Week Five is over. Week 5 colloquially translates the notion that, halfway through the term, students at Cambridge feel that they are most challenged by work. That is the claim advanced by the Cambridge Defend Education campaign #endweek5blues. I want to address their claims, and show why they are simply wrong. Moreover, as I have argued here, #endweek5blues is symptomatic of an existing problem among student politics. In this first post of a two-part series, I am going to outline the arguments raised by the campaign.
I first want to outline their arguments. In presenting the movement’s aims I have tried to copy their language as much as possible, so as to avoid portraying an unfair depiction of their points. As my sources I have used this and this, and my quotes come from these two webpages.
1. Add an extra week between week 4 and 5 which has no extra work scheduled within in order to “give students time to sleep, relax and catch up on work or prepare for the work to come.
2. This will “improve student welfare by reducing the intensity of stress and pressure”.
3. “It will also improve the quality of their work”. Supervisors might also benefit from such a break.
4. “[I]mprove the welfare of students with both mental and physical health problems and disabilities by giving them a time in which to rest, recover and care for themselves”.
5. Prolonging the term will not increase the workload, but will “break the term into two more manageable, accessible halves”.
6. Large amounts of pressure and stress are not important because the aim of university is not to emulate the work environment but to promote learning for the sake of learning.
7. Even if as an individual you do well on the pressure, the benefits for the large amount of students makes it worth it.
8. People will learn not to feel guilty when they are not working.
9. Although people would have two weeks less at home during the holidays, “[t]hose students with the financial means to do so could visit home during the reading week if they want” and some students do not have a safe home to return to.
10. Rent includes the longer term anyway so that students would not have to pay any more than they do. Colleges should otherwise support those students whose finances are stretched in dealing with the living cost.
11. A condition of the reading week would be that students would receive no more lectures, supervisions or other contact time than they currently do. In short, the workload would remain the same, but students would have a break in the middle of term.
12. ‘Cambridge Speaks Its Mind’ and ‘Whose University’ suggest that DosS/Tutor support is not enough.
13. “A reading week won’t solve all of the issues with Cambridge and mental health” but it will improve the situation.
14. A reading week would improve current provision for mental health by resulting in fewer students needing to receive counselling and there would be more time for students.