Explainer: why does DCU hold its exams after Christmas?

Rachel Halpin

Students have complained that studies for exams after Christmas disrupt the festivities. Image credit: Sonja Tutty

The semester one exam period in DCU is coming up. The two week period starts on the January 7th and finishes on the 19th, where over 16,000 students will sit exams. 

DCU is one of the only two universities in Ireland that holds their semester one exams after the Christmas break, starting in early January. The only other Irish universities who hold their exams in January are NUI Maynooth and Sligo IT.

However, this is set to change. The College View reported this week that the academic calendar will change for the 2020/2021 academic year, with Semester One examinations being held before the Christmas break. According to Students’ Union VP for Academic Affairs, Callaghan Commons, the new calendar will bring the university more in line with other third level institutions.

“The proposed changes to the academic calendar is to make DCU more in line with the calendars of other universities around Ireland such as Trinity, UCD and NUI Galway as well meaning that DCU will have their exams before Christmas,” he said.

“I believe that the changes to the calendar would be a great thing as this means that students will be able to enjoy their Christmas without the stress of exams hanging over them. However, there is a few kinks that will have to be worked out before the changes can be implemented such as the effect this will have on courses that have placement, the amount of study weeks that students will have before the exams and and various other factors. Ultimately, I do think it will be a benefit to students and I would welcome this change whenever it takes place,” he added.

The current system sees complaints from DCU students that as their exams are held in January, they are concerned that they will have a stressful Christmas, as they will be studying and preparing for the exams through the holiday and not have any time to enjoy the festivities and relax.

Although students have more time to study between classes and exams, the looming examinations they face in the New Year is likely to put a damper on celebrations. 

Eamonn Mackey, a second year Economics, Politics and Law student in DCU, has experienced having exams before and after Christmas as he has previously done a year of study in UCD. Having experienced both, he said he prefers to have exams after Christmas.

“I think that there are good and bad things about both ways but having exams after Christmas gives people more time to prepare themselves for exams and while you may be stressed during the holiday period, it’s a manageable stress because of how much time you have to study,” Mackey said.

“The problem that I had with having exams before Christmas was that I found myself with nothing to do after Christmas,  there’s no college for another month so unless you have a part-time job you may start to feel extremely unproductive. Last Christmas I had only started my current job and was working four/five days a week, which, along with assignments, left very little time for me to study for my exams and so I ended up feeling extremely stressed and entirely unprepared,” he added.

Besides DCU and NUIM , all other universities in Ireland have their semester one examinations scheduled during the early weeks of December. These universities are Trinity College, University College Cork, UCD, NUIG and University of Limerick.

As their exams are scheduled before the holiday, their academic year starts earlier than DCU and NUIM who have theirs scheduled after the break.

Having exams before Christmas can be full on for students as everything is happening so close together. However, on the other hand it gives students the advantage to have everything completed before the break.

Emma King, a third year General Science student in NUIG, has her semester one exams before Christmas. She feels as though having her exams before Christmas puts a lot of pressure on her as there is less time to prepare and she is trying to balance her assignments and classes with studying for the exams all in the one semester.

“Personally, while I find having exams before Christmas stressful due to lack of time, once they are finished it means I’m free to enjoy the holidays/break without having to worry about studying. It has it problems however with regards to the “run-up to Christmas” as I feel like there are times when I miss out on the festivities,” she said.

Rachel Halpin

Image credit: Sonja Tutty