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May 20, 2019 | by  | in News | [ssba]

VUWSA Responds to Provost’s Mid-Year Assessment Changes

In 2016, Victoria University announced a “redevelopment” for Trimester 3, extending it to 12 weeks.

As part of a previous article on the issue (‘Concerns around Shortening Exam and Marking Period’ by Emma Houpt), Salient interviewed Provost Wendy Larner about the changes.

The extensive interview brought up a number of points that may have been of concern to VUWSA and students themselves. Salient provided VUWSA’s Student Representation Co-ordinator Joseph Habgood with the interview for comment.

In the interview, Larner outlines VUW’s position on extending Trimester 3 to a full 12 weeks, justifying its necessity.

“That […] decision was to regularise our year dates,” said Larner.


“There are some teething issues,” continued Larner, “in part because we made the decision in 2016, then people sort of just didn’t think about it.”

This caused concerns at the time, with some student tutors finding it unfair, as mentioned in our previous article.

Habgood expressed VUWSA’s concerns to Salient, saying that, “Given that faculties have been putting in place more robust marking and moderation procedures, we also remain concerned that these […] would either be ignored or push faculties past the grade entry deadline.”

Larner appeared unconcerned about the impact that the changes would have on students, despite acknowledging students now face a shortened (and more intensive) exam period.

“There was an agreement that the scheduling [of exams] would take place so no one would be forced to take three exams in two days,” remarked Larner.


Regarding the (now much shorter) three-working-day marking period, Larner again appeared to play down concerns, “We are [changing scheduling] for the first time.”


She continued, “I think it will require students to be thinking a little bit differently as well, so the idea that you can do your exam and then study for the next one, and do [another] exam then study for the next one.”

Habgood responded, stating “It is not enough that students have the onus of ‘thinking differently’ about how to handle exams, or that only long-term solutions are in place.”

The university’s solution is to spread out exam timetabling, regardless of the shorter time span in which they are to be completed.

Concerns for both students and staff seem to be shared by many around the university, and VUWSA urges VUW to find immediate solutions “that would mitigate the risks brought about by the condensed mid-year timeline for Trimester 1, 2019.”

Salient brought up other issues from the interview to VUWSA. These included: VUWSA’s role and actions following the 2016 decision; whether they had information on additional resourcing for struggling tutors alluded to by Larner; if VUWSA held any concerns about Larner’s apparent doubt that exams would not be marked on time and whether such concerns had been taken into account; and whether VUWSA had any stance on the university’s desire to create a 12-week third trimester.


Habgood’s written response did not address all of these specifically. However, he said that “VUWSA remains extremely concerned about the implications of the condensed exam timeline, and marking deadline, to both students and staff.”

Salient also asked if VUWSA had plans to get students informed about the changes that would be occurring. This was addressed in a previous VUWSA exec meeting, where Rinaldo Strydom and Geo Robrigado indicated messaging would begin around the time the timetable was released.

“The university has a responsibility to mitigate the risks to students that arise from these changes.”

The university’s assessment handbook, which outlines requirements around assessments, is available on the university website.

If you have questions and concerns about the upcoming exams, you can talk to VUWSA’s student advocate Erica Schouten, your Class Rep, and/or your course co-ordinator.


The full transcript of the interview with Provost Wendy Larner can be found on the Salient website.


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