Societies have reported an “unpleasant opportunity cost” and noticed a drop in engagement owing to the new year structure and shorter exam period introduced as part of the Trinity Education Project.
Societies reported lower attendance at their events and difficulty in scheduling their AGMs as a result of the shorter period of time students have to study for their upcoming summer exams.
In an email statement to The University Times, Luke Feehily, the current Treasurer and Auditor-elect of the College Historical Society (the Hist), said: “The negative impact of the Trinity Education Project (TEP) on Society culture and activity is tangible. The Hist has seen reduction not in the number of active members but rather in the level of society activity that members can maintain.”
Feehily said that the new year structure has made it significantly more difficult to schedule “essential meetings – like the AGM and CSC officer handover training. It is unreasonable for events that were usually held in the first study week, to be held in what is now our only study week.”
Kate Collins, the Treasurer of the Society of International Affairs (SOFIA), expressed similar concerns. In an email statement to The University Times she said: “It’s a major issue in terms of handing over to next year’s committee as well. We have just two weeks before people start going home.”
Attendance at society events has also been hit by the new year structure, Collins said. “TEP has definitely affected turnout at our events – we’ve actually become a bit apprehensive about inviting guests for the last few weeks of term as we that it will be incredibly difficult to get people to show up.”
While it is not unusual for attendance to fall in the run-up to exams, Collins said “the fact that there’s been two exam periods this year has just meant that we’ve had to deal with the problem twice.”
Collins noted the strain this puts on committee members who have to try and balance society and College work. “When we do use some of our time to organise an event in 11th or 12th week and then hardly anyone shows up because they’re studying for exams too, it’s frustrating.”
Niamh Feeney, the Chairperson of DU Dance, echoed these concerns in an email statement to The University Times, saying: “We do have our spring showcase coming up next week and it’s worrying us slightly that we probably won’t get the attendance levels that we usually do.”
Lauren McDonald, the Chairperson of Trinity Musical Theatre, told The University Times in an email that the impact of the Trinity Education Project has been felt acutely. She said: “This AGM we had less people running for positions than the past two years. We initially had uncontested races for a number of roles.”
She continued: “We did notice a difference from last year, where there wasn’t really a need to push the positives of running for committee.”
Changes to students’ course and workload, she added, “has affected students’ stress levels which manifests in them dropping out of the show or not running for committee or production teams”.
In an email statement to The University Times, outgoing Vice-Provost Chris Morash said: “This is the first year in which students have not had all of their exams at the very end of the academic year; as a result, they will have fewer (and, in some cases, considerably fewer) exams for which to prepare at the end of Hilary Term this year than in any previous year.”
Sorcha Ryder, the current Auditor of the University Philosophical Society (the Phil) and Ryan Grunwell, the Auditor-elect, said in a joint email statement to The University Times: “We think that the additional workloads and exams, coupled with the shorter revision periods that TEP imposed have brought a multiplicity of issues [to] not just the Phil, [but] to every society.”
They said that the new year structure meant that the society had to “schedule some of our annual events to take place a lot earlier in the year to fit into the new calendar”. Another tangible impact was the fact that “it took freshers longer to balance society life with academics and find their footing within the society”.
Ryder and Grunwell said they were conscious of the impact the Trinity Education Project was having on smaller societies. “As a result, we made it a priority this year to reach out to smaller society for collaborations for both our weekly debates and guest speakers.”
Daniel O’Reilly, the Auditor-elect of the Engineering Society, confirmed to The University Times in an email statement that smaller societies are seeing their engagement take a hit. “We tried organising a joint night in the Pav on the Thursday of week 10 with 4 other societies. We pitched it as one last hurrah before exams but attendance was so low we ended up telling the Pav staff to open the side room that we’d booked because there was no point in us holding onto an empty room”, he said.
O’Reilly added: “Two dedicated study weeks and two weeks of studying on top of coursework just isn’t the same; people need to work extra hard the entire second half of the semester to make up for the lost time. That doesn’t give a whole lot of time for a society like us to operate.”
Marie Ní Raghallaigh, the Vice-President of the AIESEC Trinity, said that the society had planned for a 50 per cent drop in engagement in the last month of term, as a result of the Trinity Education Project.
This time of the year has traditionally been the busiest for their society. She said in an email statement to The University Times that this time of the year has traditionally been the busiest for their society. “This year we have study week and exams in April so our members don’t have time for marketing events and even if we had them people wouldn’t come.”
In November, The University Times reported that societies were facing similar issues in the run-up the Christmas exams. Societies noticed a decrease in freshers’ week signups, and an overall lack of engagement throughout the term, with some societies having to move events back in the term.
The new year structure – which saw students across College sit Christmas exams for the first time in Trinity’s history and the introduction of a shortened summer revision period – is part of the sweeping reforms being introduced by the Trinity Education Project.
In previous years, students would have three weeks off to study prior to the start of exams. Exams were also held over a longer period of three weeks.
The Trinity Education Project aims to diversify the range of assessment for students, with a decrease in the number of exams students sit.