Semester ConversionSemester ConversionUniversity of Cincinnati

Semester Conversion

Background

MainStreet.

Why transition now?

It’s important to realize that use of a quarter or a semester calendar system results from the demands of a particular period in time and the trends active within any particular period. For instance, UC first made the decision to go to semesters in 1892. At that time, switching to semesters was seen as a way to "reduce the number of examinations by one third, thus saving a week for instruction... ."

Later, many colleges and universities – including UC – converted to the quarter system in the early 1960s because the college-age population in the United States increased by more than 65 percent between 1960 and 1975.

The quarter calendar system was viewed not as superior in terms of teaching and learning but as a means to accommodate a greater number of students with a shorter calendar span of classes combined with an extended school day and larger class sizes. UC made the shift from semesters to quarters in the 1963-64 school year at the request of the Ohio Board of Regents. The quarter system made sense when it was necessary to fit larger numbers of class offerings into a calendar year, and flexibility was key in moving a very large number of students through higher education systems. It was also thought that that the more frequent (but shorter) breaks common to the quarter system would reduce intellectual fatigue.

However, the current climate has altered significantly from that of the 1960s and 70s. Cooperation between different segments of the higher education system in Ohio will increase during the coming years, as outlined in the University System of Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Higher Education. In accordance with that plan, Ohio’s public universities still following the quarter system will convert to semesters.
 

Advantages of a semester calendar

Academics

The main academic advantage of the semester system is that it provides greater opportunities for collaborative research and for in-depth teaching and classroom projects. A semester calendar facilitates study abroad options, student teaching and other forms of experiential learning. In addition, a semester calendar will allow underprepared students greater time to adjust to the rigors of university academic life.

Ease student transfers

Conversion will ease the transfer of students into and out of UC programs from other national institutions, most of which (90 percent) already follow the semester system. This is especially true for minority students since 94 percent of historically black colleges and universities follow the semester system. Many Ohio institutions already operate on the semester system.

Students’ careers in higher education are marked by change, and transfers between institutions or attendance at multiple institutions are common. According to the November/December 2007 issue of Currents, published by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, 60 percent of all undergraduate students (including those at community colleges) attend multiple institutions.

Conversion will help UC to “capture” more summer-school students returning home for the summer months from other institutions and wanting to enroll in courses (and in a time frame) compatible with their academic careers. (A temporary transfer, if you will.)

Job-market advantages

Conversion will provide graduating students a “first-mover” advantage when entering the job market. Most large employers schedule recruitment of new hires according to the semester calendar. Currently, UC grads enter the post-graduation job market much later than regional peers because of the university’s late graduation date.

Employers involved in UC’s cooperative education program, an important differentiator of education at UC, often prefer the semester system (already in place at most other co-op schools) because it allows for a longer work cycle, enabling employers to benefit by entrusting students with projects of greater longevity and responsibility. In addition, employers will often team co-op students from differing schools on important projects. When these students are on incompatible academic calendars, co-op students from quarter-based schools “arrive late” and “leave early” and thus, miss out on work-based opportunities.

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