End of Term
So here we are, then. The last day of term has finally arrived. Many of our students will be out partying tonight before they start a three-week break with little to disturb their relaxation but project reports, assignments and examination revision. Probably not all that relaxing at all then, especially for the final-year students.
For various reasons I’ve found this term very heavy going and am looking forward to spending some time away over the next couple of weeks. More about that in due course, assuming I have internet access…
The curious thing about the academic year is that since most UK universities switched to a semester system we’ve had to cope with the fact that Easter isn’t on a fixed calendar date. Last year, Easter was rather late so we managed to squeeze in a full 11 weeks teaching in before the vacation started. This year we’ve only got time for 9 weeks, so we resume teaching in three weeks’ time for another two weeks, followed by a revision week and the examination period. I think most students probably agree with me that this hiatus is extremely annoying.
This year Good Friday is on 6th April (a week today) and Easter Monday on 9th April; both are statutory (“bank”) holidays in the UK. Most universities have felt obliged to move their recess so that these two holidays occur outside term-time.
If I had my way we would have fixed semester dates so this nonsense of a 9+2 week teaching semester wouldn’t happen. Last year’s 11-week uninterrupted run was a slog, but I much prefer it over the stop-start affair we’re having this year.
I was a visiting professor at an American university over one Easter period many years ago. Given the fact that the Christian lobby is far more powerful over there than it is here I was quite surprised by the fact that there’s no real interruption for Easter. Lectures were held on Good Friday and there’s no Easter Monday holiday. Easter Sunday was definitely observed, but that had no effect on teaching.
The two Bank Holidays are a bit of a problem, of course, especially because they are followed by two more in May. However, when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, we had lectures as normal on bank holidays. I’m not sure whether that practice was restricted to Oxbridge colleges – where term dates are different to elsewhere anyway – or some other Universities did the same. I don’t even know if Oxbridge still carries on over bank holidays today…
A better solution would be to distribute the statutory holidays more evenly through the year so they weren’t concentrated so inconveniently in Spring. There would be nothing to stop Christians taking a day’s leave in order to observe Good Friday, of course.
But since only a minority of British people are practising Christians, why are the rest of us forced to arrange our calendars according to archaic and irrelevant rituals? Far better, in my opinion, to give us all a day off for the start of the cricket season…
Grumble over, it just remains for me to wish my loyal readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers) all the best for the recess, and I hope it’s a good night at the Student Ball tonight!Follow @telescoper