No possibility of re-examination?
Strategically spreading their exams is something everyone student does, right? We all start to prepare for our exams the day before we have to take them, don’t we? These are the rector’s main starting points in the discussion regarding the restructuring of the academic calendar. The average student does not agree with these starting points. The rectorate talks and talks and talks. They even listen to our opinions, but still nothing changes. What we fought for so vehemently only fifty years ago, now seems to be an empty promise. Full co-management, true student representation and the chance to give our input on fundamental matters seem to be further away than ever.
The restructuring of the academic calendar is a complex and comprehensive dossier that includes much more than just the actual calendar. It entails everything from purely technical changes to far-reaching educational reforms. Because this dossier is so complex, it is impossible to be either completely for or against the entire plan. Instead, we have our own opinions on the various individual aspects.
The policy plans show that the rectoral team wishes to reaffirm the link between the educational reform project and the calendar restructuring. However educational innovation, which are meant to introduce more activating teaching methods, can be made feasible within the current calendar. It is the educational reforms that should determine the possible restructuring of the current calendar and not the other way around.
THE IDEAS OF RECTOR SELS
A fresher’s week as an introduction at the start of the academic year
More permanent evaluation
Earlier activation of the students
Shorter study and exam periods
No time between first and second examination chance
THE COUNTERARGUMENTS OF THE STUDENTS
Full-fledged re-examination chance
Honest en thorough discussion of all aspects of the restructuring of the calendar
Main focus on improvements within the current calendar
Two months of guaranteed vacation. Sounds nice, right? But does it still sound nice if you know that in return you won’t get a full-fledged re-examination? That both your study-time and your examination periods will become shorter?
3) ACTIVATING TEACHING METHODS
Activating teaching methods are of course stimulated and supported by the student council, but we need more information about the practical implementation. We are of the opinion that a restructuring of the academic calendar is not inherently necessary to introduce or advance activating teaching methods. What is necessary, however, is to free up manpower and financial means to realize these changes.
4) SUPPORTING STUDENTS
Considering the fact that the KU Leuven has an increasingly diverse influx, we can no longer speak of the ‘modal’ student. The main trend should be to work inclusively and not to have to make exceptions for specific target audiences. The current proposals for the restructuring of the academic calendar are however irreconcilable with these beliefs. We’re convinced that it will be much more effective to counteract the increasingly longer study duration with intensive guidance, rather than a restructuring of the calendar.
2) FULL-FLEDGED RE-EXAMINATION
In the current proposal, the re-examination period will take place immediately after the exams in June. The idea behind this is that the courses from the second semester will still fresh in the students’ memory. But what about the courses from the first semester? And is it healthy for student to study non-stop for 9 to 10 weeks without a recuperation period? We want a full-fledged re-examination period. This will give all students every necessary chance to pass.
5) PERMANENT EVALUATION
The fact that we are in favor of activating teaching methods does not mean that we are in favor of permanent evaluation methods. Permanent evaluation should be used when it’s an added value to the educational process, and not as a mere currency for an ambitious calendar reform.
We attach great importance to values such as independence and responsibility. KU Leuven indicates the development of your ‘future-self’ as a central pillar of attending university – and extra-curricular engagements are a vital part of that. The personal development of students should therefor not be hindered by too high a workload, caused by continuous evaluation for all subjects. Finally, we believe that university-wide policies on the amount of permanent evaluation are not appropriate or desirable. The extent to which one can correctly apply permanent evaluation varies from program to program (course materials, number of students and so on).
What do we want?
We want a much broader discussion of the main chalk lines, both on the level of the university and the individual faculties. Where, for the sake of convenience, different aspects of this discussion are being thrown together, we ask for a thorough and nuanced discussion. A four-year transitionary period before the new calendar will come into effect will therefor inevitably prove insufficient for thorough educational reforms of all curricula and subjects. The bet that was made in already starting the changes to the administrative processes, while the outcome of the educational project has yet to be determined, will also have very negative consequences for the student population.
However, the new rectoral team consistently ignores the students’ vision. They have also not honored the promises made during the last rectoral election regarding the restructuring of the academic calendar. Once, 50 years ago, we fought for the right to participate and have a say in these decisions, but today it is once again clear that this is a right we, as students, still have to fight for. That our fundamental comments are nowhere to be found in these policy plans is incomprehensible. That our demands to leave controversial issues out of these policy plans were ignored is incomprehensible. And that the rectoral team is currently of the opinion that the principles of co-governance have been respected in this dossier is also incomprehensible.
HOW DO THE STUDENT REPRESENTATIVES TAKE THEIR POSITIONS?
As student representatives, it is our job to listen to the opinion of every student. Therefor surveys are regularly sent out and everyone is given the opportunity to actively discuss these topics during the open education meetings, which are organized by each faculty and are open to every student. The student representatives then take the opinions of their students to the general meeting of Stura KU Leuven where we try to find a university-wide position on issues like the restructuring of the academic calendar. Be sure to by some time so you can make sure that this restructuring will be in every student’s favor! Do you have any further questions? Do not hesitate to contact your faculty consultative body (FO), Stura (firstname.lastname@example.org) or your student association for all your questions!