It is time to get rid of the January reading week

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By George Ruskin, First Year French and German

The January reading week is asked for by no-one and offers no fun - it is time we rethought the system.

As we wassailed our way home in December, we cried 'See you after Christmas!' to our friends and flatmates. Most other universities had been on Christmas vacation for at least a week by this point.

The pay-off for those tortuously late December lectures? The promise of a lovely reading week slap-bang in the dullest, most depressing part of the year, before any teaching has actually had the chance to take place.

For those of us without exams, reading week has furnished us with a seemingly-endless January holiday in front of Loose Women. For poor scientists - social and otherwise - a long miserable stretch of exam rooms, dark evenings and half-empty halls. Reading week is nothing more than a half-hearted half-term, placed randomly at an arbitrary point in the so-called ‘Teaching Block’.

Some of the most miserable conversations I have had in Bristol have been discussing peoples’ plans for reading week, and the binary choice that this provokes. Either ‘dunno, going home I think’, or ‘probably just staying here, you know’. Neither seem particularly appealing at a time when all that students want is to get their exam results and move on with term, and, oh I don’t know, maybe do a degree?

reading week has furnished us with a seemingly-endless January holiday in front of Loose Women

Feasibly, a post-exam week-off is a lovely idea, but in reality, all that is achieved is a week for students to torture themselves over what-should-have-been in exams. The dreaded examination post-mortem. In all fairness, this is not one of the University’s more catastrophic errors of judgement. But in a year of sensitivity to mental health issues, it certainly needs reform.

I am no workaholic. I loved my November reading week. It was a God-send to grab a few days at home after my first hectic six weeks in a new city, surrounded by new people. However, the beginning of term is a bizarre time for the Stoke Bishop stampede to Temple Meads. Reading week’s only real beneficiaries may be Great Western Rail and Megabus.

In general, dates at Bristol make no sense. Has an SU plebiscite changed Bristol to the Mayan calendar?

This is because Bristol is unwilling to pick a side on the ‘terms-versus-semesters’ debate, and has, much like Theresa May, plumped for a middle-of-the-road solution that pleases no-one.

in reality, all that is achieved is a week for students to torture themselves over what-should-have-been in exams. The dreaded examination post-mortem.

Call me old-fashioned, but do three terms of roughly-equal length really not cut it these days? Heaven forbid if Bristol adopted semesters properly, with students arriving in August, leaving on Christmas Eve, and breaking up for the summer holidays in March. At least we would know where we stood, and semester dates- however eccentric- would be unilateral.

Scrap the reading weeks and give us three succinct terms.

I cannot stand living in the Bristol University Timezone of GMT-80 years. I would love to see Bristol scrapping reading weeks and readopting the three-term system, giving our term-times some momentum. Do this, and we will no longer have to live in this temporal hinterland.

Featured image: Unsplash/Susan Yin

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