The introduction of a semester-based system is an important part of the on-going development and improvement in the quality and the experience of teaching and learning in UCC. It also supports the goals of the university’s Strategic Plan for 2013-17.
The UCC Strategic Plan 2009-12 had, as part of the implementation of its objective for teaching and learning, a key project to “Enhance the curriculum to achieve optimum flexible delivery, accessibility and credit accumulation”. The introduction of a semester system is a pre-requisite to bringing in credit accumulation.
Work undertaken by the former Student Needs and Academic Development Committee found clear support for semesterisation across the wide variety of student cohorts across the University. The decision to change to a formal semester-based system was taken by Academic Council on 29 June 2012 and further decisions on its implementation and the structure of the academic year were taken on 7 December 2012.
Semester-based systems are generally acknowledged to improve the student learning experience and allow more flexibility in access routes to programmes and to their delivery. The Semesterisation project will not only lay the foundations for further modernisation of the university, such as internationalisation and the introduction of credit accumulation, but it will also support opportunities for income generation.
In simple terms, a semester-based system (semesterisation) is one where modules can be wholly taught and assessed in a single teaching period. The advantages of providing for an examination period at the end of both current teaching periods include:
- Giving students and programme co-ordinators better knowledge of student progress in their studies. This should have a positive impact on student retention.
- Greater distribution of the student workload throughout the academic year.
- Encouraging better student engagement in their studies earlier in the academic year, particularly in those modules assessed by final examination only. The present system facilitates “cramming” for examinations at the end of the academic year.
- Reducing the pressure on students. With a split examination period their performance and results will not be dependent on a single month of the year.
- Allowing the introduction of a credit accumulation system that provides the flexibility required to achieve the goals of the Strategic Plan:
Greater flexibility in programme design
Greater flexibility in increasing modes of student access to University education.
- Facilitate more International and exchange student possibilities.
- With semesterisation, UCC may apply for a European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) label. However there is a requirement for a 50/50 workload split between semesters 1 and 2.
There is no doubt that this is a significant and challenging change project and it will rely on the goodwill, expertise and contribution of all university staff.
The introduction of a semester-based system (semesterisation) is a strategically important project for the university and will effect almost everything we do. Consequently, a successful project will only be possible if all areas of the university proactively plan and prepare for this change. A project team, including a working group with representation from all areas of the university, will help ensure that the project is a success. All parts of the university community should align their own plans to the schedule outlined here.
Central to the project is the preparation of the curriculum and supporting student administration systems. A phased approach to undertaking this work has been devised. There are six phases in total. The first three phases will focus on review and preparation of the curriculum. Through an iterative review process it is envisaged that the curriculum can be finalised before the end of the 2013 calendar year.
Phases four and five will ensure that the systems needed to support semesterisation are fit for purpose. Semesterisation will go-live in time for the 2014/15 academic year. The final phase of the project will run for duration of the 2014/15 academic year. The project will conclude after the 2014/15 supplemental exam results have been released