will experience the new structure throughout their time at Queen’s.
For students who enrolled in 2015-16 or earlier, the change to the new structure will in most instances take place in September 2017. Some Schools will be introducing changes in 2016-17. Details will be provided to affected students by the Schools concerned.
The change will apply to all programmes which currently use the standard semester dates.
Some programmes currently have approved exemptions from the standard semester dates for professional or clinical reasons. Those programmes will continue to be exempt.
If you are unsure if your programme will be affected, you can contact your School.
From September 2017, there will be no Semester one exams for postgraduate students, and the postgraduate student experience will be differentiated from the undergraduate student experience. Further details are available on the Academic Affairs website.
Approved semester dates are available on the Academic Affairs website.
The dates of the second semester assessment period for each academic year are available on the Academic Affairs website. The timing of Easter will have an impact on the dates of the assessment period, but assessments will normally occur in late April and early Mayfor undergraduates, and late May for postgraduates.
For undergraduate students, the overall length of the year will remain the same (30 weeks), but the structure of activities within those weeks will change. There will still be a three-week Christmas break, and a three-week Easter break. The academic year will finish at approximately the same point of the calendar year (late May/early June), but scheduled teaching and assessment will finish approximately three weeks earlier than in the current academic year. This will be followed by three Development Weeks before the end of the academic year.
This will depend on the individual programme, but the University has procedures in place to ensure that any changes to programmes are appropriate.
All programmes are reviewed annually, and minor changes (for example, to ensure programmes are up to date with recent subject and professional developments) are common. In many cases, any changes required will take place under this standard process.
Major changes to programmes always require a more rigorous evaluation procedure, and any major changes proposed to coincide with the change of the academic year structure have been and will be required to undergo this process of evaluation and approval.
Importantly, the views of students are sought whenever programmes are reviewed/changed and these views are used in the design and implementation of such programmes.
At the moment, the deadline for the return of confirmed – as opposed to provisional – module results has been maintained as mid-June (detailed dates are available on the Academic Affairs website). This will be monitored in the initial years of implementation to determine if there is scope for releasing results at an earlier date.
These programmes already have exemptions from the standard academic year structure. Such exemptions will continue, although there may be some changes where teaching is shared with students on other programmes.
A review of the University’s resit policy is currently underway. This review is currently considering both the timing and the format of re-sit assessments.
As the length, the start date, and the end date of the academic year will not be changed, there is no need to alter accommodation contracts.
Queen’s already partners with a number of international institutions which operate using different semester dates. Arrangements have been put in place to facilitate student mobility between such institutions, and it is expected that this will continue.
In the initial years of implementation, the date of graduation will be maintained as early July. This will be monitored and, if necessary, reviewed.
Communication regarding the changes to the academic year structure has been on-going since June 2015 and has included:
- Web-based communications (Facebook/Twitter)
- Electronic communications to students (via e-mail)
- Staff-student meetings both at Faculty and School level that were used to provide updates on the academic year structure and to answer any questions that students have regarding these changes. These meetings were led by the Faculty Dean of Education and the Directors of Education and/or programme convenors respectively.
- Discussions of the academic year structure at Staff Student Consultative Committee meetings
Furthermore, a webpage dedicated to the new academic year structure is currently live and acts as a repository for all information regarding the academic year structure including semester dates, all student communications and a Question and Answers section.
It is possible that assessment structures may change for modules which currently do not have exams. Further information will be available from your School. Programme specifications are available from the Academic Affairs website.
This will differ from subject to subject. It may be the case that forms of assessment which are established in one area may be innovative when applied to another area. In any case, many students can expect to experience an increased variety of forms of assessment over the course of a programme. Examples of assessment types include: extended group projects, multiple choice questionnaires, problem solving exercises, assessments of communication skills, performance (creative arts), laboratory practical assessments that include problem solving.
The actual percentage will differ between modules, but as there will be continuous assessment throughout the year, end-of-year exams will not normally be “high stakes” assessments. Rather, student effort and engagement will be spread over the course of the 30 weeks.
Ongoing conversations between staff and students will take place, particularly through Staff-Student Consultative Committees. You can liaise with student members of your School’s SSCC to contribute to, and learn from, these discussions.
All programmes will use a variety of types of assessment, but the particular formats used will depend on what is most appropriate for the subject and the level of study.
The dates of semesters have been approved, and are available on the Academic Affairs website. Revised specifications for undergraduate programmes have been processed through the University cycle of business, and are available on the Academic Affairs website.
You can contact your course representative or Student Representative. Directors of Education in each School have oversight of each School’s approach to assessment changes and may be approached for further information. Where Schools have Programme convenors, they may be approached as well.
The University consulted widely with student representatives before a decision was taken to change the academic year structure. Consultations were held at a number of meetings of Academic Board, and the Students’ Union Sabbatical Officers have been closely involved in the project from its inception.
In part, this will depend on the current structure of assessment in your degree subject. If you are studying a subject which currently has a small number of exams, you may not experience any change in the number of exams which you are required to sit.
However, many students will see a reduction in exams, and exams will now only occur at the end of the second semester, unless professional bodies insist that exams take place at other points in the programme.
Commitment to your studies takes the form of a cycle of engagement, assessment, and feedback, much of which does not relate specifically to examinations. While you will, of course, continue to receive feedback on the work which you formally submit for assessment, it is important to be aware that ‘feedback’ is not always labelled and is not always related to formal assessment. The nature of higher education requires you to be alert to the ongoing processes of feedback and development gained from your interaction with other students and with academic staff whether in, for example, timetabled teaching sessions, supervision meetings, communications from module convenors, lecturers and tutors or dedicated feedback weeks.
As there will be a variety of forms of engagement and assessment, you will also receive feedback in a variety of forms. This may be formal or informal, from peers or from tutors, written or oral, in class or outside, and may relate to assessed or unassessed work. You will, of course, continue to receive high quality feedback from academic staff.
Currently, some students registered with Disability Services are permitted reasonable adjustments in exams, in order to ensure equity of treatment with other students. Such reasonable adjustments will remain in place.
It is hoped that reducing the number of exams will encourage greater use of more inclusive forms of assessment, whereby adjustments do not need to be made: this will be beneficial to all students.
Students registered with Disability Services should be confident that the procedures for Individual Student Support Agreements (ISSAs) will not be affected by changes to the academic year structure.
The Development Weeks will provide students with a range of opportunities: to gain skills beyond those embedded within their programmes; to meet people from across the University; and to realise ideas in a supportive environment.
The Development Weeks will be student-led where possible, and will aim to encourage openness, collaboration, creativity, experimentation, and experiential learning.
The aim is for students to be able to choose from a rich menu of options, including cross-disciplinary learning, workplace tasters, skills development, employability enrichment, community engagement, and entrepreneurship and innovation.