PLANS are afoot to change the way the University of York runs its academic year.

It would mean the university – which has more than 15,000 students and about 3,000 staff – working on an American-style semester system, consisting of two 15-week semesters instead of the current three three-month terms.

Kallum Taylor, president of the University of York Students’ Union (YUSU), said if given the go-ahead the move could have a big impact on student life.

A university spokeswoman said departments were being consulted on the possibility of moving to a semester structure and no decision had yet been made.

She said: “The consultation is in response to problems identified with issues such as programme structure, exam timing and workload.

“For example, problems include the current unequal length teaching periods, which mean there is a difference between student workloads in different terms and different programmes. There is also a heavy staff workload for marking and teaching in early spring.

“Departments are being asked to comment on which of two options is best for their programmes, students and staff: retaining the current structure of the academic year or implementing two equal 15-week teaching and assessment periods per year, ie two semesters.”

A university spokesperson said it was too early to say whether any changes would affect jobs.

She said: “There is no direct link between a possible move to a system based on semesters and changes to staffing levels. We are consulting on a range of possibilities and further comment at this stage would be premature.”

Mr Taylor said: “No decision has been made yet, and the conversation about the matter hasn’t taken place outside a handful of standard calendar meetings.

“We’ll be hoping to run a detailed, clear referendum next term on the matter to give YUSU a proper stance on the issue, as currently opinion is split in a variety of ways.

“Even if we were to go down the semesterisation route, we don’t yet know which form it will take as it can be implemented in several ways.

“It’s a potentially huge move for the university, and will impact on absolutely everything to do with it, from the classroom to staff terms and conditions, and even how our sports team and societies work.”

Any proposal to adopt the semester system would, if passed, take effect in the academic year 2015/16.