Will Railton: No
Bridge, Wahoo, Camera, Camera, Park-End, Bridge. As you gaze back on all you’ve achieved this term, you are confronted with the realisation that time in Oxford congeals into one homogenous headache. Still, you refuse to acknowledge that the anguish of your interminable essay has been punctuated only by Varsity’s torturously formulaic reprieves.
You’ve run out of different ways to ask that guy you once spoke to in Fresher’s week what he did with his weekend or how the Orienteering society he set up is faring. As with most other people in college, after eight weeks, you’ve scraped the barrel for things to say. You know it and they know it. Having reached the point when the small talk can’t get any smaller, all either of you can do is smile aggressively, and nod, safe in the knowledge the vacation is long enough for a silent floor-stare to be socially acceptable — after all, neither of you will remember how horrifically awkward this conversation was by the time you get back.
Park-End, Camera, Wahoo, Bridge. The carousel has started to make you nauseous, but you still don’t get off. You could go and see a play, a debate or a talk, but you don’t. Like victims of Stockholm syndrome; you’ve become grateful for your shit sandwich. You tell yourself that you and your sandwich want the same things, or something like that. You bemoan your philistinism, acknowledging that your cultural curiosity extends no further than Daft Punk (but they’re French, actually, so that’s okay) and a fascination with Katie Hopkins, Tindr and the sidebar of shame. Meanwhile, you find your discussion is limited to the contents of BBC Sport Gossip. And criticising Katie Hopkins, Tinder and the sidebar of shame.
You really ought to go home; the real world has been falling apart without you. If you were relieved that your parents had managed to keep their mid-life crisis hidden before you left, they will have become symptomatic in your absence. Armed with the disposable income they’d been wasting on you the last 18 years, they’ll have e-smoked and Bikram’d their way into ridiculousness inside the mobile-home they once told you was being kept for a rainy day.
Camera, Bridge, Camera, Camera. 8th week is certainly the worst of them all. We get that inevitable, temporary euphoria during the last days of term because we are finally free to appreciate our time here on the tail-end of essays and tute sheets. Buoyed on by the notion that we might always have it this good, we tell ourselves that next term, things will be different. Why? Because we’ll have done all our reading before 0th week. Because, like a nightmare dramatised by Samuel Beckett, we can’t leave Oxford. What’s worse is that we don’t want to.
Robert Walmsley: Yes
When I first came to Oxford, I was told I would only have time for two of three things. These three things were sleep, work or a social life. The reason why it resonates, with Oxford students, is there is a high degree of accuracy to this idea. Oxford terms are famously intense, so much so that when they end Oxford students enter a state rather similar to hibernation. The truth is all those late nights and early essay deadlines really do take their toll.
It does not take long, even for the most unobservant fresher, to realise Oxford terms really are not long at all. By the time term ends, you experience the entirely contradictory sensation of both feeling you have just arrived, but that an infinite amount of time has passed. Oxford students are the last to start their terms and the first to finish them.
The intensity of Oxford terms, it is argued, allows students to make a lot of progress in a small period of time, but would Oxford students really do less well if terms were longer? The long gaps between terms arguably lead to students falling out of practise and forgetting much of what they learnt the previous term. Furthermore, students are paying £3,000 for 8 weeks of teaching, working out at a pricey £375 per week.
If a student happens to be ill for even a week and has to go home, they miss over 12 percent of their term. The brevity of Oxford terms also makes it immensely difficult to maximise the opportunities here. There are always several things going on at once, meaning students have to carefully choose their commitments.
It is also hard not to have sympathy for the freshers who suffer the fate of having an essay set on the first week of their arrival.
Given all these reasons, it is not at all unreasonable to think Oxford could still be the serious and academic place it should be, with longer terms. In fact, students would benefit immensely from it.
There is also a serious issue of student welfare, involved in the question of whether Oxford terms are too short and, as a result, too intense. Students often to seem to disappear for weeks under the burden of work. The higher incidence of mental health issues at Oxford, compared to other universities, as well as the phenomenon commonly labelled “fifth week blues” are all symptoms of the problem with terms, which are too short.
If you asked most students whether they would like longer terms the answer, from the majority, would almost certainly be yes. Exhausted students lead to essays exhausted of ideas and problem sheets riddled with errors. Longer terms would mean better academic results and more time to enjoy the university experience, which most of us are now paying an awful lot more money for. If the University is not taking the idea of extending terms seriously, it most certainly should be.