Otago Polytechnic is about to consult staff and students on a plan to replace the traditional two-semester tertiary study year with three trimesters, according to the Otago Daily Times. However, the TEU has moved quickly to advocate against the proposal with national president Dr Sandra Grey saying it would put increased pressure on staff and would undermine collegiality.
“Our experience at other tertiary institutions that have moved to trimesters is that staff, especially general staff, have higher workloads, less time to focus on team projects, less time to work collaboratively with their colleagues and there is less time to bed-in the ideas when teaching.
“For students there is a trade-off. A faster education is not necessarily a better education – if they are being rushed through to get a qualification, what they are losing is important reflective time that strengthens their learning,” said Dr Grey.
Otago Polytechnic is proposing that rather than the 32-week academic year running from about mid-February to the end of October, a new system of three 14-week trimesters running from mid-January to about the end of November.
Chief executive Phil Ker said there would be a 10-person working party, which would consult widely on the concept and report to the leadership team by September 30. If the Polytechnic adopts the proposal, it will begin in 2013.
“Otago would be the first polytechnic to introduce a trimester system,”, Mr Ker said, although Weltec had a limited third semester, operating as a summer school.
Mr Ker told the Otago Daily Times that academic staff would teach two of three trimesters, leaving them a useful block of time for non-classroom duties such as research projects, curriculum development and consultancy. Dr Grey questioned how this supposed benefit differed from current practice.
“In today’s era of tight finances, why wouldn’t students want to get their qualifications faster and save on living costs and student loans? It would also save the Government money on student loans and allowances,” said Mr Ker.