From Pagelode:

In the last week or so staff at UWS have been asked to consider a proposal to move from the current two semester academic year to a trimester system with three study periods per year. The benefits are that this may allow students greater choice and flexibility over study; be able to fast track their degree and finish earlier; make up missed or failed units earlier and use the infrastructure and resources of the university year-round rather than have it sit idle for three months of the year.

I wonder if the UWS administrators have been too timid and whether their imagination has been constrained. They might widen their horizons.

Three semesters during daylight hours is one thing. But most classes finish by 6.00 pm and only recommence after 8.00 am the following day, other than some postgraduate classes that go from 6.00 to 10.00 pm. Why leave our resources underutilized at night? Is that not a waste?

May I humbly suggest that in addition to three Day semesters we complement that with three Night Semesters. The Night Semesters might run from 10.00 pm to 6.00 am.

Think of the benefits to students and the flexible study patterns this proposal would provide. We could easily accommodate twice the number of students we currently service (40,000 X 2 = 80,000 students). What a valuable contribution UWS would then be making to the government’s objective of increasing the number of university-educated Australians.  Moreover, a full-time student (six semesters a year) could complete their undergraduate degree in a year. Enrol in January and graduate in late December. Why not add on a Masters for another six months study – in 18 months a student graduates with both an undergraduate and postgraduate degree.

This proposal gives UWS quite a competitive edge in the higher education market. No other university I am aware of in Australia offers such a product. It will be particularly attractive to full fee-paying international students as it substantially minimizes their time away from home.

But that is just the start of the attractiveness of this proposal. Staff can fulfill all their teaching requirements for the year in one 10 week block. They, for example, could do their teaching on a Monday and a Tuesday for Day Semester 1 and then teach Thursday Night and Friday Night for Night Semester 1. Other than final exam marking at the end of this 10 week period they have the rest of the year as non-teaching. They can spend forty weeks doing research or facilitating engagement activities or whatever else they chose to do.

Students have far more options now too. Instead of their study interfering with their paid work commitments, they can now work a full week and study at night. Their mobile phones will not be constantly ringing or texting at 3.00 am and they can concentrate in their classes. Moreover, it will be easier to drive to campus. Instead of being stuck in a parking lot traffic jam on the M5 or Parramatta Road they will have a traffic-free run to classes that start at 10.00 pm or later. A normal hour commute in peak hour may be reduced to 20 minutes with little traffic on the road.

The university’s infrastructure will be operating efficiently round the clock plus there will be considerable advantages to using off-peak electricity. Also think of the extra employment and income for Greater Western Sydney that will be generated as our cafeterias and other facilities are open 24 hours a day. There will be far more jobs available for both professional and academic staff to service the doubling of the student load. A number of staff may find it convenient to do the night shift to free up time during the day for career responsibilities or getting the kids to school. There are so many possibilities that this proposal can open up.

Now there are those that might be skeptical of this proposal. There are always those laggards that resist change. But at UWS we should be used to change, we should embrace it – the last thing to expect at UWS is stability. Hospitals operate 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Are not educational services as equally valuable as medical care to our overall contentment and well-being? Many industries work on a shift basis to utilize their machinery and facilities more intensively. Why not universities? We are not taking about sweat shops here as the remuneration is quite reasonable. We have also long stopped worrying about degree factories – the paper chase is an accepted phenomenon in higher education.

So let us encourage the UWS administrators to be bolder. Their creative juices have been stymied – they need to think outside the box.

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