Programme - Speakers

Speaker: Hannah White-Overton


Hannah White-Overton joined Imperial College London as Head of Timetabling Projects in April 2009. She has been instrumental in the implementation of automated timetabling for the Faculty of Engineering, working in partnership with EventMap Ltd. Prior to joining Imperial, Hannah was the Timetabling and Space Manager for the University of Roehampton, where she was responsible for the implementation of centralised timetabling and space planning. Hannah’s background is in computing and has lectured at Brunel University as well as been involved in the curriculum management of computing at several higher and further education colleges.

Talk Title - Timetabling: A Comparison of Old and New

As a direct result of the current economic climate, universities are finding themselves working within a constrained financial module, where space is at a premium. This linked with the uncertainty over future funding, suggests that now more than ever the focus is on ‘smart’ recruitment targets and timetables that fulfil expectations on a number of levels, including the effective use of space. Coupled with the green agenda and energy saving initiatives the way forward is to utilise space to the optimum, through automated timetabling practices.

This paper seeks to examine the conflicting priorities of timetabling, by directly contrasting the distinct cultural differences between ‘old’ and ‘new’ universities (pre and post 1992) and their attitudes towards change, focusing on the institutional culture and change management processes adopted. The specific focus of the paper will be the implementation of change in relation to centralised timetabling within two major universities, one traditional and one new, and cite real life case studies, while referencing processes within a wide ranging number of universities as well as extensive research in the field of automation and timetabling. This paper further seeks to evaluate the impact of where timetabling sits within an institutional model and the timetabling ‘toolkit’ available to practitioners.

Speaker: Zeb Nash


Zeb Nash is a business analyst and research consultant with a portfolio of experience relating to the schools, further and higher education sectors. Zeb has completed major evaluative and research based studies for a number of UK education bodies across these sectors, and has worked with higher education institutions to improve business processes and manage change. Zeb’s insight into the education sector stems from his early career as a secondary school science teacher.

Talk Title - UK Higher education: sector wide study of timetabling and resource scheduling: presentation of findings and discussion

JISC commissioned Oakleigh in Spring 2008 to conduct a study of administrative processes relating to timetabling and resource scheduling within UK higher education. The output from this work was a report published online in early 2009, designed to be accessible to a range of interested individuals and organisations. The report includes a summary of the current approaches to timetabling and resource scheduling, an analysis of current issues and challenges, and use of technology. The report highlights the building blocks necessary to achieve successful practice, allowing institutions to consider the implementation of these.

The report is available online here.

The purpose of this session is to present the summary findings of this study, followed by a discussion where attendees will be invited to further consider how the issues identified can be overcome, and the extent to which the sector has progressed since early 2009.

Speaker: Julie Lane


Julie Lane has over 16 years of timetabling experience and remembers the days when timetabling was done with paper, pencil and rubber! She has been working at Sheffield Hallam University for over 5 years as Timetabling Manager. Previously Julie worked at The Nottingham Trent University where she 'fell' into her first timetabling post quite by accident - and took to it like a duck to water! Her first role was timetabling the Nottingham Business School undergraduate and postgraduate courses for approximately 4,000 students. After a number of years, she became the Timetabling Manager before taking up a similar post at Sheffield Hallam University where 30,000 individual student timetables are produced. Julie is not only responsible for Corporate Timetabling, but also the utilisation survey, acts as Client for classroom refurbishments and new builds, customer feedback and reviews, space modelling, and she is also responsible for ensuring that the student and staff experience of the teaching space is enhanced.

Talk Title - Combining auto-scheduling and enhancing space utilisation

What truly lies behind the myth of pressing the magic button? To auto-schedule successfully, the timetabler needs to understand the teaching priorities for each activity and the constraints on the available resources such as equipment, staff, rooms etc. The teaching activities need to be grouped in such a way to ensure that each activity is scheduled in an appropriate room at an appropriate time. Coupled with ensuring that the student experience is enhanced and improving upon space utilisation - it appears that it is an impossible task.

So just how can we group teaching activities? What are the priorities? And how can we enhance the student experience whilst maintaining an efficient use of the estate available?

At Sheffield Hallam University, auto-scheduling is used primarily for the allocation of any activities over the size of 60; approximately 2,000 in total ranging from one week activities of 8 hours duration to one hour year long activities. Julie will talk about the process of auto-scheduling and the need for manual intervention. She will then further explain how the utilisation report has been developed to inform faculties exactly how space is being used. This is not from a cold hearted cost efficiency perspective but through an appreciation and understanding of timetabling needs and ultimately the use of this information to improve upon the student experience whilst simultaneously maximising the estate.

Speaker: Huw Charles


Huw Charles is a Senior Project Manager at UCL in the Information Services Division, which he joined in 2005. Between 2007 and 2010 Huw was the Project Manger for the Common Timetable Project, which in Oct 2009 delivered a common system for the capture of all teaching related events, a common framework for the delivery of undergraduate teaching, common timescales, common business processes for the development of the academic timetable and the delivery of individual personalised student timetables to all students online.

Huw’s background has been in software development and support. Prior to joining UCL he held positions in product development and product management at a number of North American software companies including Symantec Inc. and latterly held a senior position responsible for worldwide product support at a U.K based software development company.

Talk Title - Mitigation of risk in the introduction of a Common Teaching Timetable across an institution

In 2007 University College London embarked upon an ambitious project to implement a common teaching timetable across the whole institution. UCL, ranking in the top 10 of world Universities by several indexes, is a multi-faculty institution made up of 8 faculties organised into 3 Schools, with approximately 13,000 undergraduate students and 6,500 taught post-graduate students each year.

The initiate derived from a Green Paper, setting out the agenda for development at the University for the 5 years 2007-20012 recognised the need to review the way major administrative functions were handled, including the organisation and timetabling of teaching, with a view to simplification and rationalisation.

The presentation will outline the historic background and timeline of the Common Timetable Project with specific reference to the difficulties that are encountered by a large institution that seeks to introduce widespread change to current working practices, and introducing techniques that can be adopted to help facilitate this change

Speaker: Amyas Philips

Talk Title - Finding Time for Curriculum Innovation

Teaching is half the business of universities. Under pressure to do more teaching using fewer resources, HEIs have adopted blended learning techniques, concentrated on core subjects, boosted cohort sizes, and sought to make better use of fixed assets. Estates savings in this last category can be large, leading institutions to justify timetabling investments in terms of financial cost/benefit, but this is a mistake: timetabling support offers teaching benefits too, particularly in terms of enabling curriculum innovation.

This is a far more compelling argument for teaching staff, whose support is essential for the success of any timetabling project, and its importance in enabling institutional teaching and learning strategies should not be underestimated. In this talk, I will explore this neglected aspect of timetabling, drawing on the experiences so far of the JISC-funded Course Tools project [1] at the University of Cambridge