You may remember in the bygone days of Week 3 I asked you this…
Now, without context, that was a pretty random and easy to answer question;
“Did I get my timetable three weeks before the start of term time? So I had enough time to prepare myself? Tell my family so they’d stop bugging me about it? Plan my shifts at work? Organise childcare? Book international flights to arrive on time? Don’t be ridiculous - of course I didn’t!”
In fact over 700 of you responded “NO” in less than two days (thank you for that by the way <3), so I suppose you want to know why I asked you all such an obvious question first place?
Well, like you, I too am fed up with timetabling around here, so I decided to submit a question to Senate and ask our Vice Chancellor Trevor McMillan what exactly we’re going to do about it.
For a bit of context, for Senate meetings we submit written questions to the VC beforehand, to which we receive a written response which is then discussed (among many, many other things) in the meeting itself.
So I asked our Vice Chancellor this (quotes italicised):
It is apparent that timetabling at Keele is an issue, for both students and staff. There are huge discrepancies between schools as to when students can access their timetables, but even then it changes almost daily until a few weeks into the semester. If the University wants to be competing, or even just keeping up with the sector, there needs to be a radical change. There are many initiatives that have been set up, such as One Keele, with the aim to improve timetabling. However, we believe there should be a dedicated approach to such a basic necessity of a University’s function.
I was then given the following written answer:
The University endeavours to get finalised timetables out to students for Semester 1 by 6 September 2019 at the latest. (You might see where I’m going with this...)
However, this is not always the case as late changes are sent through to the Timetabling team this can be due to a number of factors for example changes to staffing, the curriculum, student choice and cohort sizes.
Now, without wishing to swear in my first proper blog post, lets just say I was not entirely convinced that the date given in this response was accurate. So during the discussion segment after the above statement was read out, I (in the most professional way I could muster) I fired back with the results of the poll - and lets just say everyone in the room looked rather uncomfortable as they restated the sentiments of the above written response.
Since then, I have met with the head of timetabling who shared my exasperation at the situation. He explained that more often than not, our timetabling troubles are usually beyond any one person's control. He outlined some of the many reasons we get our timetables so late:
- Staff submitting their timetabling requirements late
- Changes in staffing over the summer
- Late changes to the curriculum
- Changes in room capacities
- Availability of lecture capture facilities
- Etc, etc, etc...
The list of reasons goes on and on, which is why, if you’ve been at Keele for a while, you could be forgiven for assuming the University doesn’t know or care.
Well (surprisingly), they actually do! And some pretty significant changes are happening behind the scenes.
In Faculty Education Committees we’re looking at why schools are submitting their timetabline requirements late, in Education Leadership Group we’re looking at how we manage late submission of School timetables past the deadline, and in Timetabling Steering Groups the university are reviewing our entire timetabling system as timetabling is now a key theme in the OneKeele Project Executive Group. The University needs to find a balance between continuing to provide flexibility for its students (e.g. allowing late elective choices, late course changes) and publishing the timetable earlier, so whilst progress may seem slow, it’s important to all of us that we get this right.
… and I know that sounds like a load of meaningless jargon, but I promise we’re working on it and I’ll keep you updated on here when more substantial progress is made!
If you have any questions for myself or the timetabling team please submit them here and I’ll get back as soon as possible with answers :)
- Mari x