Freshers’ Week is in full swing and that can only mean the yearly “timetable controversy” is back in full force. Weighed down by the rising number of students the University of Exeter, in 2015 the university decided to modify the start and end of the teaching day, scheduling classes to start at 8.30 instead of 9 in the morning.
Classes in the evening were also scheduled to finish later in the afternoon. The change in planning caused quite a few grumbles amongst the student populations, with complaints arising from the fact students were being forced to drag themselves out of bed earlier than usual.
The real issue at hand is not having to trudge up Streatham Hill earlier in the morning, but why these changes have been made necessary in the first place. An investigation launched by Exeposé in 2015, found that students, teaching staff and Guild employees alike were concerned by the growth in student population, with 80% of students finding that campus was overcrowded, with the lack of study space and concerns about wellbeing provision and teaching quality also being a concern. With many of our Continental neighbours such as the French and the Italian starting their regular day at 8 o’clock, it is crucial we do not to get distracted from the pressing issues at hand, otherwise we risk feeding the stereotype that students are insulated from the real world – a claim that has been often thrown to delegitimize student protests.
However, timetable changes are a completely different matter from those amongst us affected by disabilities or caring responsibilities.
Whilst some disabled students can avoid problematic timetabling changes thanks to their ILP (Individual Learning Plan), students and lectures who have children are left struggling with the demands of childcare, with single parents and single carers being hit the hardest by the early starts and late endings. A Guild spokesperson pointed towards two bursaries that the university has specifically set up to deal with those commuting from rural areas and caring responsibilities, aiming to cover any additional transport and care costs caused by the change in timetabling. The main issue remained awareness, as it is crucial to make those who are entitled to these forms of support informed about their existence. So far, the main source of communications with student parents has been the peer support group set up by the Advice Unit and the Student Guild is looking to further spread awareness about the existence of these bursaries. Hopefully, these will effectively alleviate the struggle some members of the university have to face.