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 allows the development of more varied forms of assessment, and encourages students to integrate learning between modules and semesters. The range of assessment types ensures 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 in most instances took place in September 2017. Some Schools introduced changes in 2016-17.
The changes applied to all programmes which use the standard semester dates.
Some programmes have approved exemptions from the standard semester dates for professional or clinical reasons. Those programmes continue to be exempt.
If you are unsure if your programme has been affected, you can contact your School.
From September 2017, there have been no Semester one exams for postgraduate students, and the postgraduate student experience has been 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 has an impact on the dates of the assessment period, but assessments normally occur in late April and early May for undergraduates, and late May for postgraduates.
For undergraduate students, the overall length of the year remains the same (30 weeks), but the structure of activities within those weeks has changed. There is still a three-week Christmas break, and a three-week Easter break. The academic year finishes at approximately the same point of the calendar year (late May/early June), but scheduled teaching and assessment finishes approximately three weeks earlier than in the previous academic year structure. This is followed by three Development Weeks before the end of the academic year.
This depends on the individual programme, but the University has procedures in place to ensure that any changes to programmes have been 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 took 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 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.
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 have traditionally had exemptions from the standard academic year structure. Such exemptions will continue, although there may be some changes if teaching is shared with students on other programmes.
A review of the University’s resit policy is underway. This review is 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 have not changed, there is no need to alter accommodation contracts.
Queen’s partners with many international institutions, some of which use different semester dates. Arrangements have been put in place to facilitate student mobility between such institutions.
The date of graduation has been maintained as early July. This will be monitored in the initial years of implementation 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 acted 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 have changed for modules which did not have exams. Further information will be available from your School. Programme specifications are available from the Academic Affairs website.
This differs from subject to subject. It is often the case that forms of assessment which are established in one area can be innovative when applied to another area. In any case, many students are experiencing 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 differs between modules, but as there is continuous assessment throughout the year, end-of-year exams are not normally “high stakes” assessments. Rather, student effort and engagement is spread over the course of the 30 weeks.
All programmes use a variety of types of assessment, but the particular formats used depend on what is most appropriate for the subject and the level of study.
The University consulted widely with student representatives before a decision was taken to change the academic year structure. Consultations were held at several meetings of Academic Board, and the Students’ Union Sabbatical Officers have been closely involved in the project from its inception.
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.
Some students registered with Disability Services have been permitted reasonable adjustments in exams, to ensure equity of treatment with other students. Such reasonable adjustments 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) have not been 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.