urge the University to improve timetabling.

Cori Haws submitted on

Sunday 11th November 2018


Timetabling does not seem to many much efforts to consolidate lectures. Especially in later years when contact hours are reduced.

I can understand the challenge to timetable for the university but it should be possible to reduce the massive gaps between lectures.

This semester I spend as much time commuting to the university as I have contact hours, purely because I am having to come in for less than 2 hours of lectures each day. In one case at 9am and then 5pm. My entire timetable could be consolidated to 2 days even with an hour break between each lecture.


Here, you can view the complete set of official responses from the sabbatical officers regarding this submission.

Students' Union replied on

Thursday 13th Dec 2018 3:42pm

Hello again, 

Hopefully you've had some time to go away and possibly have a conversation with the University's Timetabling team. Since I don't believe there will be a further update from them I'm going to close this You Make Change for now. However should an update arrive I'll be sure to re-open the submission and post the update here. 

Thanks for the submission, and do let me know if I can do any more to help out. 

All the best,

Samuel Dedman (VP Education 2017-19, vpeducation@susu.org) 

Students' Union replied on

Wednesday 21st Nov 2018 9:21am

Hello again!

We're still in the voting phase at present, but I've just had the following update arrive from Timetabling:


We do indeed try to minimize the impact of this on students’ timetables. I do appreciate that this kind of timetable ‘gapping’ can be frustrating for individuals but when scheduling teaching activities we are looking at the availability of the whole cohort of students taking that module, the availability of the staff delivering the session and the availability of suitable teaching venues.

We have noted that where there is a high volume of optional choice in a programme or a particular module is taught across a high number of programmes, it can create a more fragmented timetable, creating these lengthy gaps in the timetable.   We have also been looking at how we can measure whether this is more prevalent in certain subject areas, to help us better understand why this happens and see if/how this can be reduced.

Whilst it isn’t always possible to resolve all of these issues for individual students, I would recommend students contact us (timetabling@soton.ac.uk) if they have concerns about their individual timetable. It may be possible to allocate students to alternative sessions/class times that would provide a preferable schedule of activities across the teaching week if we are aware of an individual’s circumstances.

I would also be happy to meet with any students who have concerns of this nature to help inform reviews of our current timetabling processes.


Voting is still ongoing so I shall leave this You Make Change live. I would encourage you to reach out to the Timetabling Team - I'm certain they'll be able to help out if they can!

All the best, 

Samuel Dedman (VP Education 2017-19, vpeducation@susu.org)

Students' Union replied on

Monday 19th Nov 2018 2:40pm

Hi Cori, 

Thanks for getting in touch. You make a really fair point, and to their credit I know that the University has been trying to reduce the gap between timetabled sessions as far as it is able to do so. I will, however, go back to the Timetabling Team and see what they have been able to achieve as of late. I'll be back as soon as I have an update! 

In the meantime your You Make Change submission is live on the SUSU website for voting upon. Please share it around if you get the chance! 

All the best,

Samuel Dedman (VP Education 2017-19, vpeducation@susu.org)



  • Forwarded to Education

    Friday 16th Nov 2018 1:11pm


Let's keep this space positive and respectful! Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions, but please remember to keep the conversation friendly and avoid any offensive comments.

Alexander Petrov commented on

Monday 19th Nov 2018 8:29pm

Re: point 2) by Mauro:

Lecturers often teach more than one subject per term, even more often they teach a subject in both semesters. Most lecturers are also researchers. This is essentially doubling their commitment as a lecturer. It would also be unnecessary for optional subjects which already have low turnout, whether due to the number of students they are open to or due to the interest in them, to be ran twice a year.

Re: point 3) by Mauro:

Every sane person who has went through the first year of Electrical/Electronic Engineering will testify that extending the possible hours to shove lectures into is a terrifying idea.
On the other hand, those extended times could cause havoc in part-catered halls, as there are certain times the canteen is open for breakfast and dinner, I don't remember them anymore sadly.

Mauro Camara Escudero commented on

Saturday 17th Nov 2018 12:27am

I agree with the previous comments that the timetables are too scattered. I have a few more points having been here for 4 years now:

1) It seems to me that timetabling is done via a scheduling software but then it is not checked by people or it is checked very briefly. I say this because at any one time you’ll see that there are A LOT of empty lecture theatres, I wouldn’t be able to give an estimate but if you just try and have a look around you’ll see how many rooms are not used at each hour. Often, these unused rooms could fit lectures that are delayed to later that day or that are moved to far away location. This is incredibly inefficient in my opinion. Also, it is possible to make timetabling change, however the system is very hard to work with. During my time at UoS lecturers managed to change lecture theatres to other ones and in other slots, BUT the issue wasn’t the availability of rooms (I personally went and looked at rooms’ timetables), rather it was the total inflexibility of the timetabling team which seems to prefer to say no, rather than check if something is durable.

2) Many, Many issues could easily be solved by scheduling modules to repeat in both semesters. This would allow multiple things: i) lecturers would be more prepared and material would be more steadily available ii) students would spread out more evenly because they would be able to pick modules in different semesters. Usually the busiest modules I’ve been with in the first semester were not a prerequisite for modules in the second semester (MATH). Also, often people are forced to take busy modules exactly because they have to pick 4 modules each semester, but if you could pick some of them the next semester, that would help.

3) Finally, although most students would disagree with me, I think lecturing hours should be extended. Currently we have 9am to 6pm which are 9 hours a day, yet we have a lot of timetabling issues. If you look at most European universities they adopt a different strategy, where they start lectures earlier and finish them later as well. A good lecturing time could be from 8 to 7pm. This would allow for lectures to be scheduled much better and, I believe, paradoxically we would have fewer lectures very early in the morning and fewer lectures very late in the evening. 

Cori Haws commented on

Friday 16th Nov 2018 7:44pm

Not advocating 9am to 6pm lectures, but in later years when contact hours are reduced travel to and from university starts to become comparible to the contact hours. Especially for those who do not live within a 15 minute walk from the university, and those who have to commute by Car/Train. 

Fragmented timetables can also make untimetabled academic commitments difficult or unworkable. Masters students general have a project encompasing the whole year in their final year. In many cases, it is best to spend an entire day just working on that project, and in some cases it may be essential to have 8 hours to work on something, for example if you are carrying out experiments in a lab.

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