Nouse explores the upcoming semesterization and modularisation of the academic year


Students respond to the planned changes, which are set to commence next academic year, 2023/2024

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Image by Ben Jordan

By Nadia Sayed

With students coming up to the half-way point of the current academic year 2022/2023, it is not long until students will see the introduction of semesterisation and modularisation. Both are planned to commence at the beginning of the next academic year, 2023/2024.

As the term ‘semesterisation’ suggests, the change will require the University to transition from three 10-week terms to two 16-week semesters.

The University of York’s web page, where information on semesterisation and modularisation is available, states that the introduction of semesters will mean:

  • One week for induction
  • 11 weeks of teaching
  • Four weeks for assessments

The implementation of semesterisation will also bring about a change in holidays for students. This academic year, Christmas vacation dates began on 2 December 2022 and lasted until 9 January 2023, whilst Easter vacation is set to run from 17 March 2023 to 17 April 2023. However, the vacation periods for the next academic year, 2023/2024, will be shorter and are as follows:

  • Christmas: 18 December 2023 – 5 January 2024
  • Easter: 25 March 2024 – 5 April 2024

Alongside semesterisation, the University is also introducing ‘modularisation’, which will require every module to be standardised to be worth a maximum of 20 credits, with some exceptions, depending on individual courses. While students can currently take modules ranging from 5 to 40 credits each, as stated on the University’s website, “most students will study three 20-credit modules each semester” following the introduction of modularisation.

Nouse asked current students about their understanding of what the semesterisation of the next academic year, 2023/2024, will look like in practice, along with how it might affect their individual course of study.

The first question Nouse asked was, “What/how much do you know about the University's plans to introduce semesters?”

Although answers to this question were varied, responses indicated that students had a very vague and general sense of what semesterisation would mean for them.

Second-year student Abbie Singleton mentioned that she knew little about the change, responding, “Not much, all I really know is that it’s being introduced in September.”

Another response was given by Duha Usma and further highlighted feelings of uncertainty towards semesterisation: “I know what we have been told in emails, but if I’m honest, I still don’t really understand the need – will it really benefit us and how?” This was supported by another response, which stated all the student knew was “from the [University’s] website.”

Secondly, Nouse asked the question, “How do you feel about the change?”

A number of students expressed anxiety regarding the introduction of two semesters rather than continuing with three terms and precisely what this would mean in terms of their academic study and course structure.

Eleanor Straughan, a second-year Chemistry student, responded, “I'm a bit worried about it, especially because my department hasn't been able to finalise the course structure for next year, so none of us really know what will be happening. For example, we don't actually know how the option modules will be structured for the third/fourth year, but we have to choose one of them next week.”

Furthermore, Abbie Singleton stated that she was wary about the change and said, “the term-based structure we currently have works absolutely fine.” However, she hoped this would be “a beneficial move” by the University.

Despite certain students expressing concerns about the change, some responded with feelings of indifference.

One student commented, “I don’t mind, except that holidays will be shorter.” Another student said due to the fact that semesterisation would be put into place during the third and final year of their degree, they were “not too bothered” about it.

Moreover, students responded to semesterisation in a way that demonstrated their feelings were influenced by their living situations and the distance between their term time and home addresses.

For example, one student responded, “I think, compared to the current term we have now, it is bad. I think after being at uni, which can be very intense, it is nice to go home to relax fully and with semesters being only two-week breaks, you don’t fully get that. Also, with exams, it’s nice to have the four weeks off at Christmas and Easter to fully revise and prepare for exams.”

Although there will be shorter winter and spring holiday periods, semesterisation creates a longer summer break which is promoted by the University as allowing students to participate in work experience or internship programmes which currently do not align with the summer holiday period. Students picked up on this change, stating that they thought "it could be really good to get on the same calendar as the majority of other universities” in terms of securing internships or jobs.

Lastly, when asked if they had any further comments about the upcoming change from termly teaching to having two semesters, one student stated, “If there are reading weeks added into semesters, then I wouldn’t mind the shorter holidays so much.”

Exceptions to modularisation and semesterisation may be students whose academic courses include practical placements. The University’s website states that those who are likely to be exempt from modularisation will be students on capstone modules, including students working on their dissertations and other projects, “which are not limited to 20 credits and may run over more than one semester.” However, the majority of students are likely to be impacted by the changes overall.

A spokesperson for the University said “We welcome feedback and have been consulting with the student unions throughout the process - beginning in November 2021 when details around semesterisation and modularisation were first announced.

“Monthly meetings, which included Academic Reps from GSA and YUSU, started in April 2022 and we continue to liaise closely on all aspects of the new semesters."

“We will be rolling out further comms in the coming weeks to illustrate the changes due to come into effect in September 2023, including an Instagram takeover with YUSU, focusing on student questions."

“We believe the new changes to modules and timetables will have huge benefits for students and will lead to a reduction in workload, with assessments taking place after each teaching period, clearly defined revision periods, and a consolidation week in the middle of the first semester.

“In addition, semesters will align our academic year with lots of other institutions, including many universities overseas, making it easier for students to find opportunities to study abroad, and to take up exciting placements and internships.”