Timetabling Principles

Establishment: Vice Chancellor's Committee, 16 October 2013
Responsible Officer: Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)

1.  Purpose

To achieve coordinated and consistent timetabling practices across Flinders University campuses in facilitating the timely production of a single optimised University timetable.


2.  Scope

Applies to the timetabling of all teaching activities at Flinders University, and therefore to all students registered for those activities and staff who teach or directly support those activities.


3.  Definitions

  • Activity: each topic has activities associated to it and can have more than one (e.g. Lectures, Tutorials, Placements, Practicals).
  • Class: each activity that requires timetabling will have a least one class associated with it.  Students register in classes.
  • Clash: an occurrence of two or more teaching activities scheduled at the same time or which overlap.
  • Core topic: a mandatory topic taken to fulfil the requirements for a course.
  • Course: the combination of topics, according to the course rules, that leads to an award of a qualification (e.g. Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science).
  • Elective topic: a topic selected from a wide range of topics taken to fulfil the requirements for a course
  • Non-teaching bookings: any booking of University space not intended for teaching activity.
  • Option topic: a topic from a nominated list taken to fulfil the requirements for a course.
  • Resources: teaching rooms and teaching equipment (e.g. audio visual facilities, lecture recording and video conferencing).
  • Room suitabilities: the room and location attributes that inform the scheduling and room allocation process.
  • Specialised teaching space: space designed for specific teaching and learning purposes (e.g. scientific labs, clinical and professional training labs such as anatomy labs and moot courts, editing suites, observation facilities).
  • Teaching space: any room or combination of rooms used to conduct teaching activities.
  • Timetabled study pattern: a combination of topics which should not clash due to a high likelihood of students doing this combination, or published as a mandatory or highly desirable combination for any course.
  • Timetabling Services: the central office responsible for the management of the University timetable.
  • Timetabling system: Syllabus Plus/Syllabus+ is the system used for the timetabling of teaching activities and the booking of non-teaching events in teaching spaces, known as the timetabling system at Flinders.
  • Topic availability: a specific instance of a topic which is available for enrolment in a forthcoming teaching period, campus location and mode of study (e.g. NURS1101, Semester 1, Riverland, Internal).
  • Topic: the basic component of a course in which a student will enrol, called a ‘unit of study’ in Australian government relevant legislation and guidelines.


4.  Principles

The University’s timetable supports the delivery of high-quality teaching, enabling students to learn effectively and complete the requirements of a course within the normal duration in accordance with the course rules.

Timetabling is a jointly managed process, with teaching staff determining the appropriate mode of delivery and the resources needed for their teaching, and Timetabling Services, in conjunction with School timetable coordinators, determining how best to meet these needs within the constraints imposed by available resources and the need to minimise topic clashes.

Teaching activities will be scheduled at times and in places that are consistent with:

  • best practice in teaching and learning;
  • facilitating student attendance and student choice of topic and/or class;
  • University policies in relation to work, life and family, equity and diversity;
  • occupational health and safety and fire code regulations (e.g. room capacity restrictions, staff working conditions);
  • the use of specialised teaching space for its designated purpose;
  • utilising teaching space and resources effectively and efficiently; and
  • equitable allocations for staff and students.


5. Teaching times

Classes will normally be scheduled between 8 am and 6 pm on Monday to Friday.  Topics in courses advertised as being available after hours may have classes scheduled between 6 pm and 10 pm.  Classes may also be made available on the weekend to meet the study needs of particular student groups.

All classes will normally be scheduled in full hour periods, or multiples thereof, and timetabled to commence on the hour. All teaching will cease 10 minutes prior to the scheduled end time to enable subsequent classes to commence on time. The scheduling of classes will, as far as practicable, take account of the time necessary for travel across and between campuses.


6.  Teaching space

All teaching space owned by the University will be centrally scheduled and in the timetabling system. Other locations at which Flinders University students are taught may be included in the timetabling system at the discretion of the Manager, Timetabling in order to facilitate the delivery of a clash-free timetable or to provide information to students about their teaching program.

Teaching spaces will:

a)  have a maximum capacity associated with them consistent with public safety and access requirements as specified in the Building Code of Australia, and an optimum capacity consistent with the general purpose for which the room is normally used;
b)  be categorised as either general teaching space or specialised teaching space by Buildings and Property in accordance with  industry standards and guidelines and in consultation with
all Faculties and schools; and
c)  will have room suitabilities specified that indicate the nature of the space, the pedagogic possibilities and the teaching equipment available.

The use of specialised teaching space is normally determined by virtue of the equipment located in it, particular furnishings and/or room layout. These spaces may also include spaces that are normally reserved for research activities which are made available at selected times for teaching activities.  Use of specialised teaching space may be restricted in a manner deemed appropriate by the Manager, Timetabling in consultation with the relevant School and/or Faculty.


7.  Timetable construction

All teaching activities must be timetabled within the timetabling system regardless of whether they take place in general teaching space, specialised teaching space or off-campus facilities, in order to avoid timetable clashes, to enable complete timetables to be provided to students and staff, and for the University to manage and oversee space utilisation.

Each School must have at least one appointed School timetable coordinator. Timetabling constraints and requirements for the forthcoming year’s timetable will be submitted by the School timetable coordinators to Timetabling Services in accordance with the published annual timetabling schedule. The School Dean is responsible for ensuring that the School timetable coordinator has access to the required data and information.

Schools can nominate clash-free paths for topic combinations for each semester in all courses and combined courses. These topic combinations (timetabled study patterns), which will normally include expected combinations of core, option and nominated elective topics, will be scheduled clash-free as far as possible. Where no prescribed combinations have been provided, only the core topics will be scheduled clash-free.  Elective topics cannot be guaranteed clash-free with core and option topics within a course.  In the case of students undertaking two courses simultaneously, other than approved combined courses, the University cannot guarantee a clash-free timetable.

The University will normally auto-generate the timetable in order to support an equitable level of student choice, consider the impact of teaching technology on activities, enable the scheduling of new topics and optimise the use of teaching resources. In years when the auto-generated timetable process is not undertaken, a timetable rolled over from the previous year will be amended as needed to construct the new timetable.

In constructing the timetable it is assumed that all staff who teach or directly support teaching are available throughout the standard teaching week and in accordance with the University teaching times as specified in clause 5 above, except where a member of staff is employed on a part-time basis, or where a variation to the these hours of availability has been approved by the Dean of School.

The timetable will be available to teaching and support staff in ‘draft’ form, prior to publication, for feedback and resolution of identified scheduling issues. 

The timetable for a forthcoming academic year will be published in accordance with the published annual timetabling schedule no less than 2 weeks prior to the commencement of enrolment.


8.  Prioritisation for scheduling

When scheduling the timetable, all teaching activities will be scheduled before non-teaching bookings held in teaching space, other than non-teaching bookings of high strategic priority as approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).

The timetable process will, as far as practicable, spread class times across the week in accordance with student and staff expectations, and will aim to restrict the scheduling of classes for students and staff to a maximum of four consecutive hours.  Classes will also be scheduled with a view to minimising the number of staff and students required to attend classes that start early and finish late on the same day, or finish late and start early on the following day.

Schools and/or staff with offices located in a particular building will not have exclusive use of general purpose teaching spaces in that building, but priority will be given to locating classes in the same or nearby building where possible. There is no entitlement to use of a particular teaching space based on historical usage.

The following principles will be applied to teaching activities (not in priority order, and all other factors being equal):

  • classes that need access to specialised equipment, facilities or support staff (technician and/or professional) in a room take priority over classes that do not;
  • substantially larger classes take priority over smaller classes;
  • classes that need to be in close proximity to another room or building take priority;
  • classes where there is a single occurrence (all students in the topic are required to attend) take priority over other classes with multiple options;
  • classes offered over a greater number of weeks take priority over those that take place in fewer weeks;
  • classes of longer duration take priority over classes of shorter duration; and
  • classes in which a student or staff member has a disability necessitating particular arrangements or reasonable adjustments may be given priority over the above.

Conflicts arising from the application of these priorities and related timetabling decisions will be initially dealt with via communication between the relevant School and Timetabling Services. Where a satisfactory resolution cannot be found the matter will be referred to the Deputy Vice- Chancellor (Academic) (or nominee) for a decision after appropriate consultation.


9.  Post-publication timetable changes

Changes to the timetable after final publication will be kept to a minimum as students use the timetable to make enrolment and class registration decisions that best fit their academic  interests as well as their family and work commitments.  Such changes must be approved by the School Dean (or nominee) and communicated to affected students and staff as soon as  possible.

It is the responsibility of the relevant School to ensure that information used to prepare the University timetable is accurate and subsequent changes are only made for valid reasons. Valid reasons for changes include:

a) unexpected staff turnover;
b) teaching space is identified as unsafe;
c) enrolment fluctuations requiring additional classes or cancellation of published classes;
d) a topic or class is deemed no longer viable; and
e) reasonable adjustments to accommodate students and staff with special needs.

Timetabling Services may relocate classes based on enrolment numbers and room capacity to achieve the best possible space optimisation taking into consideration the priorities for scheduling the timetable as specified in clause 8 above.


10.  Non-teaching bookings in teaching space

All non-teaching bookings requesting general teaching or specialised teaching space will be administered using the timetabling system.  Refer to the non-teaching booking policy and clause 8 above for further information.