Timetabling Drama

20 March 2017

University Services has denied rumours that revisions to the current timetabling infrastructure will include a move to an auto-timetabling system. Auto-timetabling involves the automatic allocation of classes to enrolled students, and Farrago has been told that it is under consideration as part of the Flexible Academic Programming Project (FlexAP).

FlexAP is a University program that studies ways to optimise current university resources and infrastructure, particularly online. According to a student representative present, auto-timetabling was proposed to the timetabling workstream of FlexAP during the program.

Despite this, the University administration have denied that any such proposal is being considered.

“There is no proposal at this stage for auto-allocation timetabling and therefore I cannot really make any comment,” Director of Student Enrolment, Evan Kritikakos said.

“Should this change, we would seek to consult before proceeding with any initiatives.”

Tom Crowley, former UMSU Education Officer, suggested that was not the case.

“University Services is claiming that under the current system there are 21,000 complaints a year relating to clashes,” he said. “They say this new system would reduce that.”

Crowley said University Services has also discussed auto-timetabling at Monash University as an example as to how the system could function.

For the past six years, Monash has been using Allocate+ for activity registration. The system allows students to select and rank their preferred slots before the automatic allocation.

“University Services cite the statistic that 88 per cent of students at Monash get their first and second preferences,” said Crowley.

Other universities including La Trobe University, Western Sydney University and Australian Catholic University are also using Allocate+.

Crowley also shared his concerns that a move to a preference-based auto-timetabling system could mean an increase in requests for class changes due to reasons such as commuting issues or work balance. These issues could burden Stop 1, as opposed to allowing changes only for clashes.

Additionally, incumbent UMSU Education (Academic) Officer, Roger Samuel, is concerned that overburdening Stop 1 in this way might diminish accessibility for students requiring timetabling changes for legitimate reasons, such as living with a disability.

“I think if this timetabling system is introduced it will be important to have a fair procedure that can provide exceptions based on equity grounds,” said Samuel.

“We need to see the results of the feasibility study before we can decide whether this is the best way forward.”

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