Why Good Timetabling Matters

Posted by Semestry

The pandemic posed a great number of challenges to the issue of timetabling with government advice changing at a rapid pace, so keeping people abreast of those changes with a flexible and secure platform became more important than ever.

We deployed TermTime in just two weeks before September term 2020 and it was up and running really quickly, producing high-quality timetables for Northumbria’s 30,000 students and staff in record time.

The pandemic has really taught everyone across the University of how the timetable impacts every aspect of the institution. That became even more apparent when we had to quickly pivot to blended and online-only delivery due to Covid restrictions.



Timetabling is hugely important to students’ experience and outcomes. It gives structure to their lives, especially for those new to university coming straight from college, home, or a work environment. It can be very comforting, an anchor for the students’ days and weeks, and help them settle into the course and into their new world with far greater ease. The university timetable is central to people’s lives.



We are constantly assessing and reassessing what makes a good timetable, listening to campus needs, and evaluating how we can put this into practice. The prevailing assumption has been that a good timetable doesn’t contain large gaps between sessions or too many consecutive hours. We’re always trying to balance competing agendas; that won’t change. Good relationships and transparency with academics are key and getting the schedule right in the first place is important, which is something we’re striving for.



Few people realise that we have an average of 4,500 timetable change requests per academic year, a third of which come in during September and October, and thanks to TermTime, we are now able to do this much faster. Around half of all change requests are for staffing changes, something very simple that doesn’t affect the timetable. The good thing about TermTime is that several users can be given access to make the more minor changes, such as a Programme Leader, meaning there’s no impact on us and the system becomes more interactive with more of its users. Most of all, TermTime brings us flexibility such as offering multiple different capacities for a single room and responding accurately to what’s happening on the ground.

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