How should our timetable change?

By Martin Shore

The potential changes to the university timetable have been looming over our heads for a while now, and have divided the student population severely. The SU were particularly keen in sharing their survey with as many as us as possible, offering us the delightful pick of the least evil option between: losing a week of the Easter holiday, losing a week’s revision pre-exam, shortening the post-exam de-stress period, or moving graduation later in the calendar. None of these seem particularly grand directions for the already very stringent university timetable, but my opinion of the best choice of the lot will probably create some upset.

I don’t think losing a week from the five-week holiday period is all that bad. There, I said it. By no means am I admitting it’s great to have a shorter holiday period, but four weeks seems substantial enough to me. The winter holiday is already four weeks, and no one seems to take an issue with that length of time? At Easter vacation, preserving the intense revision period seems essential to ensure everyone has time to prepare for their exams, and nobody wants to lose time after exams when we have better things to be doing as students. Distinctly not studying, that’s for sure.

You can tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. Sure, as a first year I haven’t experienced the stresses of the last term of the university year just yet, so I’m dealing purely with a prospective ideal of maintained revision time. All I know is I like putting off exams as much as is physically possible, so having less preparation time before hand would be terrifying for myself, so that’s what I’m basing my decision on. You could say that shortening the holiday period to accommodate the longer exam period is still shortening revision time – and that would be a valid complaint – but at present we aren’t sure at what point the extended period would take place.

I get that it’s not perfect. I’m certainly aware the loss in holiday time might be a pain for students who are further from home in Durham. This may impact their ability to unwind at home, meet up with old friends or spend time with their families elsewhere, but I’m thinking pragmatically. Dropping to a four-week holiday period seems like the best way to please everyone. Students don’t always have lectures in the last week of term so if you were really keen you could always leave your temporary home a little early, after all.

However, moving graduation to later in the calendar year is no greater benefit to the student body. It’s already a few days after the end of term generally, but most people are still able to stick around for an extra day or two. Pushing summer graduation further away from mid-June likely just makes it more frustrating to organise things such as post-university internships, jobs, or even just makes travelling back for graduation much more of a hassle. To potentially deprive students of their celebratory ceremony at the end of their degree just to accommodate the larger exam period necessary seems horribly unfair if the reason is just travel inconvenience.

Regardless, the change is going to go ahead, whichever way the university eventually decides to go. The two campuses are being unified, so the change needs to be for the benefit of the entire student body, not solely for the Durham campus or vice versa. Given this fact, the loss of a holiday week seems better for our distant cousins in Stockton, too. It’s obvious that they’re significantly isolated from us; free rides on the X12 are nice and all but I daresay people aren’t making that journey unless they need to? Shaving off a week from the holiday season to put us all on equal footing therefore seems the fairest way to ensure everyone is enduring the same annoyance.

Ultimately, this topic is going to remain contentious, as there’s literally no way to please everyone with the decision made. Depending on where your priorities lie, you’re going to be happy or grossly upset with the decision regardless of the option the university proposes.  Until an official announcement from the university itself, we are left in the dark to find out who’s going to be most upset.

Photograph: Durham University

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