The below will briefly (sic) address: (1) Southern v Northern Hemisphere calendars & (2) Academic Calendar Rationalisation. It turns out these are related, for universities on Southern Hemisphere calendars the issues posed by their academic calendar provide extra incentive to consider the more efficient trimester approach.
1. Southern Hemisphere v Northern Hemisphere Academic Calendars
Its at this time of the year that I more often consider my Southern Hemisphere academic calendar. This is when my colleagues in the Northern Hemisphere are wrapping up courses, marking/grading their final class papers/exams, or are perhaps even “done and dusted” with graduation ceremonies behind them and the long summer stretching ahead. We, in contrast, are just now into exam period, followed by the winter break, and back to the semester by mid to late July. We can, however, gloat when our classes finish in November and, aside from a few summer classes, do not start again till March.
Of course, any academic calendar is the manna from heaven of work schedules. We are truly lucky to work in academia. But, if one works in the international academic environment and moves between the two hemispheres’ calendars then one notices the negative consequences and issues of the two not fitting together too well. In fact, most of my Southern hemisphere colleagues do in fact feel these issues as they will typically work in an international environment of one form or another (it is the consequence of working and living in a smaller jurisdiction). In contrast, Northern hemisphere academics typically have no idea that there is even a Southern hemisphere calendar. When informed of it, they think it is so very strange and perhaps even a bit perverse.
Coming from a smaller jurisdiction we tend to try to adjust our interaction with the Northern Hemisphere, for they will certainly not budge – as they are the overwhelming majority. Its true that from a population perspective, we are in a smaller jurisdiction. Indeed most Southern Hemisphere states are somewhat off the beaten track. Geographically most of the world’s land mass is in the Northern Hemisphere, as is a disproportionate share of the developed and dominating (often former colonial) states and legal systems. (Though, here I do have to point out that Australia bats significantly above its weight in law, especially in the international fields.)
Thus, when we plan international conferences or invite guests from the North we try to ensure the timing fits with their calendar. They never do the same for us (its not from being selfish, for they do not even know about our calendar). Similarly, our visits to their institutions, by academics or students, also fits into their calendars – when possible. While we generally are successful at such manipulations, there is no denying that we lose efficiencies and opportunities as a result of the significant differences in calendars. Of course, we also gain some opportunities not available to those working with a Northern Hemisphere calendar. For example, our students do not have to compete with the European and North American students for internships. We can run programs in our breaks that permit our students to experience term time in Northern Hemisphere campuses (e.g. the UNSW Berkeley Law program). Nonetheless, being the outlier to the major academic systems of the world may not be ideal. Indeed, the University of Tokyo recently changed its undergraduate calendar to conform to the European and North American calendars (it also had not matched up with the European/North American model – despite sitting in the “correct” hemisphere).
Perhaps we should be taking our long holidays in the winter, to huddle under blankets at the beach – so as to maintain the integrity of and fit within a mythical world calendar. Nope. Not going to happen. The beaches are, rightfully, too integral to our (as a nascent Australian I can now say “our”) culture to abandon those perfect summer holidays. So – what can be done. Perhaps academic calendar rationalisation.
2. Academic Calendar Rationalisation Continue reading