The University’s Academic Council has formally approved plans to introduce an “Independent Learning Week” in Week Six of Semester One.
There will be no classes or deadlines scheduled for during this week.
The decision follows years of debate and discussion after the University removed the previous “Reading week” that existed in the first semester of the academic year in 2012.
The move was taken following consolation over several years between the University and the Students’ Association, with current Director of Representation Joe Tantillo, as well as his predecessors Teddy Woodhouse and Ondrej Hajda, making efforts to seek a reintroduction of the Reading week in some form.
Mr Tantillo said, “Since the changing of the academic calendar, students have been pushing for some form of mid-semester break or gap, because of the heavy workload and accumulation of deadlines in Weeks six, seven and eight.
“Myself, and my predecessors, Teddy Woodhouse and Ondrej Hajda have been pushing for this for quite some time, working together with the school presidents and gathering as much student feedback and data as possible to convince the academics that some sort of break or pause in teaching was necessary, both from a wellbeing perspective and to better understand all the information that’s been presented to us in the first half of that semester.
“I think it’s pretty clear when you see students walking around in Week nine and ten, and their faces are drooping and everyone’s in a bad mood you can just tell that the workload was too heavy and coming in at a constant flow without any break at all, I think this is going to help to alleviate that so much.
“I think it’s going to help people, if they use this week appropriately, to catch up on their studies, catch up on essays, have a bit of break and have some time to recollect themselves.”
In a statement to a joint meeting of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) and Student Services Council (SSC) Mr Tantillo went on to say that the move was in response to persistent requests from student representatives and members of staff who felt the need for students in particular to have a “breather in the middle of a very compressed semester.”
In explaining the University’s decision, Mr Tantillo also said that while there was no evidence to show that students’ grades had suffered since the academic calendar was changed in 2012-13, many have remained convinced that a break in teaching and tests was important both for academic consolidation and for well-being.
However, Mr Tantillo also added that both and he and the University were keen to emphasise that the week should not be considered a holiday, but as a chance to catch up on work and learning.
“The week will be integrated into the curriculum and Schools will make clear the work they expect students to do during that time. Students and staff will all be expected to complete their usual duties.
“Extra-curricular activities and normal university business will continue as usual. Schools will make clear to students how to contact them if they need to ask for academic guidance. Some Schools may make other activities – e.g. field trips – available.”
In order to make up for the lack of teaching and classes in Week six, more teaching will now begin during Orientation week and will extend until the end of Week eleven, with Week 12 becoming revision week.
Continuing Mr Tantillo said, “As far as possible, the week will be timed to coincide with local holidays, allowing University staff with families a better chance to take approved leave.
“In 2016-17, this will fall in Week 6. Raisin Monday will also fall in that week.”
The decision has also been taken in order to end what has often been seen as a scattered approach by different departments to deal with student workloads, with schools such as International Relations introducing their own reading weeks.