Moving the start of the Academic Year

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Allo V Psycho
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Moving the start of the Academic Year

Post by Allo V Psycho » Sat Jun 27, 2020 8:33 am

The DfE and Williamson have plainly leaked:

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2 ... el-results

a list of options which include moving the start of the academic year to January. Full list of options is -
Exams results published in August as is currently the case, but with university and college terms starting in January, allowing five months for processing applications.

Moving exam results forward into July and the start of the university term back into mid-October, allowing a 12-week window for students to apply.

An unchanged timetable, with only a five-week window for the application process to run between exam results in August and the start of the university term in September, as now.

University applications made before A-level results are received, but offers of places to students not released until after results are published, with no change to current timings
I'm sure there are insights to be gathered from the collective wisdom...

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JQH
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Re: Moving the start of the Academic Year

Post by JQH » Sat Jun 27, 2020 12:29 pm

It doesn't sound unreasonable to me but I have never worked in HE so don't know if this is practical.

However, the disparity between predicted grades and actual achievement is definitely a thing, as is the fact that it disproportionately affects students from already disadvantaged backgrounds.
And remember that if you botch the exit, the carnival of reaction may be coming to a town near you.

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bob sterman
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Re: Moving the start of the Academic Year

Post by bob sterman » Sun Jun 28, 2020 11:17 am

Given that applications are digital - I can't see any reason why it should take 5 months to process them all.

Moving the start of the academic year to January would be a massive pain in the proverbial - particularly during the transition phase where existing cohorts of students need to move through the system.

It would also put an end to summer graduations - with students traipsing through the November/December drizzle to their graduation ceremonies (if we're ever allowed to have mass gatherings again).

December/January Freshers week! That'll be nice too.

And being out of synch with the rest of the world would cause a range of problems (e.g. start dates for overseas PGT and PGR programmes, degree exchange programmes, academic conference season, fieldwork seasons, seasonal research collaborations etc).

Also wouldn't be surprised if a January start is used as a backdoor route to pushing through 2 year degrees.

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snoozeofreason
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Re: Moving the start of the Academic Year

Post by snoozeofreason » Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:24 pm

The applications process involves making offers to students, who then have to choose between the various offers they have received. So you need to allow enough time for all of the offers to go out, for the students to do research, potentially attend applicant days, and then make a decision. Five months might be an overgenerous allocation of time, but five weeks would be cutting it a bit fine.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The human body was knocked up pretty late on the Friday afternoon, with a deadline looming. How well do you expect it to work?

bob sterman
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Re: Moving the start of the Academic Year

Post by bob sterman » Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:30 pm

snoozeofreason wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:24 pm
The applications process involves making offers to students, who then have to choose between the various offers they have received. So you need to allow enough time for all of the offers to go out, for the students to do research, potentially attend applicant days, and then make a decision. Five months might be an overgenerous allocation of time, but five weeks would be cutting it a bit fine.
Yes - I've been involved in running applicant days and open days.

But if applications and offers are all going to happen after A-level results, a lot of the visiting etc can still be done before then.

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snoozeofreason
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Re: Moving the start of the Academic Year

Post by snoozeofreason » Sun Jun 28, 2020 2:15 pm

bob sterman wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:30 pm
Yes - I've been involved in running applicant days and open days.

But if applications and offers are all going to happen after A-level results, a lot of the visiting etc can still be done before then.
I've seen it from both sides, both from being involved in running them, and from the perspective of an anxious parent. From the latter perspective, it's surprising how overwhelming it all is and how little one retains (I think that would be true of my offspring as well as myself). I think most applicants would want another opportunity to visit after offers have been made and grades obtained. And universities can't all have their applicant days at the same time, so I still think five weeks would be tight.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The human body was knocked up pretty late on the Friday afternoon, with a deadline looming. How well do you expect it to work?

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Re: Moving the start of the Academic Year

Post by bob sterman » Sun Jun 28, 2020 2:50 pm

In theory - yes - you would really want to give applicants with offers a chance to visit before making a final decision. However, in practice what we're finding at our university is that - even with these events spread over many months most applicants who accept offers are not attending applicant days before accepting firmly.

Anyway, if we were to move to a system where students get offers after results - if universities agreed to hold 5 synchronised open days during this period (e.g. Sat-Wed-Sun-Wed-Sat) then a student with 5 offers could visit all of them during a 2 week period.

But they probably wouldn't need to visit all 5 - as they would have already had more than a year to attend open days before making their applications. So in reality it would mostly be just 1 or 2 final visits.

There would need to be lots of protections in place to stop universities bribing applicants to go "firm" within hours of results day (e.g. iPads, best rooms in residences etc)

AMS
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Re: Moving the start of the Academic Year

Post by AMS » Sun Jun 28, 2020 5:26 pm

bob sterman wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 2:50 pm

Anyway, if we were to move to a system where students get offers after results - if universities agreed to hold 5 synchronised open days during this period (e.g. Sat-Wed-Sun-Wed-Sat) then a student with 5 offers could visit all of them during a 2 week period.

But they probably wouldn't need to visit all 5 - as they would have already had more than a year to attend open days before making their applications. So in reality it would mostly be just 1 or 2 final visits.
One personal objection to this - it's maybe ok if you live somewhere close to the M1/M6 corridors, but thinking back on my case, growing up in Cornwall and applying to Russell group institutions, this means a lot of travel for some, and creates another barrier to entry based on where you live. (I visited Cambridge, Imperial, Warwick & Exeter - only the last of these was less than four hours travel time each way for me.)

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Re: Moving the start of the Academic Year

Post by bob sterman » Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:38 pm

AMS wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 5:26 pm
One personal objection to this - it's maybe ok if you live somewhere close to the M1/M6 corridors, but thinking back on my case, growing up in Cornwall and applying to Russell group institutions, this means a lot of travel for some, and creates another barrier to entry based on where you live. (I visited Cambridge, Imperial, Warwick & Exeter - only the last of these was less than four hours travel time each way for me.)
Yes - the travel is a problem - which is why I think so many applicants are accepting offers currently at places they have not actually visited.

But here I was only referring to how students might be able to visit for a second time (for an "applicant day") - during a short window - perhaps if they had already attended an "open day" earlier in the year.

If they've got the offer, and got the grades, they don't have to visit for a second time (and most don't under the current system where they have many months for that second visit).

Allo V Psycho
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Re: Moving the start of the Academic Year

Post by Allo V Psycho » Mon Jun 29, 2020 8:57 am

JQH wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 12:29 pm
It doesn't sound unreasonable to me but I have never worked in HE so don't know if this is practical.

However, the disparity between predicted grades and actual achievement is definitely a thing, as is the fact that it disproportionately affects students from already disadvantaged backgrounds.
Re the disparity, typically about 50% of predicted grades are achieved, and a similar but slightly smaller number turn out to be over predictions, with only 6 or 7% being under predictions. 'Disadvantaged' candidates tend to have the highest number of under predictions, but also the highest number of over predictions. Predictions for girls are slightly more accurate than for boys.

EllyCat
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Re: Moving the start of the Academic Year

Post by EllyCat » Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:01 am

Someone posted an article on a thread in the pandemic arena which touched on the point that a lot of Universities are going to struggle to (if not be totally unable to) re-start campus based activities in September with social distancing still in place because their campus facilities are set up to get as many students as possible into huge lecture theatres, not run the same material ten times to seminars of max 15 students. Economic concerns aside, they don’t have the rooms to accommodate the seminar-type teaching and no one knows how students are going to react (“as consumers”, how we love that phrase) to being told their lectures will be delivered entirely or partially online; there’s no point pushing an autumn start if most of your cohort want to defer anyway.

Realistically, if the government say “you’ve got five weeks/you’re working off predicted grades, deal with it” then institutions will scramble to make it “work” and the students lose out if it goes wrong...

bob sterman
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Re: Moving the start of the Academic Year

Post by bob sterman » Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:26 am

EllyCat wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:01 am
Someone posted an article on a thread in the pandemic arena which touched on the point that a lot of Universities are going to struggle to (if not be totally unable to) re-start campus based activities in September with social distancing still in place because their campus facilities are set up to get as many students as possible into huge lecture theatres, not run the same material ten times to seminars of max 15 students. Economic concerns aside, they don’t have the rooms to accommodate the seminar-type teaching and no one knows how students are going to react (“as consumers”, how we love that phrase) to being told their lectures will be delivered entirely or partially online; there’s no point pushing an autumn start if most of your cohort want to defer anyway.
Yes - we are struggling!!!

But this January start thing is a proposal for long term change - not a short term thing to deal with the pandemic.

FlammableFlower
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Re: Moving the start of the Academic Year

Post by FlammableFlower » Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:50 pm

Early on in the pandemic, I'd heard that a couple of unis (well, two to be exact) were considering pushing back the start of the academic year, but no one else took that up so it died; as unless you've got something amazing up your sleeve, you don't want to be the odd one out. Once the biggies move, most people follow. In that same vein everyone send to have coalesced around similar No Detriment policies (the "Exeter" and the "Loughborough" being the main winners) our very close variations.

It'll take quite a bit to move the academic year. For starters whatever Brexit might do for us, we'd be out of synch with almost every northern hemisphere uni. It would balls up the lucrative overseas market. At home: After the chaos of this year, if we get back to some sort of normality it'd leave A-level students with months to fill post-exams. Ok they'd have time for some casual work, but that wouldn't align with when a lot of casual work is required. tStarting uni in Jan would be shockingly depressing, likewise ending your degree in November/December of your final year. Graduations would be very different. People complain about "not getting the experience they're paying for" this year, but in future it'd be hard-wired in to be dismal.

In all its seems like a lot to fix, what is a one year problem.

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