This coming week is what is called “Reading Week” in the United Kingdom. “Reading Week” is a single week in a semester in which there are no class meetings and students are given the opportunity to devote a significant amount of time to studying. In the weeks following “Reading Week” there is typically Important assignments due. For example, the week after “Reading Week” I have a one essay which accounts for half my grade in one course, and two weeks after I have an essay which accounts for forty percent of my grade in a different course. Because students in the UK are fortunate enough to not have to deal with “general education” courses like American students do, and thus get to focus specifically on the subject they are studying, the period of study is more tolerable.
The focused nature of British universities means to get an idea of what other students had to study for during reading week, I had to ask around among my flat mates and friends. For non-liberal arts courses essays are somewhat rarer. Swansea has a significant Mandarin to English translation course program, and two of my flat mates are and their friends have come from China for the year to study in that program. Instead of having major essays, their course consists of more frequent practices and exams. This is similar for my other flat mates, who all but one of is pursuing a “hard science” degree. Their courses generally are comprised of laboratory exercises and exams, with the reading week being used to study for upcoming important exams. The “reading week” essentially is the precursor to what are the British equivalent of “midterm” exams, though the form those assessments take differs from program to program.
Personally, I appreciate having a whole extra week to study. To be honest, however, most students use the week free of classes and homework to party. More cynical students have even taken to calling the “Reading Week” “Drinking Week” or “Party Week”. Some students do manage to balance the partying and studying of “Reading Week”. My personal approach is to try and get a lot of researching for essays done during the day, and if I feel like I have been productive enough I use the extra nights to go out as a reward to incentivize productivity.
As touched on in other blog posts, the university system in the United Kingdom seems to have a greater focus on freedom for students, at the cost of more responsibility for students to manage their own time and program. This “Reading Week” is an example of this, providing students with a week intended for “free study” but in reality, is a week where students may do what they will. It is arguable that this is an opportunity for students to learn a lesson about time management and responsibility. While some students will spend the week in phases of being intoxicated and then hung over, even those students will learn a lesson in the importance of time management due to the consequences of such a choice.