Education Division Deputy Vice Chancellor Education Academic Calendar Refresh – staff FAQs

Academic Calendar Refresh – staff FAQs

The refreshed academic calendar is a three-tier calendar comprised of semesters, carousels (short-form study periods), and trimesters, with the latter being the primary model to be used by most courses. The refreshed calendar model will be gradually introduced from 2024.

At the heart of the refreshed calendar is a trimester model, where teaching is split over three study periods during a calendar year. At JCU, this is known as the 3+3+3 model. Trimesters give students increased opportunities for mobility in Australia and overseas, and more options to accelerate their degree and balance work/life/study.

The trimester model responds to the demand for flexible, year-round learning and increases JCU’s competitiveness in a crowded higher education market. The approach simplifies and aligns the number, length, and timing of study periods across all JCU locations and jurisdictions.

A trimester model offers teaching in three equal-length study periods, and shorter, 10-week blocks of study. The move to trimesters brings JCU in line with many universities in Australia and aligns with the broader international student calendar.

A model 2024 Academic Calendar can be viewed here (pdf).

This webpage is designed to respond to frequently asked questions from staff and will be updated as further questions emerge. To provide feedback directly please email:

Staff Survey

The University created a working group to consider the implications for the wider establishment of trimesters and carousels. Using feedback already received, the working group has developed an online survey for staff about implementing the refreshed calendar, and in particular, trimesters. We invite you to complete the survey:

Staff – Academic Calendar Refresh Survey

The survey will take about 10 minutes of your time and is open from 27 February – 12 March 2023.

The move to trimesters (the 3+3+3 model), brings JCU in line with the majority of universities in Australia and overseas - increasing our competitiveness in a crowded higher education market. The change also aligns JCU Australia, JCU Singapore and JCU Brisbane, which increases opportunities for shared study experiences.

The flexibility allowed by trimesters means students can better manage their study and structure their own degree progression, and options to accelerate their degree.

The January-December Trimester model presents new opportunities. Based on student data trends it is evident that many students undertake part-time loads (usually 3 subjects per semester) due to a variety of circumstances.

JCU also celebrates the diversity in our student demographic including low SES, first in family and adult students returning to study. The January-December trimester aligns with the Queensland school year, provides a two week break in the middle of the year for school holidays, permits additional entry points across the year with carousels, and permits a break at Christmas time across all campuses.

The trimester model aligns with university calendars in the Northern Hemisphere, providing additional opportunities for international students such as student exchange or study abroad programs.

The three-tiered calendar will have the trimester as its primary study period model, but where criteria are met, fast-tracked, modularised, short-form, and intensive teaching periods (the majority known as carousels) will be utilised.

Some JCUA courses are already taught in trimester mode, such as undergraduate and postgraduate Business, Commerce, Tourism, and IT courses. Other Colleges are actively investigating and considering a move to trimesters ready for 2024.

Most courses are expected to move to the 3+3+3 model. This could be triggered by a:

  • Comprehensive Course Review
  • Annual Course Performance Review
  • Mandatory course review for professional (re)accreditation.

All new course proposals should presume a trimester architecture. Exceptions to trimesters must be approved by University Executive.

Some courses may apply for approval to operate a different calendar. However, the trimester model is expected to be adopted by the majority of courses and for the majority of student load.

In most cases trimesters will be introduced at the first-year level and will be then rolled out across subsequent years. Some disciplines may prefer to introduce trimesters across all years, and this will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Staff and students will be supported in the event that some subjects are offered in both trimester and semester formats during the overlap/transition period.

A carousel is a short-form study period consisting of a six-or seven-week period of teaching followed by assessment and marking. There are six carousels in each academic year, closely aligned to trimester start and end dates. It is possible that some courses may be taught in-part or entirely as carousels.

Some courses are already using or considering the carousel model in their structure. For example, JCU currently operates the carousel model in several postgraduate courses and undergraduate Education subjects. JCUB is trialling a late 2023 intake using carousels and is modelling this relative to its student intake data and staffing allocation.

End of study period examinations are not permitted in carousels unless required by a regulatory body.

The March, July, and November carousels permit routine intake periods for international students, which provides JCU with a possible six entry points (although this is discipline specific).

Three trimesters are contained within a calendar year. Exact dates are yet to be confirmed, but T1 will begin around late January and conclude in late April, T2 will begin in mid-May and conclude in early August, and T3 will begin in early September and conclude in late November each year.

The aim is to provide scheduled and predictable gaps between study periods to afford a break for students and academic staff, and to create time for other activities.

Most courses and subjects will need redesigning for trimester offerings (or carousel if required). However, moving to trimesters affords an opportunity to reconsider and enhance learning design and assessment.

During 2023, JCU will provide resources and guidelines about how teaching, learning and assessment will take place using the 3+3+3 model, and how staff will be supported to undertake any redesign of courses and subjects.

The JCU Academic Calendar Design Principles underline the need for well thought out and enacted learning design.

With a staggered implementation beginning in 2024, efficiencies will be gained in administration, academic work, and communication.

  • Where possible, periods between trimesters and recess periods in trimesters will align with Australian school holidays.
  • Alignment of study periods offers the potential for staff mobility across different locations.
  • There will be improved distribution of resources, and reduced duplication of effort.

Changes to how and when subjects are offered will have a significant impact on the use of sessional staff and/or the availability of in-service practitioners to teach into subjects.

The University is currently assessing the impact of the trimester model on professional placements and other work-integrated learning activities and is reviewing established best practice in the sector.

Other matters under consideration are that:

  • Examinations, numbers of examinations and allied processes are kept to a minimum
  • Subject pre-requisites, sequencing and electives are kept to a minimum to enable more flexible access to subjects.

The service teaching subjects, such as Mathematics and Science-based subjects common to some courses, and usually first year (core) subjects, are likely to be impacted in the initial years of the trimester implementation.

This is being attended to in the course mapping and opens opportunities for revised course and subject design, led by Deans, Course Coordinators,and Academic Heads.

Current trimester planning in Singapore assures a holiday for Lunar New Year celebrations. Dates for the holiday are flexible to align with the Lunar New Year calendar each year.

The holiday period will occur within the first few weeks of study for students and scholarly literature suggests a lessening impact on learning.

Deans, Course Coordinators, and Academic Heads, including JCUS staff, will be involved in the calendar planning.

The University has established an Academic Calendar Advisory Committee that reports to Education Committee. Its duties include overseeing the implementation of the refreshed calendar and its operation in the 2023/24 to 2025/26 calendar years.

Thereafter, Education Committee and Academic Board will consider academic calendar items as part of normal business.