Comment & Analysis
Dec 2, 2018

Year Changes Have Left Students Beyond Stressed. College Must Address the Cracks

The stress among students and the decline in society engagement point to big problems.

Léigh as Gaeilge an t-Eagarfhocal (Read Editorial in Irish) »
By The Editorial Board

Back in April, with the overhaul of the College’s curriculum firmly on the horizon, this Editorial Board wrote that students would look back on the then-upcoming exam period with nostalgia.

This week, that rings true more than ever. Students have been sent into a frenzy, buried under a heap of assignments, with many agonising over the exams ahead.

It’s worth pondering how we got to this point. Tempting though it may be to curse the College for introducing what may seem like a unfair system, semesterisation was not introduced from high. Indeed, it was students who pushed for this. A 2010 referendum, which saw 90 per cent vote for Christmas exams, suggested that there was wide support for the move, and a discussion at a 2015 Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) council came to a similar determination.


That is not to say that the negative impacts of the change to the year structure weren’t anticipated. One of the most vocal critics, former Senior Lecturer Patrick Geoghegan, repeatedly expressed concern that students would feel pressured to study throughout the year and that Trinity’s flourishing extra-curricular life would in turn be affected.

However, the real issue here seems to be more with implementation. With any major change like this, there are bound to be teething problems.

But the “massive stress” among students and the decline in student engagement with societies, revealed by The University Times this week, point to bigger issues. Some students will sit three exams in less than 24 hours. Others are overwhelmed by coursework and converging deadlines. And some students have been hit by both, in a sure sign that many schools have not yet taken to heart the core philosophy of the Trinity Education Project: to diverge from an exam-focused curriculum and instead assess students continuously or in more creative ways.

It’s true that, as the project progresses in the years to come, things will gradually improve for students. But instead of hiding behind the notion that all we’re experiencing are “teething problems”, College must address the wide cracks that have left students in this transitionary period worse off.