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					                  REPORT OF THE WORKING PARTY ON

                     ACADEMIC CALENDAR REFORM

Background: Following a discussion of the issue at Academic Board in
March 2006, the Vice-Chancellor Mark Wainwright commissioned a working
party to consider the academic calendar at UNSW, including session lengths,
examination and study recess periods and Summer and Winter sessions.
Professor Hilmer has made this a priority issue for UNSW.

Rationale: UNSW has discussed for many years the idea of shortening its
session lengths. We now have longer sessions than any other Go8 university.
This arguably impedes our research productivity. At the same time,
educational practice has changed: using new methods, students have greater
access to information but require more time for its reflective integration. With
new timetabling practices, the amount of class time spent in preliminary
lectures on “housekeeping” matters and in revision lectures in the final week
can be reduced. In addition, some faculties already schedule a lecture free
week during the session, but there is no alignment of these. Government
regulation in relation to census dates and reporting has tightened on
enrolment in Summer and Winter sessions and UNSW is not compliant in
some areas. The optimal dates for attracting overseas students are
somewhat later than our current starting dates and conversely, the university
wishes to move to earlier graduations, allowing as many students as possible
to graduate before Christmas. These and other academic imperatives mean
that UNSW should review the whole of the Academic Calendar.

Working Party Recommendations:
The working party considered two models of session timetable: the first, that
followed by many of the Go8 including the University of Melbourne, is a
straight 12 week teaching session. The second model is a 13-week envelope
organised as two 6-week periods of scheduled teaching with a central week of
Research and Reflection, where lectures are not scheduled, but students are
led to explore wider issues in their discipline. There was strong, but not
uniform support for this model from faculties. The working party supported
this model, and sees advantages in cementing the reputation of UNSW as a
university where research and teaching are linked. However, they can also
see advantages in the more streamlined 12 week model.

The adoption of all recommendations apart from Recommendation 2 would
see the implementation of a 12 week session: if Recommendation 2 were also
adopted, then UNSW would implement a 6+1+6 model.

Recommendation1: That the UNSW sessions [Session 1 and Session 2] be
                 shortened to 12 scheduled teaching weeks, effective for
                 the 2008 academic year, for all faculties except
                 Medicine, ADFA and UNSWAsia.

Recommendation 2: a. That UNSW introduce a common non formal teaching
                  week to be known as Research and Reflection week,
                    after the first six weeks, and before the second six
                    weeks, of both Session 1 and Session 2.

                    b. That faculties develop proposals for academic
                    programs during this week which address the Learning
                    and Teaching Plan and the guidelines below. These
                    proposals are to be approved by the Academic Board.

Recommendation 3: That Summer Session be standardised across UNSW
                  as an 8 – 12 week session, beginning after the
                  conclusion of Session 2 and finishing in time to have
                  results processed before the commencement of
                  Session 1 of the next academic year.

Recommendation 4: That each of Session 1, Session 2 and Summer
                 Session contain 2 sub-sessions of equal duration [pre
                 and post Research & Reflection Week]. These sub-
                 sessions can be used for courses taught in intensive
                 mode, for General Education courses and appropriate
                 postgraduate courses. This provides greater flexibility
                 than currently available to warrant deleting the informal
                 arrangement known as Winter Session.

Recommendation 5: a. That Winter Session be discontinued. [NB Winter
                  Session is not an approved teaching period of the
                  University and currently has no formal status]

                    b. That the Academic Board develop policy on approval
                    mechanisms for teaching outside the standard

Recommendation 6: That the study recess at the end of standard sessions
                  be retained, but shortened to a weekend plus two days.

Recommendation 7: a. That the examination period be shortened to 9 or 10
                  days. The standard UNSW examination for a 6 unit of
                  credit course should be 2 hours, with 3 hour
                  examinations a possibility in special cases. Three
                  examination sessions could be offered per day: 8:45 –
                  11am; 11:45 – 2pm and 2:45-5, with 3 hour papers
                  scheduled in the afternoon from 2:45pm – 6pm.

                    b. That UNSW introduces Saturday examinations.

                    c. That administrative procedures be put in place to
                    protect students from exam overload and to ensure that
                    courses with large enrolments be scheduled at the start
                    of the examination periods.
Recommendation 8:          a. That results should normally be returned by
                      examiners within one week of the examination in
                      courses with enrolment of less than 300 students.

                      b. That one clear week should be allowed following the
                      conclusion of the examination period before the final
                      deadline for return of marks. School assessment
                      meetings are to be held during that week.

Recommendation 9:          That graduation ceremonies be scheduled as far
                      as practicable closer to the end of the standard

Proposed Guidelines for Research and Reflection week
Research and Reflection week is the central week of the standard session at
UNSW. It is a week when regular classes are not scheduled; these are
replaced by a program of activities for students organised by discipline areas.
The program is designed to give students a wider appreciation of the
discipline, its research base and professional practice, than can be done in a
formal class setting.
This week was seen as having major benefits for UNSW: in enhancing the
student experience; linking it with research or professional practice as
appropriate; developing the research-teaching nexus; and able to be used in
marketing as a differentiator.

It may encourage interactions between students in different years of the same

It will be a common week across all faculties. It will be standard for mid-
session tests to be held in this week.

Faculties will be required to submit formal programs to the Academic Board
for approval which detail the activities to be undertaken. The programs of
activities must be linked with the objectives of the program and specified
Graduate Attributes.

Following the Academic Board discussion of March 7th, which supported the
investigation    of    a    move       to    12-week     session   plus    one
“professional/enrichment” week, the Vice-Chancellor commissioned a working
party to investigate the practicability of implementing such a proposal, and to
develop a calendar for 2008 and 2009.

Terms of reference:
The terms of reference of the working party were as follows:
   1. To undertake an investigation into the feasibility of UNSW moving from
      a 14 week standard teaching period to a teaching session of 6 + 1 + 6
      weeks, as supported by the Academic Board. The session span would
      continue to include a one week non-teaching period in accordance with
      AVCC guidelines

   2. To reach consensus with the Faculties about the shorter academic
      calendar and the proposed inclusion of a Professional / Enrichment /
      student project week for all students in all undergraduate programs
      (except the Medicine program and all programs offered by UNSW@

   3. To determine academic calendar dates and teaching periods for 2008
      – 2009

   4. To formulate a communication and implementation strategy for staff
      and students across UNSW.

The following rationale for a change in the calendar is based on the Academic
Board discussion.

For some years, UNSW has debated and re-debated the issue of session
lengths. We have stuck resolutely to 14 week sessions, whilst other
universities have reduced their session lengths to 12 or 13 weeks. UNSW
now has longer teaching sessions than any other Go8 university.

The Academic Board debated this issue as its hot topic at its meeting in
March 2006. The Board supported the view that that there are compelling
arguments in favour of reducing the standard session to 12 weeks of formal
class activity from the point of view of research and of administration, but
asked whether it could be done without impugning our academic standards
and the reputation of our programs.

Many faculties do not hold formal classes in every one of the 14 weeks of
session. Law reading week, held in week 11 of session, is one good example.
The Engineering Faculty is now introducing Engineering Week, in week 8 of
session during which Engineering students will engage in various student-led
or self-directed activities and projects. Many courses teach a reduced load in
week one and cancel lectures in week 14. At the very least, we should seek,
as an institution, to have common agreement on the teaching timetable.

The Board has previously affirmed its belief in the research-teaching nexus. It
supported the idea that a University-wide week away from the constraints of
formally timetabled lectures and tutorials would allow faculties to engage their
students in: thinking about the discipline as a whole; reflecting on research
ideas; and relations with the professions. Members felt that this had the
potential to be of immense benefit, although it would have to be carefully

  • The argument that teaching 4 weeks fewer per year would free up that
     commodity that all academics yearn for - research time - is persuasive.
     This may require a re-evaluation of the academic content and the
     teaching practices of courses. .
  • Many European and American research conference schedules cut
     across the last week or two of session one particularly.
  • Enrolment dates for research students would not necessarily have to
     follow the coursework program enrolment dates.

Learning and Teaching
   • It is maintained that in many areas, content is less important than the
      ability to think creatively and to use the data one has. This has caused
      somewhat of a revolution within many areas of the University, with the
      effect that number of class contact hours has reduced.
   • Some areas still have a need to cover a range of topics in order for
      “standard mastery” of the area. It has been argued that this is the case
      in mathematics and physics. Whether, in a shorter period, students
      could be taught the same range of topics either more “efficiently”, or by
      helping them actually work harder throughout a shorter, more intense
      period, is a question for the academic community to ponder.
   • If the session is reduced it may be necessary in some courses to
      review content and/or teaching methods and/or increase independent
      work requirements of students At present, many courses have no
      tutorials in week one, and cancel some or all classes in week 14. If
      these practices were abandoned, it might be possible simply to teach
      to nearly the same schedule. This is, however, discipline-dependent.
   • There may be considerable institutional cost in re-designing the
      teaching schedules in large servicing or cross-disciplinary courses,
      where the syllabus has been agreed by long negotiations.
   • In programs that are designed to meet professional accreditation a
      review of the re-designed curricula may be required.
   • Students might interpret a move to have shorter sessions as a means
      of offering them less education for the same price. This is an issue
      which the institution will have to take seriously.
   • The student experience at UNSW might be richer if there were a
      Professional/Enrichment week each semester. This would be a feature
      which differentiated UNSW education from other universities.
   • Students who work might have to re-align their (paid outside) work
      schedules to take account of the fact that they have no classes at
      certain times of the year, and a more intense session-week schedule.
      This may cause difficulties for some students

Major issues considered by the Working Party:
1. Session lengths and dates (a provisional timetable for 2008 is attached)
    • The working group supported the concept of a “6+1+6” model, for a
      standard session, with two six-week teaching blocks (one incorporating
      the AVCC common week break), and a central week where there are
      no scheduled classes, to be used for faculty or discipline specific
      activities such as Engineering week.
    • The University needs to comply with HESA legislation for census date
      processes and reporting. A major area of concern is summer and
      winter teaching sessions, which are not adequately defined. The
      Committee supported the abolition of the winter session and the
      introduction of two standard teaching periods into the summer session,
      one before Christmas and the other after the Christmas break.
    • The Faculty of Medicine and ADFA have always had different
      academic calendars, and it is proposed that this should continue. The
      academic calendar for UNSW Asia defines 13 week sessions, and this
      should be aligned so as to facilitate academic exchanges etc.

2. Examinations
    • UNSW currently provides a 13 day examination period. This is longer
      than any other Go8 institution. By programming 2-hour slots instead of
      3-hour slots it is possible to reduce the period to 10 or 11 consecutive
      days (containing 8 or 9 days on which exams could actually be held). If
      3 hour examinations are still required in some areas, they would be
      programmed in the third slot of the day. The rationale for mandating
      that the standard examination length be shortened is that many final
      examinations now represent well under 100% of the final mark. Also,
      research suggests that a 2 hour examination is as good a predictor of
      student performance as a 3 hour examination.
    • The study vacation is also at the upper end of Go8 practice. We could
      shorten it to run Saturday-Tuesday [4 full days], with exams starting on
      the Wednesday following the last day of scheduled classes. The
      examination period would finish on the following Friday (or possibly
    • The practice of setting assignments and essays with due dates during
      the study recess and the examination period is against Academic
      Board policy. This practice would be even more undesirable in a more
       intense examination period, and needs to be re-examined or better

3. Graduations
   • The above procedures will allow the examination period to finish
      earlier. This should assist the implementation of a plan endorsed by
      SMG in March 2006 that, at the end of the year, as many graduation
      ceremonies as possible should be held before Christmas.

4. Research and Reflection week
    • As there would be no formal lectures, there is flexibility for some staff to
      allocate a greater amount of research time during this week. How this
      works is dependent on the discipline-specific implementation.
    • The expectations around the participation of students in combined
      degree programs would need to be defined.
    • The Working Group suggests that the week is not:
          o A week of holidays
          o A week which can be used for professional placements which
             form part of the standard program
          o A week to hold short courses
          o A week to teach GE courses in intensive mode
          o A week when students can undertake full-time employment
    • The Working Party suggests that the week is:
          o A time when the discipline of study can be extended and
             investigated outside formal class structures
          o A time when field trips and the like can be held
          o A time for mid-session tests and examinations
(These dot points are amalgamated into a set of guidelines above)
    • Each faculty will be required to develop a proposal for Research and
      Reflection week which meets the above objectives.

Working Group Membership
Professor Tony Dooley, President, Academic Board
Dr Carmen Moran, Deputy President, Academic Board
Dr Chris Daly, Deputy President, Academic Board
Professor Ken Trotman, Presiding Member, Faculty of Commerce and
Professor Diane Wiley, Associate Dean, Faculty of Engineering
Dr David Cohen, Presiding Member, Faculty of Science
Ms Jane Gatwood, Director, Student Services
Mr Robert Morrell, Deputy Director, Student Services

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