At an Open Forum this evening, organised by TCDSU, Senior members of College staff heard that the recently introduced Trinity Education Project (TEP) was “causing real damage” to student’s education, by putting them “under a lot of stress”.
In defence of TEP, of which he is the Project Sponsor, Vice-Provost Professor Chris Morash said what they the changes are trying to achieve is to “allow people to move sideways, so there is more flexibility in students choosing modules and [to] allow students to pick up modules from different subjects… as well as changing [from] a culture where things are oriented towards a big end of year exam”. Morash said that in order for this to be possible, College “needed to make changes to the structure of the academic calendar” and he commended a “year long process that involved consultation with students” that had led to TEP’s formation.
One of the main issues raised by students was the shortened period for revision before exams and the shorter space of time in which exams take place. Responding to the question, “How are you meant to study for your exams during one revision week when you also have two essays due the same week?”, Morash said that students are facing fewer exams under TEP. “This year there are 11% fewer exams this year than there were last year”, he said in defence of the shorter exam period.
Morash added that what he wanted to see was “fewer more meaningful assessments” and while senior staff in the university could “encourage schools to set less exams, we cannot just go into every room and wag our fingers and mandate things.” However, he notes that the open forum was very useful which has given him “ammunition to go back to schools within the university and ask them to implement less assessments”.
One third year law student expressed disappointment with TEP, outlining: “We feel like we have been handed a different situation that is not consistent with the rest of our Undergraduate learning, so we learnt how to learn and how to do certain assessments and everything has changed” She said it was “unbelievably unfair” that changes were being made to her education at Trinity for benefits she said would not be seen for a number of years, noting that students should not be treated as “sacrificial lambs”.
The project did receive some positive words from one student, who said that he thinks it is a “fantastic project” and that problems were “not down to the project but the schools who don’t perhaps want to be part of TEP”.
One of the grievances with TEP that was raised at the forum was the “lack of communication between departments” in implementing changes, an issue that was highlighted as particularly effecting TSM students. Morash said that while he recognised this problem, “Trinity is by its nature a very devolved system” and that it was important for lecturers to have “autonomy” when deciding on the assessments they would set.
In response, one third year nanoscience student stated: “When I hear people talk about how devolved Trinity is I don’t know what to do, because I feel my education is being actively damaged by the stress I’m being put under by departments not talking to each other.”
A number of students raised the case of one exam being delayed by and hour and a half in December, which impacted over 1,000 students after exam papers were laid out on incorrect tables in the RDS Simmonscourt exam venue.
The Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Chair of TEP Logistics, Professor Kevin Mitchell responded: “I’d like to apologise for the situation where exams were delayed but its not really a TEP issue. When I heard about the delay I had two choices, I could either void the exam and all students would have to resist the exam during the supplemental exam period or we could treat it as they did the exam and that’s the choice I made”.
The event was chaired by the former Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Education Officer Dale Whelehan and around 30 students were in attendance, a turnout that one of the attendees described as “abysmal”. Shane De Rís, TCDSU President said that “if anyone has any ideas of how we could better publicise events like this” that the union was “open to ideas”.
TEP has sparked controversy since its introduction, culminating in the signing of an open letter to the Provost by over 100 students, criticising the project. The letter, which was written over the Christmas holiday, described the implementation of the TEP as “catastrophic”.
One of the main features of TEP is the semesterisation of modules, meaning that modules are to be taught and assessed within the same semester. This necessitated changes to the structure of Trinity’s Academic Calendar, including the introduction of both a revision week and an assessment week at the end of Michaelmas Term, a reduction of the revision period at the end of Hilary term from three weeks to one, and a reduction of the assessment period at the end of the year from four weeks to one.