Why do universities release Timetables so close to starting? Watch

ilovelearning17
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With so many students working alongside their studies, why do universities still leave it so close to starting dates before releasing their personal timetables? I understand why they might do this for first years starting Level 4, but not for Level 5 and 6,as they should have an idea how many students they are going to have early on. I just wanted know what others think, if anything.

I think it’s ridiculous because you’d think it would be simple to sort out, given most student information is computerised.
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Mr Wednesday
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(Original post by ilovelearning17)
With so many students working alongside their studies, why do universities still leave it so close to starting dates before releasing their personal timetables? I understand why they might do this for first years starting Level 4, but not for Level 5 and 6,as they should have an idea how many students they are going to have early on. I just wanted know what others think, if anything.

I think it’s ridiculous because you’d think it would be simple to sort out, given most student information is computerised.
I think it's because it is a much much more complex problem than you imagine with all sorts of non-ideal elements a computer cant know about in advance, or do a person to person negotiation over.

It has to factor in constantly moving targets like staff leaving and joining, going on sabbatical or on sick leave (who will teach course X and when ?), other staff time constraints (a draft timetable kicks of a negotiation where lecturer Y can't do Thursday 5pm because they have a clash with another unmissable commitment) use of teaching and seminar space shared between multiple departments where two or more entirely separate sets of timetables need to dovetail together, building work and refurbishment and so on. In my institution we have been iterating on draft versions all summer.
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ilovelearning17
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Yes I get that it is very complex and see how it might be difficult to sort out. I think for me, looking in as an outsider, I just viewed it as being a lack of organisation between departments that repeats itself year on year. But having read your post, while I think there probably is some element of disorganisation, clearly there is rather more involved that also needs to be considered. Thanks for your response.
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Mr Wednesday
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(Original post by ilovelearning17)
Yes I get that it is very complex and see how it might be difficult to sort out. I think for me, looking in as an outsider, I just viewed it as being a lack of organisation between departments that repeats itself year on year. But having read your post, while I think there probably is some element of disorganisation, clearly there is rather more involved that also needs to be considered. Thanks for your response.
My current timetable for years 1-4 has at a rough count ~93 separate activities, one or two of these are one offs, many are 12 or 24 lecture modules. There are about 120 academics delivering them (not including RAs, PhD students etc who have relatively "simple" time constraints), most academics will be involved with multiple activities (labs, elctures, tutorials) so the possibilities for clashes that need to be avoided are near endless ! Yes, it would be great if things came out earlier for everyone, but on the other hand I am also slightly surprised that there is actually a viable solution in some cases.
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martin7
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(Original post by Mr Wednesday)
It has to factor in constantly moving targets like staff leaving and joining, going on sabbatical or on sick leave (who will teach course X and when ?), other staff time constraints (a draft timetable kicks of a negotiation where lecturer Y can't do Thursday 5pm because they have a clash with another unmissable commitment) use of teaching and seminar space shared between multiple departments where two or more entirely separate sets of timetables need to dovetail together, building work and refurbishment and so on. In my institution we have been iterating on draft versions all summer.
... and on top of those:

Lecturers who are part-time
Lecturers who have days set aside for research (e.g. can't teach on Tuesdays)
Students and staff who have access requirements (e.g. need to use a wheelchair and hence are limited as to what teaching space they can use)
Sessions that might need to be two or three hours long and can't be split up
Sessions that require specific teaching spaces (e.g. lab sessions, specialist projection equipment)
Classrooms/lecture theatres that need to be big enough for the classes that use them
Year-on-year increases in student numbers without necessarily having more teaching space to accommodate them.
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ilovelearning17
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I think of a timetable as just a piece of paper with a few lessons on and it is for me, without really thinking any deeper. Your post puts it into perspective of what it takes to create a timetable in an educational institution Thank you for your posts, I will definitely think differently about timetables. I can see why it is not ‘simple’ at all to produce a timetable
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