According to a recent statement by Students’ Association director of representation Teddy Woodhouse, it appears that the University will be taking steps to reinstate reading week. The decision was announced following discussions between the Students’ Association and the University, and did not give students much of an opportunity to voice their opinion on the matter. The question remains: does the student body really need a reading week? If so, when should it be and how should those days be made up in the course of the year?
Arriving at the end of the semester, the general consensus among most students is that they need a break, outside of St Andrews. Many students are struggling to stay on track with their weekly reading and have to grapple with coinciding deadlines. Most students manage to pull through the trying academic times, though just barely; a reading week would certainly be desirable, particularly in the aftermath of the rambunctious activities of Raisin Weekend.
Typically, in the week following Raisin, little work gets done and few make it to all their lectures and tutorials, because most students are either recovering from god-only-knows-what they had to endure over the course of Raisin Weekend or have simply escaped from St Andrews. If there was ever a perfect time to have a reading week, this would be it: the week after Raisin would be perfect for both physical recovery and catching up on work that may have been forgotten about between the course of essay deadlines, Raisin planning, and a few too many shots at the Vic.
But if reading week is brought back, it would entail that exams be held in the middle of the winter break. Some may like this idea, as it gives students extra time to revise; still, doesn’t this defeat the purpose of a break? If reading week is reinstated then students will already have extra time to study and their winter break, when they should be relaxing or taking advantage of the time to apply for internships and gain work experience, will be weighed by unnecessary stress.
Furthermore reading week, and the resulting change in the exam schedule, may not be practical ow- ing to the multitude of international students in St Andrews. Flights are expensive, and it seems rather unreasonable to require students to return to St Andrews after Christmas and then go home again for another two weeks.
For students, winter break can be very important, especially in preparing for life after university.
Many students need this time to look for internships and gain work experience to build both character and their resume. If exams are pushed forward, not only will it be difficult to get a job over break – as most employers want their employees for relatively long, uninterrupted period – but students will lose valuable time to work on their internship applications and anything else that could help them in furthering their career options once they graduate.
If reading week is to be brought back, I propose that classes begin at St. Andrews a week earlier than they do currently. By the end of summer break, most students are looking forward to seeing their old friends again and counting down the days until they get back to St Andrews. In the US, most universities begin in the middle of August. This means that many international students are left anxiously anticipating returning to St Andrews, as many of their friends from home have already left for school.
Not only would this have a very minor impact – taking a mere week out of an extensive three-month summer holiday – but it would also mean students would get to enjoy both reading week and a longer, stress-free winter break. Ultimately, reading week is needed for the opportunity it provides for students to either catch up on work and decompress or regain their mental sanity by escaping St Andrews for a bit.
But if reading week is reinstated, it does not seem in the best interests of the students to place exams in the middle of winter break. In order to benefit from reading week, university should start earlier in the year so exams can take place before Christmas and students don’t incur unnecessary stress over Christmas.