Motion to open up discussion of reading weeks passes

OUSU Council has passed a motion to mandate the VP for Access & Academic Affairs to include support for a reading week in the OUSU Education Vision, when the full proposals are brought to Council for approval at the start of Trinity.

The Education Vision will be a document setting out long-term goals for OUSU and aspirations of students with respect to all aspects of how learning happens at Oxford.

There is an ongoing debate in the student body both at Oxford and at Cambridge about the possibility of adding a reading week in the middle of term, creating two four week half terms.

The motion, proposed by James Blythe, OUSU VP for Access & Academic Affairs, and seconded by Nick Cooper, OUSU VP for Grads-elect, stated, “A reading week would be one way to mitigate the impact on student mental health of an Oxford degree”. It continued, “Such a week would enable students to read more diverse and enriching texts to support their academic development.”

The motion passed with four amendments, including to define reading weeks, to insert a clause demanding such a change would be cost neutral and to make clear that the Oxford workload more generally also affects mental wellbeing.

There were 41 votes for the motion and 14 against it, with five abstaining. Only 60 people voted; 70 people fewer than the number who voted on the anti-BDS motion.

Cooper commented, “James [Blythe] and I brought the motion to Council given the discussions that had taken place around reading weeks among students. A reading week could be a good way to allow students a chance to recuperate during the intensity of term time – this could be through catching up with reading, or if the student finds it more helpful for their wellbeing, as a chance to rest before a new 5th Week.

“Reading weeks are, though, a long term vision and are not a perfect solution: we hope bringing this motion will highlight the effects of Oxford life more generally, and encourage the University to pay closer attention to student welfare and workload.”

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OUSU’s Disabled Students Officer, Lindsay Lee, commented, “The Oxford academic calendar currently is extremely demanding and very unorthodox. Oxford is demanding, as it should be, but it’s important to consider the health ramifications of this academic calendar for students, especially those with mental health issues.

“A reading week would reduce stress for everyone, but it could mean the difference between graduation and rustication for a student with a mental disability. For that reason, I’m very supportive of the motion.”

Louis Trup told Cherwell, “There is clearly a lot of interest in the issue of a reading week. It is something I mentioned when I was running for my job, but the increased debate on this now certainly merits a discussion in OUSU Council, where policy can be set. OUSU is probably the best place for us to make change in our university and I hope this change is something which students and the University seriously consider.”