Academic Timetable and Room Bookings Policy

1. Purpose of policy

2. Academic timetable policy

2.1 Teaching times

2.2 Teaching rooms

2.3 Staff availability

2.4 Timetabling priorities and constraints

2.5 Changes to the timetable including changes to the allocation of rooms

2.6 Cancellation policy

2.7 Conflict resolution

2.8 Staff-Student Consultative Committees

3. Timetabling roles and responsibilities

3.1 Students

3.2 Academic staff

3.3 Heads of Department

3.4 Departmental Timetable Officers

3.5 Timetabling

4. Academic timetable process

4.1 Data collection phase

4.2 Timetable preparation and scheduling

4.3 Publication of draft and final timetables

5. Ad hoc room bookings

1. Purpose of policy

This document sets out the University’s policy and procedures in respect of:

  • The overall framework and criteria regarding the delivery of the academic timetable;
  • The roles and responsibilities of the key stakeholders involved in timetabling
  • The stages of the academic timetable preparation process, including the overall
    timeline for this process and key publication dates;
    Guidance regarding the booking of teaching rooms for non-teaching events.

2. Academic timetable policy

2.1 Teaching times

2.1.1 The dates of the current and forthcoming teaching terms are available on the University’s dates of term web page.

2.1.2 The parameters of the standard teaching week are, as follows:

  • Monday - Friday (inclusive)
  • 09:10 - 18:00 (inclusive)
  • Wednesday afternoons (from 13:00 onwards) are reserved for undergraduate sports and other student experience enrichment activities. Any exceptions to this will require Head of Department approval.

2.1.3 The minimum teaching period is typically 50 minutes in duration.

2.1.4 The start and end times for slots on the academic timetable allow for a break of ten minutes during the interchange between teaching activities. Students and staff should ensure that polite consideration is shown to other room users during the interchange periods:

  • 09:10 - 10:00
  • 10:10 - 11:00
  • 11:10 - 12:00
  • 12:10 - 13:00
  • 13:10 - 14:00
  • 14:10 - 15:00
  • 15:10 - 16:00
  • 16:10 - 17:00
  • 17:10 - 18:00

2.1.5 Non-standard teaching activities, and other after-hours activities, will be located in accordance with the University’s Space Management Policy guidelines.

2.2 Teaching rooms

2.2.1 The University’s teaching rooms are divided into two key categories:

  • Centrally managed teaching rooms, which include lecture theatres, seminar rooms and computer rooms.
  • Departmentally managed rooms, which include meeting/committee rooms as well as specialist teaching spaces such as laboratories, computer rooms and rehearsal

2.2.2 The University requires all its teaching rooms and their timetables to be stored in the central timetabling system. This includes all centrally and departmentally managed teaching rooms.

2.2.3 Timetabling seeks to ensure that centrally managed teaching rooms are allocated on an equitable basis that benefits the University as a whole.  To maximise the utilisation of our academic estate, students and staff may be required to attend classes in any of the University’s centrally managed teaching rooms. Individual academic departments have first priority in the use of their departmentally managed specialist teaching rooms. Academic departments are nonetheless encouraged to contribute to the effectiveness of the University’s space utilisation strategy by sharing these rooms with other departments, wherever possible.

2.2.4 Timetabled teaching activities take precedence in centrally managed teaching rooms. Due to the wide-ranging impact on the academic timetable, requests for ad hoc room bookings that take place during the teaching period will be confirmed after the initial stages of the semester one and semester two teaching periods have settled down. Any exceptions to this will require University Executive approval.

2.2.5 The layout of centrally managed teaching rooms is set out in a particular way to support the University’s teaching requirements and in a manner that accords with the optimal design and agreed capacity of each room. Room users may temporarily alter the furniture layout in teaching spaces, but they must replace the default layout of the room at the end of each session. Each room has a wall diagram illustrating its default layout for this purpose. Room users with accessibility requirements may contact Campus Services staff for assistance with restoring the room layout.

2.2.6 Catering deliveries are not permitted in centrally managed teaching rooms unless by prior arrangement with Timetabling. Refreshments are not permitted in tiered lecture theatres.

2.2.7 All centrally managed teaching rooms are equipped with standard data projection facilities.

2.2.8 Equipment faults in centrally managed teaching rooms should be reported to Information Services via the direct telephone line provided in each room.

2.2.9 All teaching rooms are subject to space audits and utilization monitoring. The results of space audits may incur recharges for ‘no shows’ as determined by the University’s Space Management Policy.

2.3 Staff availability

2.3.1 Academic members of staff are expected to be available for the full hours of the teaching week (see section 2.1), except where prior approval has been granted by Human Resources.

Members of the academic staff should consult Human Resources to ensure that their requested teaching availability patterns are fully compliant with the University’s Flexible Working Policy.

Where staff have work-related responsibilities that take place during the teaching period, the relevant Head of Department can provide approval (e.g. committee attendance).

2.3.2 Members of staff should communicate the details of their working patterns to their Departmental Timetable Officer, who will inform Timetabling during the data collection phase of the academic timetable preparation process in April (see section 4.1).

2.4 Timetabling priorities and constraints

2.4.1 Timetabling aims to facilitate reasonable, though not unlimited, student choice. However, the complexity of the timetabling process, which must facilitate the full range of study scheme requirements, including joint honours schemes, means that there are challenges involved in avoiding timetable clashes.

The order of priorities for clashes is, as follows:

  • Core clashes receive first priority.
  • Optional modules. Where clashes between options are unavoidable, students should contact their Departmental Timetable Officer for guidance on alternative options.
  • Where elective clashes occur (i.e. modules that are neither core nor optional elements to the student’s study scheme), students are advised to choose an alternative module.

2.4.2 A key priority is the need to accommodate students and staff with accessibility requirements in appropriate rooms. As the delivery of this policy is dependent upon the receipt of up-to-date and accurate information, departments must inform Timetabling of any accessibility requirements.

Academic staff with accessibility requirements should inform their departmental timetable officer who will liaise with Timetabling on their behalf. Students with individual accessibility requirements should inform the Accessibility Service at Student Support.

2.4.3 All of the University’s teaching activities must be timetabled in the central timetabling system, regardless of whether they take place in centrally managed or departmentally managed rooms. This ensures that the academic timetable is prepared in accordance with thorough clash-checking procedures.

2.4.4 Timetabling aims to achieve the following constraints:

  • One full day – or two half days - free of teaching for full-time members of staff. This is intended to provide time for research.
  • A lunch break of a minimum of one hour in duration between 12:10 and 14:10 for students and staff, with the exception of cases where students and staff have minimal classes at other times of the day.
  • No more than four consecutive hours of teaching for students and staff.

Departments are responsible for checking their timetables and raising any concerns at the earliest opportunity but if possible during the draft period. If students or members of the academic staff find that they are timetabled to take part in more than four consecutive hours of teaching they should contact their Departmental Timetable Officer, who will liaise with Timetabling for guidance.

2.4.5 In cases where students have online classes, Timetabling aims to provide a gap between online and in-person activities to enable students to comfortably transition between these different modes of teaching delivery.

2.5 Changes to the timetable including changes to the allocation of rooms

2.5.1 Late changes to the academic timetable, as defined by the timetabling timeline, can cause considerable disruption for students and staff, and may have significant adverse effects on the timetable as a whole. For these reasons, requests for late changes that have negative effects on the timetables of other departments, or which lead to suboptimal slots for students and staff, cannot be accommodated. More broadly, as students and staff use the published timetable to inform decisions regarding module choices, family and childcare arrangements, part-time work commitments, and travel to and from the University, late changes to the timetable must be kept to an absolute minimum.

Before requesting changes to the timetable, academic departments must, therefore, explore all possible alternative courses of action in consultation with their Head of Department. In particular, in cases of staff illness, members of staff are encouraged to provide cover for their colleagues, wherever possible. Changes will only be considered once all avenues to resolve or work-around the issue have been exhausted at departmental level. Where unavoidable, requests for changes must be accompanied by an overriding valid reason and explanation. For changes that impact on the student experience, Timetabling may require Head of Department support and approval from a Pro Vice-Chancellor before implementing the change. Timetabling conducts an annual audit of all requests for changes to ensure compliance with this policy.

2.5.2 Departments who wish to submit requests for changes during term-time should provide Timetabling with five working days’ notice in advance of the proposed start date of the change.

Students should receive a minimum of two working days’ notice of timetable changes.

2.5.3 The criteria for late or post-publication changes to the academic timetable are, as follows:

  • Serious staff illness, bereavement, or emergency carer responsibilities.
  • To meet accessibility requirements for students or staff.
  • To address late changes to student numbers, which emerge due to admissions processes (e. where a larger room is required).

2.5.4 Where there are late changes to staff availability, these cannot be accommodated if they have adverse effects on the academic timetable (e.g. the need to change the timetable of another department/study scheme or negative effects for students and staff). Where relevant, each Head of Department should manage events of this type through the reallocation of existing resources.

2.5.5 Where changes to the timetable are approved, academic departments are responsible for notifying all students and staff affected by a change. This process is conducted via the Departmental Timetable Officer who will liaise with Timetabling. It is, however, the Module Co-ordinator who must take ultimate responsibility for giving students at least two working days’ notice of any timetable changes (see also section 2.6). Students should also receive an explanation for the change.

2.5.6 Late or post-publication changes to the timetable cannot be considered if they relate to any of the following categories:

  • Changes to teaching times that fall within the scope of standard teaching hours, if a clash free slot on the timetable has already been provided.
  • Changes due to revised teaching methods.
  • If the change involves adverse effects in terms of the quality of the timetable or the impact on students.
  • If the change has adverse consequences for the teaching programmes of other departments.

2.5.7 Academic members of staff are reminded that, where teaching activities, such as seminars, are timetabled in alternate weeks, students may have other classes scheduled in the intervening weeks. The usual rooms may also be unavailable.

2.6 Cancellation policy

Where academic departments wish to cancel teaching activities on the central timetable, they are responsible for communicating this to the students affected and for informing Timetabling. To ensure an accurate overview of the timetable data, academic departments should provide Timetabling with a reason for the cancellation. Timetabling will also require a minimum of two working days’ notice to process the cancellation details on the timetable system.

2.7 Conflict resolution

Occasionally conflicts may arise in relation to the allocation of rooms, or requests for changes to the timetable, for example. The policies outlined in this document are intended to provide guidance on these matters. Where further guidance is required, conflicts should be referred to the Timetable Manager for resolution.

2.8 Staff-Student Consultative Committees

Where concerns about the academic timetable are raised by Staff-Student Consultative Committees, these will be given full consideration by the Timetable Manager and the Director of Information Services via departmental Directors of Learning and Teaching.

3. Timetabling roles and responsibilities

3.1 Students

3.1.1 Full-time registered students are expected to be available for all of the teaching weeks of the academic year (3.1.4).

3.1.2 Students are responsible for regularly checking the details of their timetabled activities from the point at which the final timetable becomes available on their online student record. Regular checking is necessary to ensure awareness of any changes to existing slots, additional activities or changes to rooms.

3.1.3 Returning students (i.e. second and third years) can view their academic timetable on their online student record from early September. First year students can view their timetable on their student record three working days after completing registration.

There will be some adjustments to the timetable at the start of term while students finalise their module choices. Students are recommended to check their timetable regularly in case any adjustments have been made. The semester one timetable will settle after the initial weeks of the teaching period.

3.1.4 Students should inform their Departmental Timetable Officer if they require assistance with either of the following:

  • Clashes between timetabled activities (see also sub-section 2.4.3).
  • Accessibility needs (see sub-section 2.4.1).

3.1.5 Once the final timetable has been published, students who wish to make a change to their Study Scheme, or to one or more of their module choices, should check the academic timetable web page for potential clashes prior to submitting a ‘Change Registration’ request via their online student record.

3.1.6 Students who are involved in sports events may request permission from their academic department to be absent from teaching activities on Wednesday mornings to travel to fixtures. It is the responsibility of the student to undertake any additional study required to offset the impact of such absences.

3.2 Academic staff

3.2.1 Ensure that any restrictions on their teaching availability pattern have been approved and fully communicated to Human Resources, their Head of Department, and to their Departmental Timetable Officer, who will liaise with Timetabling accordingly (see section 2.3).

3.2.2 Carefully check the draft and final versions of the academic timetable when these become available in July and September.

3.2.3 Adhere to the correct start and end times required by the teaching period and contribute to the smooth running of the interchange periods between classes (see sub-section 2.1.4).

3.2.4 Restore the default furniture layout in teaching rooms at the end of each class.

3.2.5 At the completion of each class, members of staff should:

  • Stop any lecture recordings.
  • Remove the wireless microphone and put back into the cradle.
  • Log out of the computer.
  • Press the white Display Off button on the controller unit.
  • Clean the whiteboard (using the spray bottle and cloth in the room).
  • Ensure the teaching room is clean and tidy.

3.2.6 Inform their Departmental Timetable Officer of any cancellations of classes so that the academic timetable can be updated, where appropriate.

3.3 Heads of Department

3.3.1 Manage the academic and examinations timetables and related processes in their department in line with the provisions of this policy.

3.3.2 Adhere to the deadline for the completion of departmental teaching plans set by the Pro Vice-Chancellor.

3.3.3 Determine whether requested restrictions on staff availability are essential.

3.3.4 Facilitate the provision of staff cover where late changes to staff availability arise.

3.3.5 Ensure that departmental requests for changes to the academic and examination timetables do not incur adverse effects for students, staff, or other departments.

3.4 Departmental Timetable Officers

3.4.1 Manage their department’s academic and examination timetables on behalf of their Head of Department.

3.4.2 Serve as the first point of contact for students and academic staff who have timetable queries.

3.4.3 Liaise with academic staff regarding their teaching plans and submit the details of their department’s timetable requirements via the teaching data collection screen on in line with the stages outlined in the academic timetable timeline (see also section 4).

3.4.4 Communicate with Timetabling on behalf of students and staff to maintain a comprehensive overview of their departmental timetable.

3.4.5 Process changes to students’ seminar and tutorial group attendance via the group allocation software provided by Timetabling.

3.4.6 Refer all staff availability patterns to their Head of Department for validation (e.g. committee attendance, flexible working patterns) and inform Timetabling in April.

3.4.7 Manage the ad hoc room bookings process in departmentally managed rooms.

3.5 Timetabling

3.5.1 Plan, prepare and publish the academic timetable in consultation with Departmental Timetable Officers.

3.5.2 Plan, prepare and publish the examination timetables in consultation with Departmental Examination Officers and the University Examinations Manager.

3.5.3 Manage the ad hoc room bookings process, including requests for space for meetings held by student societies as well as academic and service departments.

3.5.4 Facilitate the effective allocation and utilisation of the University’s teaching rooms.

3.5.5 Maintain and develop the University’s Timetabling web site.

4. Academic timetable process

The University’s academic timetable is prepared from scratch on an annual basis in accordance with best practice across the higher education sector in the UK.

The dates of the timetable preparation process are agreed each year via meetings between Timetabling and Departmental Timetable Officers. The resulting academic timetable process timeline is published in the Academic Timetable Documents section on the Timetabling web site, further to approval by the Director of Information Services.

4.1 Data collection phase

4.1.1 In adhering to the University’s aim of ensuring the quality and accuracy of its learning and teaching data, departmental teaching requirements are submitted to the teaching data collection screen via by Departmental Timetable Officers each April prior to being imported into the Timetabling software. Crucially, the quality of the data on the academic timetable is dependent upon the accuracy of the teaching requirements submitted by academic departments.

4.1.2 Given the central role of the student management system, as the fundamental source and reference point for the University’s data, all the participants in the academic timetable process are called upon to take the utmost care in ensuring that the teaching data collection screen is fully up-to-date, regularly and meticulously maintained, and unambiguously correct.

Standardised teaching data collection forms are available in the Academic Timetable Documents section of the timetabling web site to assist Departmental Timetable Officers with this task.

4.1.3 The teaching data collection screen includes an option whereby Departmental Timetable Officers can record the purpose of each teaching activity in line with one of the following two categories:

  • Web & KIS
  • Timetable, Web & KIS

4.1.4 The quality and timeliness of the above noted processes depend on the prior completion of departmental teaching plans. Late requests for new or restructured modules (i.e. requests that are received after the published deadline) will require approval from the Executive. Due to the practical complexities of the timetable scheduling process, it may not be possible to apply the priorities and constraints outlined in sub-section 2.4.4 to late additions to the timetable.

4.1.5 The study scheme status of all the modules on the academic timetable must be fully up-to-date on the student management system if clashes on the academic timetable are to be avoided. Academic Registry is responsible for ensuring that the study scheme details of modules are added to the Modules section of the student management system when new modules are added to the database, or study scheme rules are revised.

4.2 Timetable preparation and scheduling

The academic timetable is prepared in accordance with a batch scheduling methodology which prioritises the following:

  • Teaching activities are scheduled in order of size.
  • The only exceptions to this are activities that involve legitimate constraints that require them to take priority in the scheduling process (g. part-time postgraduate courses where teaching must take place on specific days).

4.2.1 If an academic department wishes to run multiple hour teaching sessions, it is good practice to ensure that these begin at optimum times of the teaching day. For example, three-hour teaching sessions are best scheduled at 09:10, 10:10, 14:10 and 15:10.

4.2.2 The use of half hour slots (i.e. slots that begin 30 minutes past the hour) is not permitted on the central timetable. This is because half hour slots cannot achieve an optimal scheduling configuration and work against the University’s aims in terms of effective space utilization.

4.2.3 In order to ensure that students and staff are not required to attend classes for more than four consecutive hours, departments should avoid submitting requests for multiple hour activities that exceed this limit. This restriction does not apply to fieldwork activities.

4.3 Publication of draft and final timetables

4.3.1 The publication dates for the draft and final academic timetables are, as follows:

  • Draft Timetable released to Departmental Timetable Officers – early July.
  • Final Timetable released to Departmental Timetable Officers – end of August.
  • Final Timetable (Semester One and Semester Two) released to returning students - early September.

4.3.2 Timetabling makes every effort to lockdown the academic timetable approximately one month prior to the start of teaching in each semester. (Where departmental requests for changes are approved after the lockdown periods, Departmental Timetable Officers will inform students and staff by email.

5. Ad hoc room bookings

5.1.1 Ad hoc room bookings that take place during teaching times will not be confirmed until after the final academic timetable has been published. The online Web Room Bookings System will be opened to students and staff at the beginning of October.

Students and staff are welcome to submit preliminary requests to Timetabling via during the spring and summer of the preceding academic session.

5.1.2 Requests for teaching rooms for University Open Days and departmental Visiting Day events take precedence over all other ad hoc room bookings.

5.1.3 Timetabling requires a minimum of three working days to process room booking requests.

5.1.4 Bookings in departmentally managed rooms must be approved by the relevant academic, or professional services, department.

5.1.5 Internal room booking requests that fall outside of standard opening hours may be focussed in specific rooms in buildings, or in rooms and buildings that have SALTO access, in accordance with the University’s current Space Management Policy guidelines and with the approval of the Facilities Manager.

5.1.6 Room booking requests from external clients should be submitted to the Conference Office.

5.1.7 Room booking requests must be compliant with the University’s Health and Safety policy.

5.1.8 Students and staff are requested to show due care for the University’s teaching rooms (see sub-sections 2.2.5, 2.2.6, 2.2.7 and 2.2.9).

5.1.9 As with the use of teaching rooms for centrally timetabled teaching activities, ad hoc room bookings may be subject to space utilisation audits and monitoring.

This Policy is maintained by Information Services, was last reviewed by Academic Enhancement Committee in July 2022 and is due for review in August 2023.