Polytechnic University students are protesting against shorter revision and examination periods. The permanent cutbacks are to give faculties more time to prepare for an expected enrolment surge in September and longer degree programmes.
Yesterday was the end of a 10-day exam period, a reduction from the usual 13 to 15 days. That was preceded by only one day of revision between the last day of classes, April 16, and the first day of the exams, April 18. In the past, revision periods would last for three to eight days.
In another change to the PolyU calendar, the new academic year will start on September 17, instead of September 1 as was past practice.
About 400 students signed a petition on the Wall of Democracy on campus demanding at least five revision days and 15 exam days in future. Some called for a rejection of the exam results this semester and an option to retake the papers.
'Some of my friends who had back-to-back exams, sometimes two within one day, gave up studying for some subjects because there was no time,' first-year computing student Au Man-ki said.
PolyU announced the cutbacks in March last year, in response to education reforms that will double first-year intakes at all Hong Kong universities come September. The final batch of A-Level pupils will enter the swansong three-year degree programmes, together with the first batch of students taking four-year degree courses, who will have just obtained the new Diploma of Secondary Education. The changes mean a bulge in undergraduate numbers in the next few years.
Keith Chan Chun-chung, acting dean of students, posted a letter on the Wall of Democracy yesterday reiterating PolyU's stance. He said PolyU needed ample time to prepare for the double cohort of students entering in the next academic year.
PolyU's arrangements might differ from other universities, he wrote, because it had a larger student population studying a wider and more complex variety of subjects.
PolyU has the most students of the seven universities; it has 18,000 full-time students this academic year. Next biggest are the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University, each with about 13,000.
Andy Chan Man-fai, president of the PolyU students' union and a second-year engineering student, said: 'I don't understand why student grades are compromised to make up for PolyU staff's poor organisational skills. We need more than one day of revision because there is no way we can study while classes are still going on, as we still have to make presentations and finish assignments.
'I had only five exams, but my friends who are reading double degrees were very stressed.'
Au said: 'We are starting the next semester later than usual, which means we have four long months of summer. Why can't they just give us a few more days to study?'
On the Wall of Democracy, two former presidents of the students' union wrote that they were informed only after the changes were in place.
Keith Chan wrote in the letter that calendars for the 2011/12 and 2012/13 years were decided after in-depth discussions with a committee that included representatives from the student body and different faculties.
PolyU will take in 2,460 first-year bachelor's degree students for its three-year programme this September, and an additional 2,337 students for its four-year programme.