The Sunday Telegraph

Cambridge students lobby to break up ‘intense’ terms

- By Ewan Somerville

CAMBRIDGE University is being lobbied by its students to consider the first major shake-up to term time in more than a century by adding “reading weeks”.

A new university working group is drawing up plans for a half-term break in the middle of the Michaelmas and Lent terms to allow undergradu­ates to catch up on their assignment­s.

Students say the break is urgently needed because they are “burnt out halfway through term time” while battling a “culture of relentless intensity”.

If the proposal is accepted by university managers, it would be the biggest overhaul of the traditiona­l eight-week Cambridge terms for more than a century, with the current structure extending far back into its 800-year history.

The new working group is consulting colleges and stakeholde­rs on an option to extend the two-month terms to nine weeks including the reading week, plus an official Freshers’ Week in October.

Some 83 per cent of students backed the move in a recent students’ union motion, citing a spike in mental health problems with online teaching in the pandemic. Ben Margolis, president of Cambridge students’ union, said: “The Cambridge undergradu­ate education doesn’t work for everyone. Senior figures in the university have admitted this at various points over the last decade.”

He said that the evidence for this ranges from “the exacerbati­on of students’ loneliness” to “students not being able to engage with extracurri­cular activities due to worries about work”.

Several Russell Group universiti­es already have reading weeks built into their longer terms, during which campus often empties as students head home, but Oxford and Cambridge have stuck firm to three short terms.

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