In a student council meeting on the 1st of February, the Cambridge University Student Union (SU) Undergraduate President, Ben Margolis, proposed his plan to restructure the Cambridge term to create a Reading week in the middle of term.
The proposal was largely instigated by concerns about student wellbeing in the SU; the results of last year’s SU Student Loneliness Report found that 75% of the student respondents felt lonely at the University on a daily or weekly basis, while in a report conducted by Wonkhe in 2019, the national average for students was 49%. Cambridge students were also twice as likely as UK students to feel that they did not have anyone to call on. The SU report identified the key contributing factor to student loneliness to be the University’s academic workload, with 62% of respondents agreeing with the statement ‘the intensity of the workload is a barrier to making friends and having a healthy social life’.
The Undergraduate President has concluded that “the current nature of Cambridge education is actively detrimental to student’s education”; “there’s nothing inherently good about a deadline-heavy eight week structure and then nothing for twelve weeks, this doesn’t equate to a good education”.
As well as tackling loneliness, his proposal hopes to create more time for the academic and extra-curricular opportunities Cambridge offers, as well as to reduce the number of students forced to consider or undertake intermission for academic reasons.
Under the proposal the start of term would be moved forward three days, and the end of term back two days, creating a new week to be used as a reading week, while making sure the term stayed within the 10 week lease most Cambridge colleges offer, and therefore at no extra cost to students.
The proposal would also introduce a full freshers’ week to Michaelmas term and a weekend. At the moment the Cambridge week runs from Thursday to Friday rather than Monday to Friday, so lectures and classes can take place on the weekend.
Mr Margolis said: “I was elected on the promise that I would challenge the traditions of Cambridge education, and I wouldn’t shy away from proposing comprehensive solutions to the problems that undergraduate students face.”
The proposal is currently under consultation. The Undergraduate President must pass a student mandate at a meeting on the 15th March, after which the proposal would be passed to the General Board’s Education Committee for consideration during this academic year.