The University will increase the length of winter holidays from four to six weeks, resulting in a two-week reduction of the summer holidays, beginning in 2019.
The motion to change semester dates was proposed by Deputy Vice Chancellor (Registrar) Tyrone Carlin and passed by the Academic Board on Tuesday, July 25.
The change means semester one will start in the last week of February rather than the first week of March, as it currently does, and semester two will begin in the first week of August rather than the last week in July.
Carlin hopes the change will help the University reach the objective in its current Strategic Plan of having 50 per cent of students take a course overseas, whether over the holidays or for a semester or longer.
He told Honi, “There’s a lot of educational reasons why we’ve been keen to do this, [and] the one that I have talked most about is the opportunity to increase the opportunities for our students to take an international mobility experience.”
The current four-week winter break is too short to coincide with many summer school courses in the northern hemisphere, as they have a far longer holiday.
However, Carlin said there are many valuable summer programs on offer in America, Asia and Europe, that the University has identified “hundreds of additional places we can offer our students” with the extra two weeks of holidays.
He also identified the possibility of expanding USyd’s own winter school offerings as a result of the change.
This follows Carlin’s unsuccessful attempt earlier this year to increase the length of the winter break by shortening semesters to 12 weeks.
That proposal was voted down by the Academic Board as a result of concerns that it would force academics to compress teaching materials and that it would mean students would be getting less value out of their degrees.
One of the concerns identified during consultations about changing semester dates was that lengthening the winter break at the expense of the summer break would leave academics with less time over the summer for activities like writing grant applications.
However, Carlin said that while there are always concerns with such changes, “I think where the [Academic] Board landed was with a view that says overall the pros outweigh the cons … I am confident that this will be enormously beneficial for our students.”
USyd Students’ Representative Council (SRC) President Isabella Brook told Honi, “We are glad to see that 13 week semesters are being retained”.
“This means that students will not face the increased pressure of learning 13 weeks of content in a shorter period of time, amongst other issues.”
The change comes as UNSW prepares to move to trimesters in 2019, despite opposition from students and claims the process lacked transparency.