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Struggling with the new timetabling

The new timetable introduced in September is proving problematical for various parties, as indeed they expected it would. Study associations are struggling with the shorter breaks, which have encroached upon the lunchtime lectures held by companies and meetings. Studium Generale is noticing that the depth of its programs is suffering. No one has any ready-made solutions to hand.

photo CHEOPS

Almost all the study associations are having difficulty with the new timetable, it would seem from questions asked by Cursor. The main sticking point is the shortened lunchtime break, which means students have less time to attend the lectures held by companies and scant time is available to ask questions. Most associations have shortened the lunchtime lectures by five minutes.

Renate Debets, secretary of study association Thor (EE): “We have changed the times of the lunchtime lectures from 12:45 to 13:30 hrs to 12:40 to 13:20 hrs. The arrival of audience members is now more chaotic: people are used to walking in just before a quarter to the hour, but now the lecture has already begun. For the rest, we are seeing that companies either shorten their narrative, thus reducing the presentation's content, or don't do so. They then overrun, people get up to leave before the end, and the lecture ends somewhat chaotically. In addition, we often lose the interactive question element entirely. It's a real shame, because that is often the most interesting part of the lecture.”

Run out of time

Similarly, there is less time available to hold meetings. Niels Dusseldorp, PR officer at CHEOPS (Built Environment): “For us as a study association, the lunch break is the most obvious time to hold meetings. The reality is that we now often run out of time. We need to get used to this and find a smart way of dealing with it.”

The board members tell us that companies are not always happy with the new situation, but as yet no one has pulled out. For the rest, various members of study associations are noticing that students are skipping their evening lectures, because they need a longer break. Renate Debets of Thor (EE): “The shortening of the break between the afternoon and evening lectures to fifteen minutes isn't seen as a positive step by anyone we talk to. After 4 p.m. many students really need a longer break and don't have the focus required for an evening lecture.”

Work around it

Industrial Design and Industria seem to be the only study associations that are experiencing few if any difficulties. Charlaine Janssen, secretary at Lucid: “At Industrial Design we have a different curriculum to most other studies at the university. Our Bachelor's students have fewer lectures than other students, because they do more project-based work and so they are less tied to the break. As an association, when we are planning activities, we look at our students' timetable and work around it. As a result, we can still offer the same type of activities in the lunch break.”

TU/e employee Jessica van de Ven, responsible for timetabling, tells us that for the next quartile roughly twenty courses will be taught in hours nine and ten. That is similar to the number in this quartile. She has previously explained the decision to introduce the 10-hour timetable.

Also positive, most study associations receive few complaints from students who have no activities planned for the break. Ries Koolen, commissioner for external relations at Van der Waals (TN): “I often say to students, ‘it was either this or a 12-hour timetable’. And this is the better option. For people who have nothing on in the break, it's a good thing. An hour and 15 minutes is rather long if you have nothing to do.” Joska Aerts, education officer at Protagoras (BMT): “Students prefer the new finishing times of evening lectures to those in the old timetable.”

Tricky timetable

Studium Generale (SG) by contrast, which runs its program mainly in lunch breaks and evening hours, is finding the new timetable tricky. Head of SG Lucas Asselbergs: “In the past we joined forces with Groep-één, which was also in favor of the 75-minute lunch break, but we were very much in the minority. From the timetabling perspective the reasoning is clear, but all groups that benefit from a longer break are feeling this measure and there is no obvious alternative."

SG is experimenting with short lectures in the break, says Asselbergs. "By which I mean lectures of thirty minutes and then another ten minutes to ask questions. In practice this has so far prompted our speakers to hurry. And we're offering 'sliced-up' lectures, in other words a lecture lasting fourty minutes followed by fifteen minutes of discussion at the start of the first hour of the afternoon. But then the students get up to leave and only the non-students remain. We still have the option of using standard lecture hours or evenings or the last two hours of Friday afternoon, but I suspect that far fewer students would attend. Of course there's a solution to every problem, but I am not happy with the shorter break. There are plenty of TED Talks; we want depth and interaction and that is very difficult to achieve in fourty minutes.”

Survey the opinions

These problems were anticipated and raised some time ago on the University Council by Groep-één. Erik van Heijst, faction president of Groep-één: “We once polled the study associations on the topic of which solutions TU could offer  and found there were none to hand. At the time I had a discussion with the Rector Magnificus and we decided to monitor the situation closely. And if the study associations do come up with a solution that TU/e could help them by implementing, the Rector has voiced his intention to lend support. This is the phase we currently find ourselves in. As Groep-één, we are going to see how we can survey the opinions of students at various points during the year.”


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