Teaching day FAQs 

Q  How will the success of the pilot be measured?

Mid-year (Dec 2015) and end of session reviews are recommended – these will be used to check on the progress of the pilot. Feedback received at this stage will be used when planning the 2016/17 timetable.    If the pilot proves unsuccessful then alternative solutions will need to be considered.   The pilot will be assessed against a set of criteria which will include attendance and other qualitative factors, in consultation with the Student-Staff Liaison Committees.  Please send any suggestions for other measures that could be taken to the Teaching Day Group.

A full Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) has been undertaken, meaning that every potential impact raised by staff and students has been systematically reviewed to ensure best practice is followed in relation to equality and diversity issues.  We have used the information we've received to help us to ensure incidents of discrimination arising from the potential changes are averted, and equality of opportunity and a fair working environment are promoted.   In order to effectively represent the needs of the diverse groups of people at the University, the EIA process is a consultative one which includes staff and students from different backgrounds and who bring together a range of different experiences.

Q  How does this give more ‘prime time’ teaching slots?

This varies according to individuals and programmes, but generally, by moving to the half hour, a staff/student parent is likely to be able to teach/attend classes from 0930 to 1530, i.e. up to 6 slots.  Within the current teaching day, a staff/student parent is most likely only able to teach/attend classes from 1000 to 1500, i.e. up to 5 slots.  So depending on personal circumstances, moving to the half hour has created an extra slot during the school day when staff/student parents are available.   The Athena SWAN group was very helpful to the work stream when testing this schedule. 

Q Can we not just ask certain disciplines to teach longer rather than applying an extended teaching day to everyone?

The Teaching Day work stream considered this proposal but decided it could be perceived as unfair and did not give the flexibility that the timetable needs.  Moreover, some students who read a Business or STEM course are studying it as part of a combined honours programme so the pressures may still exist.  The work stream has thought about a durable solution that is sustainable throughout the current planning period and will continue to be deliverable if the student profile continues to change over the next five years.  For that reason, it is essential to implement the changes across all three campuses and for all levels of teaching.

Q  Could teaching be spread across the academic year more than it is now?

A review into pedagogy would be used to determine the value of lectures, how time set aside for lectures is used and what is the most efficient use of the academic year.  The current profile shows the highest pressures during the autumn term.  Consultation has shown that many staff and students think we should use more of the academic year for teaching.  Until a review into pedagogy begins, the only solution for the next academic year is to make modest changes to the teaching day.

 Q  Will 0830 and 1730 lectures be recorded?

The Learning Spaces Management Group is actively discussing lecture capture and the system is currently being re-tendered with growth in mind.  Lecture Capture is already being used in many lectures and through collaboration with the Guild a proposal to move to an opt-out policy will be considered for 2016/17.    Some students and staff have concerns that lecture capture will lower attendance at lectures – this will be reviewed but evidence to date does not back this theory, instead it provides a good source of revision and aid memoir for students’ ongoing study.  A suggestion from students that has been suggested through this consultation is that 0830 and 1730 lectures are recorded and students gain access if they show proof of a commitment that prevented them from attending. 

Q  Music societies are worried that members will not be able to attend rehearsals.

Following consultation with the AU and student societies, the Teaching Day Group dismissed the proposals to extend the day until 1900 on three days or until 2100 on a single day.  Consultation identified that extending the day by half an hour at the beginning and end of the day would have the least negative impact on the student experience as a whole.  Room bookings will also align to the half hour.  The Guild and the University are working to find more spaces that could be used by societies. 

The Teaching Day Group has already identified a number of mitigations but would welcome ideas relating to specific issues, and plans to meet music societies shortly.  Please do not hesitate to contact us with any particular concerns and suggestions.

Q  Will hours for breakfast / evening meals be extended in catered halls?

Yes, subject to demand. 

Q  It will be impossible for working parents to take or collect school aged children.

Staff will continue to be able to apply for teaching restrictions, covering family, leave, sabbatical and professional commitments.  The teaching restrictions form has now been issued to academic staff.  Additional advice and guidance on the use of the teaching restrictions form and process will be provided to academic colleagues and managers; and improved reporting on this activity will be developed between HR, the Timetabling Office and Colleges.  Student parents will be supported with personalised planning and bursaries. 

Q  Why does the Teaching Restrictions Form not cite family commitments as a reason to apply?

The primary reason for updating the teaching restrictions form and process was to bring the process into line with the new statutory regulations on the right to request amendments to working arrangements which were introduced in June 2014. The teaching day change was a secondary reason why the form needed to be revised. Since June 2014, any member of staff with over 26 weeks of service can request amendments to their working arrangements – see more info on the flexible working webpages

 The teaching restrictions process will be one of the main ways in which teaching staff request flexibility with their role and we therefore needed to ensure that the application form and process satisfies the new statutory requirements. The advice which we have been given on the new statutory arrangements is that employers should consider requests against the “8 business reasons” in the ACAS Code of Practice. Consequently, requests made by parents and carers for changes to their working arrangements will not automatically receive preferential treatment and this is why the form does not mention parents and carers specifically. However it does not mean that they have any less right to request a teaching restriction. We remain committed to supporting working parents and carers but have a responsibility to apply the new statutory arrangements. 

Q This process is being forced – what approval process has been followed?

The Teaching Day work stream is part of a larger project (Future Workplaces) that reports to Council and VCEG.  Membership on the Teaching Day work stream includes Academic Staff Association members, the Students’ Guild and professional services staff. Consultation carried out by the group used existing channels as much as possible, including attending 18 meetings in Colleges and among interested parties eg Athena SWAN; the Students’ Guild and FXU, Athletics Union, and student parents – and this is ongoing.  The feedback provided by staff and students helped shape the  recommendation that was passed by the Future Workplaces Project Group in July 2014.  There was a brief update to Senate in November and a full discussion is scheduled for the Senate meeting in March, alongside other outputs of the Future Workplaces project.  A process of due diligence including VCEG and UCU briefings is ongoing.  The Group always welcomes honest views so that the mitigation plan can be as robust as possible.

Q  Surely student numbers have grown too fast?

Though students and staff may perceive the increased level of demand on our teaching spaces as a consequence of growth, the changes to the teaching day are equally about providing the flexibility to deliver our awards by offering a wide variety of module choices.    Our success in attracting high numbers of quality students has changed the profile of our students, with a higher proportion of undergraduates. Student growth projections are now planned by the University and the plan is to grow to a limit of 22,000 students.  With changes to the student profile and changes to pedagogy there will need to be continual analysis of the kind of teaching space we need. 

Q  This has been badly publicised

The Teaching Day Group has consulted with a number of staff and student representatives through the existing governance structures both before and after the summer. Consultation carried out by the group used existing channels as much as possible, including attending 18 meetings in Colleges and among interested parties eg Athena SWAN; the Students’ Guild and FXU, Athletics Union, SSLCs and student parents – and this is ongoing. Information has been passed to Associate Deans of Education for dissemination and emails were also sent to all students and academic staff members. Student media and the University’s social media channels carried the story in Summer and November 2014. Staff newsletters have included regular updates. Open meetings for staff and students were held in November 2014. 

This is not the only chance that people have to comment, and most importantly inform the Group of issues that should be mitigated. Research into competitor institutions revealed that some extended their teaching day without consulting students or staff but we have chosen to consult with students and staff to advise on the way forward.




 The FAQs below were last updated in November 2014

How did we reach this point?

After thorough research, consideration and debate by the Teaching Day work stream, a pilot of modest alterations to the teaching day will take place in 2015/16 to create more flexibility in timetabling.  The group welcomed feedback from the University community on three options for change. As this has an impact on staff and students the group consulted widely in May and June and these recommendations will now proceed through the usual University governance channels.

What is the teaching day like at other universities?

Early in the teaching day consultation process, a research exercise was conducted across our peer universities to understand the way they are currently dealing with the rise in student numbers and the use of their teaching spaces. The timetabling teams were very generous with their time and gave frank feedback which we have been able to use as an important reference point throughout our consultation process.

The work stream focused on a core group of comparator HEIs, deliberately excluding London based institutions, such as LSE and Birkbeck University, who teach in the evenings but have a very different approach to Exeter.

There are five Russell Group universities who have extended their teaching day, including 0815-1905, 0900-1900, 0800-1800 schedules and using 1800-2000 slots.  Three other Russell Group universities reported that they are considering extending the teaching day or piloting other teaching space solutions.

Will this only temporarily ease timetable pressure?

The Timetabling team have carried out modelling based on predicted student numbers and believe this measure to adequately ease teaching space pressures for the next 5 years. Modelling and analysis will continue.

Why is the University proposing changes to the teaching day?

The Exeter timetable works very efficiently compared with others in the sector. Our largest teaching rooms are booked out for 80% of the time during the teaching week, meaning we have excellent usage compared with our competitors. However, for our larger Streatham Campus lecture theatres with capacity of 170+ seats, we only have 12 hours unallocated during the week. This means that we only have capacity to allocate two further large modules in the timetable before we run out of space. Whilst this is highly efficient, it also presents a risk to to deliver the full range of courses and modules and thus could impact on the University’s ability to support flexibility and choice.

There is also some pressure in timetabling some requirements for learning spaces. With projected increases in student numbers and academic staffing capacity, if we do not consider remedial action now, it may mean that it will not be possible to effectively timetable all activities in learning spaces for the 2015/16 academic year.

It is estimated that in order to alleviate these pressures on teaching and learning space, we would need to increase hours within timetabling parameters by 3+ hours per week.

Can’t we build more teaching space?

The Teaching Day work stream was asked to consider particularly whether limited changes to the operation of the teaching day might create greater flexibility in the timetable overall and for individuals in line with the wider aims of the Future Workplaces Project. This change would help sustain modularity and choice, which are incredibly popular with students, and remove the immediate need to invest in further expansion of the capital estate for teaching facilities, thereby freeing resources for other investment priorities. Our Estates team estimates that building such a new teaching block could cost c. £12M, plus ongoing running and maintenance costs. Clearly this is a considerable amount of money which could be spent on other prioirities, if it can be avoided through agreeing modest changes in working practices.

What other measures can be taken to increase timetable flexibility?

The reality experienced across the University, and on all campuses, is that we are already holding classes outside the 9am to 6pm standard parameters, with later teaching in several departments on an optional basis, and most notably in Business School PGT programmes. Other ways to solve the timetabling constraints have arisen across programmes, but remain insufficient to resolve the issue overall. These solutions include: repeat teaching (double and triple), splitting large groups, elective sessions on Wednesday afternoons, and several larger entry programmes are investigating changes to pedagogy which may in time reduce their utilisation of large lecture spaces. We would expect these measures to continue alongside any other modest changes to the teaching day.

Who’s been involved?

In December 2013, the Teaching Day Workstream was formed as part of the Future Workplaces Project (chaired by then Provost, Professor Neil Armstrong), in order to consider how the teaching day could be delivered most effectively within timetabling and estates resources. The Work Stream was established with academic (including ASA), Guild and professional services representation. See a full list of members here. The workstream was asked to test and explore all options available, and has conducted months of analysis, research and debate, including a quiet phase of targeted staff and student representation consultation.

Why can’t we have Undergraduate compulsory teaching on Wednesday afternoons?

UG students have consistently reported to the Guild and FXU that they value having Wednesday afternoons available for activities including sport, volunteering, society and employability events, and for general wellbeing. The Teaching Day group considers this a valuable contribution to the overall ‘Exeter experience’. There is PGT teaching and some elective UG teaching on Wednesday afternoons, and this could continue. Wednesday afternoons are also used for staff meetings and open days.

Do proposals to change the Teaching Day affect Cornwall?

These changes affect the overall University timetabling policy. The pilot will alter the teaching day on the Streatham, St Luke’s and Penryn campuses.  All teaching will be scheduled on the half hour, with the standard teaching day running from 0830 – 1730.  The teaching day will include 1730 – 1830 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, to be used as a last resort, when no other options are available.  It is not anticipated that the Penryn or St Luke’s campuses would need to use the 1730-1830 slots. The Teaching Day is particularly keen to receive input from colleagues and students in Penryn and Truro to ascertain what impact the options presented could have there. Vanessa Templeton, FXPlus Timetabling and Room Bookings Manager is a member of the Teaching Day work stream.

Will I have a longer day as a result of this?

No. The options presented are not expecting staff to teach additional hours, they are aimed at increasing the available hours in which to teach. Workload allocation is of key importance to the University and Colleges will continue to manage workload allocation to staff. Timetabling will be scheduled to ensure staff will not have early and late lectures on the same day, or a late night and a following early morning, unless they want to and have requested so through their College. Rules are applied to timetabling to ensure preferred slots are allocated in a fair manner and no individuals have to accept a greater burden than others.  Reserved parking for staff arrivals after 10am is being considered.  The Timetabling process allocates students with a spread of timeslots across the day and the week and would also avoid long days or a late night followed by an early lecture. For students, these rules would be applicable to all module combinations which fall within a “defined degree programme”.

Which students does this affect?

The pilot in 2015/16 will affect all students and staff, although the 1730-1830 slots are likely to be used for first year undergraduate (UG) and Post Graduate taught (PGT) students on the Streatham Campus the most.

How do flexible working policies work with these proposals?

The University considers that flexible working arrangements contribute to the achievement of corporate aims, particularly with respect to recruitment and retention, equality and diversity, service delivery, space utilisation and sustainability, and to developing a working environment which is more family friendly and contributes to employee wellbeing.

Flexible working practices must be balanced against the requirement to deliver services effectively and on time through the cost effective deployment of staff. Flexible working arrangements should therefore meet the specific operational requirements of each College or Service; arrangements are intended to give employees more choice, not complete choice and should never come at the detriment of standards or provision of services. Any employee of the University can request to work flexibly across their individual working pattern.

The People work stream of the Future Workplaces project is looking more closely at this area.

How can timetable change work with my family commitments?

Increasing the available hours within the timetable has the potential to solve many of the current capacity problems, but may not be the full answer and the right solution for all staff. Staff will continue to be able to apply for teaching restrictions, covering family, leave, sabbatical and professional commitments. The University reiterates its commitment to the principles of Athena SWAN and its existing policies and practices which support colleagues in managing all of their commitments. We appreciate concerns and understand that those with personal/ family commitments may be particularly worried, both about the impact on themselves and their colleagues. However, some staff may welcome the additional flexibility that any changes may offer them.

The work stream has sought clarification from the Future Workplaces Project Group that the expectation of the University would be that any change to the current University timetabling policy would result in equivalent changes to the Family Centre or other provision, in order to support staff and student parents who may be affected. This has been fed back through the chair to inform the review of the family centre provision and review of childcare in Penryn which is currently being undertaken.

The views of student parents were sought as part of the consultation process. Ways of supporting them through the timetabling system, recording lectures, and other mitigation are all being considered. As a result of this project the Timetable Office is hoping to introduce an online system to give students more choice on optional seminars and workshops, subject to funding.

How will we make sure the campuses are safe on later nights?

Efficient service delivery and support is a key consideration of the Teaching Day work stream, and consultation is ongoing relating to security, lighting, catering and other campus services. We will be taking into consideration the concerns raised and any impact that potential flexibility of working hours will have on the services we provide, to ensure we learn lessons as we look to develop wider policies.