UCD is pushing ahead with the implementation of new Academic Regulations which would bring about several key changes to degree programmes for students. The current set of regulations were implemented in 2005 and have undergone fourteen minor revisions over the past thirteen years.
The ACEC Regulations Review Working Group produced an original draft set of regulations which were reviewed by the Academic Council on the 28th November 2017. Feedback from the Council saw several points be altered. The amended draft regulations were put to a university-wide consultation earlier this month, and closed on Friday, the 23rd February. Submissions from interested parties are now being reviewed.
The new draft version of the regulations, published for the public consultation alongside the Council’s feedback, contain a number of key provisions which would affect students. These include, amongst others, the provision to have a four-year degree award based on the results from the final three years, the removal of elective modules for trimester one, stage 1 students, a 20 working day limit to receive assignment feedback, open book exams, grade capping for substituted modules, and the shift to trimesters.
The overall review is being carried out alongside a more detailed focus on the provision of administrative support to staff and students, led by the Student and Academic Services Review Steering Group. Chaired by Mark Rogers, UCD Deputy President and Registrar, it is set to report to the University Management Team (UMT) next month. President Andrew Deeks told staff at the time it would cover ‘how we provide administrative and professional support to students and faculty, focusing on the front-line services that support our academic programmes.’
UCD aims to have all of its administrative reforms in place for the 2018/2019 academic year, to coincide with the introduction of the new four-year Arts degree, which will bring about major changes to the structures within the College of Arts and Humanities, and the College of Social Sciences and Law.
Final GPA Awards
Section 2.6 of the draft regulations covers the calculation and award of degrees. Subsection (d) sets out the provisions for a three-stage weighted award. For a four-year degree, the final GPA could be based on results from the final three years. Normally, the award GPA is based on a 50:50 split between the final two years. If a student goes on exchange, then the degree can be solely based on final year results.
The initial draft regulations split the final GPA using a factor of ten. 60% of the weighting is attached to final year, 30% to the penultimate year, then 10% to the antepenultimate stage. The Council noted it could cause problems for Science students, as they typically selected a Major at the end of second year, leading to a situation whereby ‘the grade from general modules could contribute to the grade of a more focused final degree.’ The Council requested the weighting be switched to 50% for final year, 30% for the penultimate year, then 20% for the antepenultimate year. It also discussed a 60:20:20 split.
Point 2.7 covers grade-neutral trimesters and reads that they ‘shall not alter the stages that contribute to the calculation of award GPA nor the weightings of the GPA rule.’ The Council recommended it go to public consultation, but noted various problems, including how grades calculated by institutions in different exchange countries lack coherence. The public survey asked participants whether they would prefer to include or omit grade neutral stages. If they are omitted, then a student on exchange in stage 3 would have their degree based on results in stages 2 and 4. If they are included, then using the proposed 5:3:2 calculation, where stage 3 is nil, the total sum is seven, with a rank of five for stage 4 and two for stage 2.
3.1 in the regulations set out the framework to make more use of the third trimester. The September to December and January to May periods are known as the two semesters. It was noted there was strong resistance to using the new term. The possibility of year-round teaching was also heavily criticised.
The original 6.5(e) allowed for resits in the summer trimester, but was deleted. The wording now reads that where ‘in-module remediation is not provided, remediation opportunities must be available within one of the two subsequent trimesters after the module has been delivered.’
Point 3.28 states that electives will not be offered to stage 1 trimester one students in order to ‘facilitate engagement with the programme… and in supporting concentration on the area.’ The Council suggested it may be more appropriate to concentrate electives in the earlier stages of professional programmes since later stages often include off-site training. This was declared to be compatible with the text as the 25 elective credits are not required to only be taken as 5 credits per trimester. The original phrasing in 3.21 stated students are entitled to take a minimum of 25 elective credits over the course of the degree, and is now found in 3.27.
Section 4 covers assessments, with 4.7 mentioning open book examinations. The Council accepted that ‘open book should be cultivated as norm, rather than mandated.’ 4.7 states that students would be able to bring ‘notes in the form of a single A4 page’ they prepared into the exam, unless specifically banned in the module handbook. All final exams would be restricted to two hours, unless given special permission to be longer.
The original 4.34 stated that students should receive feedback on assignments within 20 working days of the deadline, except for late work or the final exam. The Council argued it was impossible to implement with large classes, and that postgraduates who mark work would be forced to spend extra time giving feedback. They recommended the deadline be extended to 30 days, or further altered. Despite these objections, the 20 day deadline was kept in the most recent draft. The new 4.32 states ‘feedback on assessment must be provided according to the specification in the module descriptor and no later than twenty working days after the deadline for submission of each piece of assessed work, excepting work submitted late or submitted as part of a terminal assessment.’
A resit involves taking the module’s assessments again, whereas a repeat involves re-taking the entire module, including reattendance at lectures etc. Grade capping is the process whereby a student, who has failed a module and repeats or resits it, can only receive a certain grade upon passing it at the second attempt. They receive either a pass, fail, no grade, or absent. Passing it results in a D- grade, irrespective of the students actual score. UCDSU opposes grade capping.
The current regulations contain a loophole. If a student substitutes a failed module with a different one, the result obtained in the new module is not capped. This can only occur where the failed module is optional, as core ones must be passed. The new regulations would end this practice, by capping a substituted module’s result at a D-. The Council called this ‘a good change’ as it ‘makes the system fair for all.’
It was argued at the Council that remediated modules should not be capped as it amounted to ‘a form of intellectual discrimination’ as a student who achieved the same learning outcomes as others could not receive the same grade because they were re-taking the module. It was further stated that a capped grade gave a student no incentive to work hard in a remediated module. It was noted this same issue arose during the drafting of the last regulations in 2005. The same counter-argument was used to reject these complaints; ‘the key issue is that students who pass are not allowed to repeat for grade so why should a student who failed?’
The Tribune will be publishing supplemental pieces online which cover other points in the draft academic regulations over the coming days.
Cian Carton – Editor