What is a Reading Week? It’s a week with no lectures or practical sessions that students can use to get on top of work and prepare for upcoming deadlines. It’s a sort of university half term if you like. However not every faculty schedules a reading week.

What is the purpose of reading week?

Reading week is scheduled at a time early enough in the term to allow students to catch up, get focused, and spend some serious time reading and understanding the material presented to them. For some students, it will offer a chance to relax and catch up with friends and family.

Why do I think the reading week is important?

University is a very high pressure, intense academic environment and often feels like you’re being worked in to the ground. At the end of autumn term for example, we were giving presentations, handing in a difficult lab report, studying for a biostatistics test, meeting our tutors to discuss the dissertation topic and also trying to stay on top of lectures.

That is a lot of work and a lot of pressure to be under just two weeks before the end of term! Some students seem to pride themselves on their ability to do all-nighters in the library, study each lecture for hours every night and still have time to be in several societies but the truth is that the majority of people just can’t cope with that level of pressure for extended periods of time.

Mental health problems at university are surprisingly common, with 1 in 5 students saying that they have suffered with their mental health while at university and citing coursework and exams as major stressors.

Here’s the thing: students are not machines. Just because we can push ourselves to our limits doesn’t mean that we should or that it’s healthy. There is so much pressure on students, particularly at academically competitive universities, to get top grades so that we have an edge when we go out and face an increasingly competitive job market, to complete summer internships and lab placements, to get a 1st class in every piece of coursework and somehow still have time to be an active member of a society or two so that we can ‘boost our CVs.  Stress comes with the territory of being a student but Reading Week helps us to take an active role in combatting its adverse effects. So, remember that Reading Week is the perfect opportunity to decompress and de-stress.

When you get to that place of constant, relentless work load, it’s very easy to go on a downward spiral into negative thoughts, sadness and isolation. This is why we need a Reading Week. It’s a week to get on top of work, to catch up with notes and (perhaps more) importantly to take a breather. To indulge in some self-care, eat healthy food, catch up on some sleep that you’ve missed whilst working on that lab report, revamp your CV as you start looking at internships and to not feel crushed under the pressure that you’re put under during term time.

Universities, need to be thinking not just about the academic output of their students but also about their mental health and wellbeing when planning the academic year.

Stay happy and healthy friends!!!