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Admin-Impact-Group-Report-March-2012

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					                                Curriculum Enhancement Project

                                   Admin Impact Subgroup

                                  Report to the Project Board



Membership: Julia Clarke (Chair), David Gardner (LTSO), Chris Butcher (SDDU), Helen
Billington (MaPS), Jenny Tyrrell (Arts), John Lillywhite (Student Administration), Ian Robertson
(Residential Services), Peter Bindon (ISS), Rob Mortimer (Earth & Environment)

The Admin Impact Group met on 22nd February to discuss a draft paper in relation to the
administrative impacts of the proposed changes to the structure of the academic year. The
Group’s comments have been incorporated in the attached paper for consideration by the
Board.

In addition, the Group would like the Board’s steer on the following points:

   1) Based on the findings in the attached paper, does the Board recommend:

       i) this Group continues with further investigation around the proposed model
       ii) the Structure and Assessment Group develops a revised model, taking into account
       the feedback and financial impact
       iii) no change
   2) What is the Board’s steer on Study Abroad placements? The Group recommends a
      separate piece of academic work to consider the sustainability of Study Abroad
      programmes within the proposed model.
   3) What is the Board’s view on the timing of the introduction of the new academic year in
      light of the PQA proposals?
   4) What is the Board’s view on the two week period after exams and how do we avoid this
      becoming redundant space in the academic year?
   5) What are the next steps for this Group in light of the conclusions reached in this paper?




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                                    Curriculum Enhancement Project

                          Report on impacts of the Academic Year proposals

Background and context

1. The structure and assessment subgroup developed a set of principles and drivers1 which
   would underpin any proposals to change the structure of the academic year. Having
   developed 4 options on this basis, the group, in consideration with the Project Board, put
   forward a preferred model on which they would consult with staff and students.

2. The model proposed two, equal blocks of learning and teaching time (each eleven weeks,
   the second period prior to Easter) followed by 2 weeks of revision activities and a 4-week
   University-organised assessment period. Although not explicit in the original proposal, it is
   assumed that the term finish date would stay the same as now, but with some thought
   needed as to how we use this 2 week period following exams more effectively.

           Teaching             Christmas          Teaching            Easter
                                break                                  break
                                                                                         2        4        2
               11                                       11



3. Written feedback was gathered during summer 2011 and a series of staff and student
   meetings were held between October and December 2012 to invite comments on the
   proposed model.

4. The administrative impact subgroup has been tasked with reviewing the administrative and
   financial impacts of the proposed model to inform a decision on the following options:
   i) continue with further investigation around the proposed model
   ii) develop a revised model based on evaluation of the feedback and the administrative and
   financial impact
   iii) no change


SWOT analysis

5. Based on the written and oral feedback to date, an analysis of the academic and
   administrative strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats has been carried out to
   inform discussion by the admin impact subgroup. The detailed SWOT is provided in Annex
   1, but the key points are highlighted here.

6. The key strengths of the proposed model have been identified as:
      a. Having all university organised exams in one period:
         - would take inefficiencies, eg S1 exam boards, out of the system
         - remove the disjointed approach to learning, which the current modular system with
         2 exam periods encourages
         - would allow for more innovative modes of assessment through the year and rely
         less on the exam for assessing student performance
1
    The principles and drivers can be accessed at http://curriculum.leeds.ac.uk/academic-year/principles-drivers

                                                           2
          - would reduce stress on students over Christmas and allow them to have a proper
          break
          - would reduce stress on staff who mark exams in parallel with preparing for
          Semester 2 teaching
       b. Fixing the Easter break would enhance the student experience as teaching would
          not be disrupted

7. The key weaknesses of the proposed model have been identified as:
      a. Having all exams in one period:
         - increased marking time for academics if volume of exams does not change and the
         associated support staff time needed for exam administration
         - first years would find the transition hard from their experience of 6 monthly exams
         at school/college, although this is changing at GCSE from 2012
         - could be detrimental to students who would find a single exam to cover 2
         semesters’ work at the end of semester 2 harder
         - Semester 1 exams are very important for some 12 month masters programmes
      b. The significant time commitment from staff needed to redesign their programmes
         (including assessment and feedback)
      c. Some schools have recently refreshed their programme provision and would be
         reluctant to repeat this exercise

8. The key opportunities of the proposed model have been identified as:
      a. A stimulus to shift the focus to programmes rather than modules (which would also
         facilitate the mapping of the threads)
      b. An opportunity to rethink feedback mechanisms so not just linked to formal
         assessment
      c. An opportunity to redesign our provision for incoming study abroad students
      d. Supports the move away from exam driven learning
      e. Should prompt thinking about more effective use of formative assessment – an
         opportunity to introduce guided study periods and collaborative revision?
      f. An opportunity to relieve pressure on students if more continuous assessment rather
         than relying on one exam at the end of the year
      g. A chance for us to take stock on the use of the time between exams and the end of
         term, accepting that this will have cost implications, eg new activities, use of
         facilities, staff time. What can we do to make it more effective?
      h. A shift to thinking about workload models at programme rather than module level
      i. Anticipating the changes in relation to the new GCSE end of course exams which
         will be introduced from September 2012

9. The key threats of the proposed model have been identified as:
      a. Perceived detrimental impacts to staff research time around timing of the teaching
         periods
      b. Impact on volume of incoming Study Abroad students with the removal of semester
         1 exams, and consequently the volume of outgoing placements due to the exchange
         arrangements in place with partner institutions.




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        c. Potential impact on UG and PGT recruitment and quality of applicants for those
           programmes where Study Abroad is an attractive option, eg integrated masters and
           international variants2
        d. Increasing the formal assessment load at the end of Semester 2 has the potential to
           create an unmanageable workload for markers (which could lead to a decline in the
           quality of marking) and for administrative staff managing the marking process
        e. Increasing the formal assessment load at the end of Semester 2 will increase the
           number of exam boards and therefore the pressure on staff to prepare for these in
           advance of graduation – should we review the timings of graduation ceremonies?
        f. An examination is a requirement of some external accreditation
        g. Students value the accrual of marks and credits at the end of Semester 1 as an
           indicator of progress, and reducing the pressure of having all formal assessment at
           the end of the year
        h. Changes in assessment patterns could have a detrimental impact on student
           satisfaction unless we manage their expectations appropriately.
        i. Unknown as to how student expectations will change as a result of £9k fee – will
           they expect more from the period after Easter?
        j. Impact on the quality controls and consistency around assessment if the number of
           exams held by schools increases locally
        k. Fixing the Easter break would, in some years, remove the flexibility for schools to
           organise field trips in the cheapest week of the Easter break. Schools in FBS,
           Engineering and Environment would have to bear this cost (it can no longer be
           passed on to students).
        l. If the same volume of exams are scheduled into one period, this will involve more
           evening and Saturday exams
        m. The outcome of the Post Qualification Admissions review is unclear and will not be
           shared until late March. This could have a direct impact on the proposals.


Financial impacts

10. There are a number of human resource impacts associated with the proposed model, not
    least of all, the academic time involved in programme redesign. This paper, however,
    focuses on the administrative functions that would be impacted by the new structure and the
    associated financial consequences. There are likely to be further cost implications for
    schools and services once the detail of the academic year is agreed.


Student Administration
One off costs: £1.4k to £36.9k
Recurrent costs: £100.1k to -£12.8k


2
  As a specific example, SEE would stand to lose about 15 MGeol/MGeophys/MEnv students due to a change in the
academic year. This leave only about half a dozen students on these flagship programmes. Students apply to Leeds
over other good places, including Oxbridge, because of the opportunity of spending a year at a top institution in
North America or Australasia. Other BSc students apply on the basis that they can sometimes swap into the M
level programme if they perform very well once they are here. The potential impact on SEE’s recruitment is
therefore very significant; this is against a backdrop of the School remaining a recruiting rather than a selecting
school. The average A level points tariff would also drop since these students enter with top A-level grades (AAA).

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11. One off costs would be incurred by the Operations and Catalogue teams, as follows:
    Minimal changes:
    £1.4k      for temp to support Operations in creating new modules in system over 2 yrs

   Significant changes:
   £23.1k      for grade 6 in Operations to manage changes Jan-Oct over 2 years
   £13.8k      for 1fte in the Catalogue team to update all records from Feb-June over 1 yr
   £36.9k      total

   There may be an opportunity to reduce these costs by making use of the flexibility within the
   new Student Education Service

12. The volume of exams would determine the level of recurrent costs or savings for the exams
    team, as set out below. A more detailed breakdown can be provided on request. It is not
    anticipated that there would be any staffing reductions within the team, rather a freeing up of
    staff time to enhance existing assessment procedures and processes.

   Scenario 1 – 100% Semester 1 exams move to Semester 2
   £100.1k costs due to increased venues in a shorter time period

   Scenario 2 – 75% Semester 1 exams move to Semester 2
   £-12.8k     increase in non staff costs due to increased venues in a shorter time period, but
   potential for staff time savings

   In the event that fewer exams were required and alternative approaches to assessment
   were put in place not requiring administrative resource, further efficiencies would be
   identifiable.


Accommodation
Recurrent loss of £179k

13. In relation to Semester 1 only students, the current academic year structure requires that
    they attend the University for the January examination period and consequently Residential
    Services provides accommodation contracts for these students that end in the second or
    third week in January. If the proposed changes were to be implemented, this group of
    students would not likely see the need to keep their accommodation beyond the end of
    Semester 1. Shortening the accommodation contracts to respond to student need would
    therefore incur a recurrent annual loss of £179k.

14. Although this is not proposed, if the academic year was to reduce from 30 to 28 weeks,
    Residential Services (RS) would incur an annual recurrent loss of £3.76M from Halls income
    (£269k), Flats income (£1.8M) and Lease/Contract income (£1.49M). In addition, RS has
    lease or nomination agreements with a number of private providers for the full 42/43 week
    period and has a liability to pay for this accommodation, whether or not, students are in
    occupation. Shortening the accommodation contracts in theses properties would not equate
    to a saving – the full £1.4M would still need to be paid. The breakdown for these figures can



                                                5
   be provided on request.


Study Abroad
Recurrent loss of £312k

15. In addition to the opportunity costs identified in the SWOT analysis, the Study Abroad Office
    attracts a significant number of fee-paying students, many of whom (around 69%) come as
    single semester students. Based on the 2011/12 intake, 60 single semester student fee-
    payers have generated around £312k of tuition fee income; this would be at risk under the
    current proposals.

16. Due to an increased demand for outgoing placements (all places filled for 2012/13 with 50
    turned down), the intention is to grow the number of incoming placements overall, with a
    greater focus on fee-paying students. The importance of retaining a self-contained semester
    structure is therefore closely linked to potential fee income.


Quality Assurance

17. No financial costs have been identified by AQST in relation to the proposed changes.


Systems

18. No financial impacts have been identified by ISS, providing the overall holiday time remains
    the same (eg with some holidays shortened but others lengthened). It would be more a case
    of re-organising logistics, such as contract dates and project schedules.

Conclusion

19. Overall there is no significant financial reason from an administrative impact point of view for
    supporting or rejecting the proposed change in the structure of the academic year. On the
    assumption that there would be some decrease to the volume of exams held at the end of
    Semester 2, ie the number of exams would not be the current Semester 1+Semester 2
    exams, any administrative changes are relatively minor, likely to be front-loaded and could
    be resourced from the project budget.

20. The major financial impacts – anticipated recurrent loss of £491k - would be from the loss of
    income from ‘single semester’ students, both from a Study Abroad and accommodation
    perspective.

21. There would also be a significant opportunity cost associated with the proposal. For
    incoming single semester students, the lack of summative assessment at the end of
    Semester 1 would be viewed unfavourably by many of our international partner institutions,
    leading to a likely withdrawal of outgoing exchange places and adversely affecting Study
    Abroad placement opportunities for our students. This would have an increasing impact,
    not only on Study Abroad places, but also on programmes of study, eg 4 year UG masters,
    who are reliant on partner institutions providing this form of placement. The University
    would have to decide whether this was a cost worth paying for the benefit to the wider

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   student experience.

22. The major weaknesses and threats relate to the impact on existing academic work pattern
    (breaks for research, and the arrangement of assessment, marking and feedback), which
    could be planned for as part of a review of programme and workload structure. The major
    strengths/opportunities are to the coherence of the programme and the enhancement of the
    student experience.

23. Any change to the shape of the academic year should therefore be determined by whether
    or not the academic benefits are sufficient to justify the inevitable disruption and work
    associated with reshaping our programmes, especially assessment and feedback, and the
    consequent re-planning of staff workload.

24. One significant challenge/opportunity which must be addressed is the use of the period
    between the end of exams and the end of term. For some students this can mean 4 weeks
    when they have no timetabled teaching or structured independent learning. The University
    receives significant income for this period (c£4m) from student accommodation, and
    students are required to be available (eg if called to meet external examiners). We need to
    examine whether there is currently any academic value added to the student experience
    and if not whether changes could be made.

   Caroline Letherland and David Gardner 23 February 2012




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Annex 1

                                                 SWOT analysis on Academic Year proposals

ACADEMIC

Strengths

1   Having all exams in one period:
        Would take inefficiencies (such as semester 1 exam boards) out of the system.
        The current modular system with two examination periods has encouraged a disjointed approach to learning,
        Students will be in a better mood when filling in the NSS forms as no exams pending
        It will allow for more innovative modes of assessment through the year and less reliance on the exam as the ultimate arbiter of student worth
        The removal of exams from semester 1 would reduce stress on students over Christmas and allow them to have a proper break
        Would reduce stress on staff who are trying to mark exams at the same time as starting semester 2 teaching
2   Revised modular structure would provide greater overall flexibility
3   The proposed academic year balances the semesters much better and gets over the present disjunction between terms and semesters
4   Fixing the Easter break would enhance student experience, as teaching would not be disrupted
5   Incoming term abroad students would get 2 extra weeks at start of semester 2
6   Students could take up a job for longer over the summer – taking some time off for exams
7   The two week consolidation period before semester 2 exams would be helpful in those courses which promoted more synoptic learning



Weaknesses

1   Difficult to ensure we are allowing students to develop specific and individual skills and specialisms - rather than a generic understanding across
    programmes.

2   Could lead to a lack of distinctiveness between modules
3   Some modules are short and intensive by design and this suits the material – one size does not fit all
4   Having all exams in one exam period:
       Would need more time for marking as a result of volume of assessment in summer
       Exams can come a long time after the material is set which can lead to a more bi-modal outcome.
       This is very different from the modular nature of A-levels students are used to. We would need to support students in the transition from six
           monthly exams at school/college to annual exams here, say from Level 2 when the marks contribute to the classification.

                                                                             8
           Year 1 students at least would require mock exams
           The January exam period is currently an important time for reflection for students still adapting to their new academic/social culture
           Students perceive that the more holistic assessments are ‘harder’
           Semester 1 examinations are very important for some 12 months Masters level programmes

     Response: Could these concerns be overcome by managing student perceptions, managing induction arrangements carefully and reviewing
     assessment and feedback practice?
5    Any changes to the academic year for taught students would also need to consider the impact on pgr students who teach and on research
     programmes, eg timing of supervision of period, availability of staff
6    Would put a huge burden on staff in order to redesign the modular system that we have worked so hard to put in place at a time when staff resources
     are at a premium. The university must recognise this and consider the support that would be necessary to enable academic staff to have the time to
     give careful consideration to the implementation of the new proposals.

     Response: Significant funds are available to help faculties with this process – eg funding backfill, recruiting temporary staff for
     administrative activity
7    Revision period after Easter would be too late for students to receive formative feedback

     Response: this should not be the only period during which students would receive formative feedback. Could be viewed as an opportunity to
     review assessment and feedback practice
8    The proposals do not address the issue of the total amount of teaching time, which is too low
9    Some schools have recently refreshed their programme provision and do not want to have to repeat this
10   If different schools were to have different exam periods (if organised locally) this would be a big problem for Joint Honours students
11   Concern expressed that removing January exams would load work to the end of the year if assessment practices stayed the same
12   Will take more than a change to the assessment time to get staff and students to think and work at programme level. Will need changes to style of
     teaching in some areas


Opportunities

1    Advantages of shifting to focus on programmes instead of modules
           10 credit modules are particularly disruptive to learning, more integration across programmes will allow for a longer -term build up of learning
             across a programme
           Less 'dumping' learning at the end of each semester
           Could encourage more programme level assessed coursework
           Would encourage consideration at programme level to remove duplication and ensure programme builds appropriately
           Conceptual links between modules can be made more explicit
     but do not need to alter academic year to do this


                                                                              9
2   Assessment and feedback:
          Opportunity to look at overall volume of assessment by programme and not choose an exam at the end of a semester as the default option
          Opportunity to rethink feedback mechanisms so not just linked to formal assessment
          Helps to move away from exam driven learning, where focus can be more on how to do an exam rather than developing appropriate skills
          An opportunity to make more effective use of formative assessment
          Relieves pressure on students if more continuous assessment rather than relying on one exam at the end of the year
3   The 2-week revision period proposed is good provided it is used properly with structured classes/workshops.
    Could do much more to encourage students to meet up and work together outside of the traditional seminar space - guided study periods and
    collaborative ‘revision’
4   There is some time between end of exams and graduation which could potentially be used for teaching in the current timetable. This could enable some
    material for the following year to be covered, or intensive periods of teaching in the labs (for example)


Threats

1   Larger modules could create timetabling problems for joint honours students
2   Changing the structure will be detrimental to staff research
         Current reading weeks, and breaks in teaching across the terms allow for more university staff to be involved with impact and knowledge
            exchange related activities.
         organisation of semester sabbatical/research leave of academics
         many staff use the January exam period as an opportunity to travel and catch up with research projects/collaborators outside of Leeds or as a
            time to work on grant applications.
         The blocking of teaching to provide more useful time for research would be less effective
         The introduction of a two week support period before exams reduces research time for staff
         US institutions assume staff free of teaching during January therefore could affect collaborations
         Easter is the time used in Europe for many conferences

3   Impact on semester 2 modules if lose opportunity at end of semester 1 for final preparations – impact particularly acute on junior staff with heaviest
    teaching loads
4   Changing what we know, i.e. our curricula, is a powerful attraction to students seems dangerous just at the point when we go into this market economy.
5   The proposals may impact adversely on students who are non-standard entrants e.g. ERASMUS, Nursing, the University’s International Foundation
    Year
6   Study Abroad:
         Removal of semester 1 exams would not be an attractive offer for many of our international partner institutions who send their students for a
            single, self-contained semester. This would lead to a drop in the volume of incoming SA students, which would, in turn, adversely affect the
            volume of outgoing placements
         Reliance on incoming Study Abroad students in order to offer outgoing exchange places and for masters programmes eg Civil Eng MEng, Earth

                                                                          10
              & Envt integrated masters. Expectation that self-contained semesters are offered
          Risk to university UG recruitment as a whole if volume of Study Abroad places reduces
7    Effective personal tutor meetings in semester 2 to talk about semester 1 performance and suggest ways they can improve for their semester 2 courses.
     Valuable discussion time lost if marks, tutor’s comments, and feedback are not available at this stage

     Response: No reason why this could not happen if assessment and feedback mechanisms were reviewed
8    Students might relax in semester 1 and not work as hard as they should

     Response: This is down to the design of the programme, which could still incorporate assessment and feedback during semester 1
9    Student perceptions of the period after Easter given the 9k fee will be important
10   Impact on security of assessment if number of exams held by schools increases locally




ADMINISTRATIVE

Strengths

1    For further discussion within the group


Weaknesses

1    Concern about the impact on the end of session on staff workload – need increased marking and exam admin time
2    Systems configuration changes will be required. Term dates and part of term dates will all potentially need to be altered in Banner and we will have to
     understand the impact of this on student processes particular in relation to programmes, modules and managing student data
3    Impact of larger modules on degree classification arrangements

Opportunities

1    Opportunity to rethink workload models at programme rather than module level




                                                                              11
Threats

1   Impact on cost of field trips. Easter field courses currently held before school Easter holidays. Under the new proposal, trips would be much closer to
    Easter in most years, consequently adding to the expense; trips reliant on flights would be particularly badly affected. The proposed timings would also
    lead to more trips falling over Easter itself, which would not be popular with students.
2   If same number of exams to be scheduled into one period will involve more evening and Saturday exams
3   Will need to review again if Post Qualification Admissions proposals agreed
4   Impacts on residential accommodation patterns resulting in significant loss of income
5   Possible financial problems for students as pushing the start of the summer term back, which would result in the third instalment of loans and grants
    being paid later in the year, therefore adversely impacting student budgets. Could be mitigated by using facility to set ‘notional’ term dates, allowing the
    loan and grant payments to be spread more evenly across the period of study. If the proposal goes ahead we should consider setting these notional
    dates to minimise funding issues for our students. Setting notional term dates may impact on the process for claiming fee payments from students and
    on the attendance census dates.
6   Availability of additional exam rooms if schools did not reduce the number of exams needed for semester 2
7   Possible inadequate counselling resource to cope with peak periods for exams

    Response: Student Counselling support the proposals and present the flip side of the argument. Exams straight after Christmas can be very
    disruptive to family life for students, who like to join in with family activities but feel they can’t because of returning to exams, or are under
    pressure from families to ‘join in’. This can put an extra level of stress on students. The proposed changes would give a far more balanced
    feeling to the year and help create a sense of structure, which seems very important for some young people.




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