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ChangeChalmersAcademicYear

This is a page to collect questions and answers about the proposal to change the academic year at Chalmers from 2013 (in response to CSN rules for student support money).


I'm concerned about the effect on our research. As Peter pointed out, Cambridge have a 21 week teaching year. Glasgow, when Mary and I were there, had a 30 week teaching year. We need to compete with these Universities for EU funding, for example--will we be able to do so with 40 weeks of teaching?

Of course, as there is to be no increase in teaching budget, then we should ensure there is no increase in teaching cost, either--and if there isn't, then there should be no knock-on effect on research, so my worry should be unnecessary. Although teaching is to be spread over a longer period, we ought to spend less time on it per week and thus have the same time left for research--in theory. But in practice, my experience is that teaching tends to expand to fill the time available, and I don't think I'm alone in this, so there is a substantial risk that *more* time will be spent on teaching despite no change in the budget. At the very least, we will all need to be very disciplined about limiting the time we spend on it, and need to instill the same discipline in our doctoral students.

How will we avoid increasing the cost of each course in practice? We could, for example, give 14 lectures over 8 weeks by giving only one lecture per week for two of the weeks. But is this realistic? We're all ambitious teachers: will we in practice limit our lectures in this way, or will we "make use of" the extra time by adding lectures? If students find that, in some weeks, they have only two lectures to attend (assuming they are taking two courses simultaneously, both of which choose the same week to give only one lecture), will they feel their time is being well spent? In practice, I doubt that we will stretch our current 7 week courses over 8 weeks without adding new material.

If we do add new material, this means that each course will become more expensive to teach. With no increase in teaching budget, this means we must teach fewer courses. Perhaps 11% fewer courses (since there is an 11% increase in teaching weeks). Are we prepared to do that?

John

11% fewer courses would reduce total costs of teaching, but probably not affect revenues that much (assuming that students would still each sign up for as many courses as before, so each remaining course will have more students). So it appears to make sense from an economical point of view, but that (to me) is a separate discussion. To address your points directly, it seems we need to do a better job of planning and apply more discipline in execution, and indeed withstand the temptation to add more material...

Lars S


  • Q: "If we're replacing a 36 week teaching year, by a 40 week teaching year, then surely our teaching budget is to be increased by 11%? Nothing else would make sense."
  • A: No, the suggestion is to change the "formal" definition of the academic year for the students, this is orthogonal to the payment to Chalmers. (But see below.)

  • Q: What are the economic effects for Chalmers of moving the exam period until after X-mas?
  • A: If we do that, the teaching payment to Chalmers from the government for that quarter will be delayed by a full year. This means that Chalmers would receive roughly 25% less money in 2013 (as a one-time-effect).
(A corresponding move in the opposite direction a number of years ago had the corresponding positive effect - Chalmers got paid 25% that particular year.)

  • Q: Can we get the politicians/CSN to change their mind and postpone this change? Shouldn't we focus on that instead of discussing the effects of a change?
  • A: CSN has to follow the "studiestödslagen" and there are no signals from the politicians that they will change the law (even though Jan Björklund promised students at one point that they would find a solution see: http://www.gp.se/nyheter/sverige/1.497218-gladjebesked-om-studiemedlen ) so Chalmers current view is that we, unfortunately, have to make a change. KTH, Linköping and Lund will also change their academic years because of this. The group that has discussed how to make the change thus has taken this as input to the work. If there are constructive proposals on how to affect the politicians that is, of course, very welcome.
  • A2: Robert Feldt has contacted Jan Björklund about this, see below.

  • Q: Can't we keep the 36 week year for old programs and only change to 40 weeks for new programs?
  • A: The view of the vice rektor is that the practical problems (different schedules, re-exam periods, ...) and costs associated with this would make it very hard to pull through. It is unclear if the rektor has taken a stance on this issue yet.

  • Q: I can see no positive effects of this proposed change to 40 weeks. Are there any?
  • A: One thing that teachers involved in programs/courses given at both Chalmers and GU has pointed out is that it will be easier to sync between the two. There is also more calendar time for the same course material (see, above on increased budget, there is no change to the amount of content or teaching hours in each course) which could possibly be used to some pedagogical benefit (students get more time for reflection on the course and its material etc). Some have also mentioned that teachers will not have to feel any stress about correcting exams etc over Christmas.
  • A2: I have heard complaints about the student workload for several years, and one of the most commonly occurring ones has been that they don't work enough :-/ (Not only anecdotal, but based on the self-reported number of hours they put in per course, compared to the until-now-accepted convention that students at Chalmers work 50h rather than 40h per week and therefore merit full funding even though our academic years is shorter than 40 weeks... ) I've heard suggestions that a longer academic year might therefore help more students to pass the courses with good grades. (And of course to learn and retain more of the topics. I believe there is supposed to be a correlation.)

  • Q: Can't we contact Jan Björklund directly?
  • A: In fact we can and Robert Feldt sent this email to him 2012-06-18 at 08:20:

Email sent to Jan Björklund via Dept of Educations Registrator on the link: http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/7384 http://www.regeringen.se/pub/road/Classic/article/117/jsp/Render.jsp?a=87781&m=popup&l=sv

Subject: Längden på det akademiska året på tekniska högskolor (här Chalmers)

Hej Jan,

Jag heter Robert Feldt och är docent på Chalmers samt medlem av Chalmers fakultetsråd. Jag har varit med i en grupp på Chalmers som diskuterat hur vi bör gå till väga om vi måste anpassa längden på vårt akademiska år till 40 istället för 36 veckor.

När gruppen nyligen presenterade sitt förslag för en större grupp inom Chalmers startade en ganska livlig debatt om förslaget var bra och huruvida ändringen verkligen behövs. Bla kom det upp att du tidigare har talat om att en lösning/undantag skulle vara möjlig, se tex:

http://www.gp.se/nyheter/sverige/1.497218-gladjebesked-om-studiemedlen

Det skulle vara väldigt bra om du kunde ge din och regeringens syn i den här frågan, som den är idag. Finns det fortfarande en möjlighet för undantag? De pedagogiska effekterna av denna ändring på Chalmers kommer vara stora, likaså kostnaderna. Det är inte självklart att ändringen är till det bättre.

Tacksam för svar och med vänliga hälsningar,

Robert Feldt robert.feldt@chalmers.se


  • Q: I can see how it might be good to move the exam week into January, but the last study week will essentially be lost with the proposed schedule; as several weeks will have passed since the next-to-last week, and since many students will be traveling over the holidays and may be back late, there will be no chance to introduce new material. That week will therefore be useful only for make-up lab sessions and retrospective overviews. (Yes, I'm a cynic.) Any chance to adjust the proposal?
  • A: A cynic answer could be that you can run the course as usual then and skip the next-to-last week (since that is an extra calendar week compared to the current schedule) ;) . The only change for you then would be that the exam is after Christmas rather than before. But it should be possible to change the proposal if we present a constructive solution that addresses the situation. A solution with fewer weeks on the autumn than on the spring is not so good, for example, since all course points would have to be adjusted from their current 7.5.
  • Q2: I expect that moving the entire yearly schedule back by one week is a no-starter? It would take care of the overflow-week problem, at the cost of an earlier start for the first quarter and I believe a higher incidence of the Easter-week problem otherwise due for 2027. (In the KTH decision as per the document linked to below, the fall semester starts one week earlier than in the example shown in the Chalmers proposal.)

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Page last modified on June 27, 2012, at 08:38 AM