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My son is starting university (in the UK) next week and has been given his timetable. The face to face lectures are from 5pm or 6pm until 7pm (just one starts earlier than this on a Friday, 1-2pm). I find this pretty shocking for a full-time university degree course, and have concerns on impact of learning and integrating with student life on the campus that this will have with starting lessons so late on in the day.

I'd be interested to hear from others - university staff or students that are starting university or mid way through a degree - is this the norm now, should he complain or ask why it's been structured in this way?

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    A lot of first year undergraduates would be very happy with having no lectures in the morning... timetables usually change every semester, though, so whatever effect it might have (and I would suspect very little) will be shortlived. Sep 15, 2022 at 10:50
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    Also, remember that your son is now an adult and university is the moment where students take full responsibility for their learning. If he thinks he might have a problem attending lectures at 5pm, he should take it up with the timetabling office. Sep 15, 2022 at 10:51
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    Is the university one that historically specializes in courses aimed at people who have day jobs doing something else (I'm thinking Birkbeck)? Sep 15, 2022 at 11:12
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    "I have concerns on impact of learning and integrating with student life on the campus that this will have with starting lessons so late on in the day." It's not clear at all what you imagine this impact to be. I honestly have no idea what you mean when you say you have concerns about the impact of this schedule on "integrating with student life on the campus". Sep 15, 2022 at 11:49
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    If students have to work on the side, having lectures only in the evenings can be actually beneficial, as they can work during the day.
    – Sursula
    Sep 16, 2022 at 6:58

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20 years ago there were 5-6 lectures in both Birmingham and Oxford, where I studied. Students weren't particularly impressed, and I think it doesn't have a great impact on staff's family life.

Fast forward to now, and it's still true that there are 5-6 lectures in Birmingham. Occasionally there are 6-7 lectures, and particularly things like labs can run late. The main reason is that, with so many combinations of joint-honours degrees, optional modules, and so on, the timetable is pretty filled up. Scheduling that many tasks inevitably results in going past 5pm.

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  • This explains having some, perhaps even many, lectures after 5pm, but it doesn't explain OP's report of having almost all the lectures after 5pm. Sep 15, 2022 at 19:28
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    @DanielHatton My explanations for that are either 1) he has accidentally chosen an evening course, like at Birkbeck, 2) luck of the draw: these things are scheduled by algorithm, and the person complaining about it is likely the one with the worst outcome, or less likely 3) exaggeration or a mistake. Also, since our courses have 12 hours lecture time per week, it would be impossible to schedule them all between 5 and 7 on four days (as Wednesday afternoons are always free). Sep 15, 2022 at 19:36
  • Your mention of labs raises another possibility: maybe lectures are preferentially scheduled after 5pm, because practical classes can't be held after 5pm due to the absence of safety-critical technical staff. Sep 17, 2022 at 17:36
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Back when I did my undergrad in the UK a few decades ago, students signed up for one of a small number of predefined courses: possibly there were some multiple module options in the final year. Since then there's been both significant modularisation with options even in the first year, and the huge rise in student numbers which also means that activities such as lab sessions now have to be run several times to cover everyone.

The upshot is that the timetable has had to expand, just to allow enough time for the students to have access to their modules, without any clashes over the various optional ones.

Twenty years ago we were already getting rid of keeping Wednesday afternoons free for extra-mural activities; now I hear of Timetabling trying to use the whole the 8am-7pm period...

(Similar answer to David's above, but with expanding on the "why" a bit)

Update: It does look a bit strange that the lectures are all concentrated at the end of the day, but then the OP is talking about barely ten hours a week of study time; which leaves another thirty-odd to fill. The course isn't stated, so it might be that the days are being deliberately kept free for some self-directed activity, or maybe the lab groups haven't been assigned yet.

The student can always ask via the "Staff-Student Liaison Committee" (or whatever they call it), this would usually be held towards the end of term but minutes of previous meetings should be available somehow; he should ask his Personal Tutor.

Other possible reasons (that I've witnessed) could be constraints around teaching staff availability (especially if they are part-time, have health issues or caring responsibilities, or are industrial associates), or issues relating to inter-campus travel.

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    Might be worth noting that, in many places, the 'huge rise in student numbers' has not been accompanied by a increase in staff numbers, nor in the total physical size of teaching spaces. Sep 15, 2022 at 19:24
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In the US this is pretty normal, but I’m also thinking that perhaps “is it normal?” is not the most important question to ask. “Is this something I should be concerned about?” seems like a more relevant question to me.

In which case I would say the answer is “no.” Perhaps I’m out of touch with how university students live today, but if it’s anything like I remember from when I was a student, there isn’t anything about attending lecture until 7 pm that would interfere in any way with the average student’s ability to lead a normal and healthy life. Indeed, I suspect a fair number of students who have a more nocturnal lifestyle might well find it mentally easier to concentrate on academic material at that hour than say, at the more “normal” hour of 9-10 am.

So basically this seems like a non-issue to me. Best of luck to your son with his studies!

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