What (and When) is University Reading Week?

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University terms can be long and tiring, and even the hardest working of all students will find themselves overwhelmed by work from time to time. Every student has been there, and knows the anxiety of trying to find time to catch up on your work. During term, it feels like you can never catch a break! However, you may have heard the term ‘reading week’ floating around in discussions about university; it’s the one thing that saves so many university students from falling behind! The question is, what actually is it?

University reading week is a week in which university students are taken off timetable, and teaching such as lectures and seminars is suspended. During this week, students are expected to use the time to catch up on work from earlier in the semester, as well as read ahead for their upcoming classes and deadlines. Although the specific dates of reading week will vary by university, there are two each academic year; one in the first semester, around late October to early November, and late February to early March.

This article will be explaining everything you need to know about what reading week is, and when it’s happening, so read on to find out more!

What is a reading week at university?

A reading week is a week during a university term in which teaching, including lectures and seminars, is suspended. Students are taken off their timetable, so you won’t have to attend any classes or tutorials.

Not all universities have reading weeks, so you will usually be notified through your university email if your university is holding a reading week.

A reading week is designed for you to be able to catch up on work you’ve fallen behind on and read for upcoming classes. It is officially acknowledged by universities, but isn’t actively monitored, so there’s still the expectation that you will manage your own time.

Of course, this does not mean you have to spend all your time actually reading. However, you should use at least half the week for that purpose, so it isn’t a great idea to think of it like a free week.

What do you do in reading week?

As mentioned earlier, the purpose of a reading week is to allow students one week to catch up on work they’ve fallen behind on and read for upcoming work.

Despite this, many students don’t spend the whole week studying. Some use the opportunity to go abroad for a few days before beginning their reading, which you can read more about in this article on the University College London website.

Therefore, although reading for your classes is what the week is officially for, you can technically use the week for whatever you want. I’d still encourage you to spend your time responsibly, though. Reading weeks can be really helpful, which is something I’ll address later in the article.

If you’d like to read some examples of how university students spend their reading week, I’d recommend checking out this article on the UCAS website or this page on the University of Warwick’s website. They’re helpful insights into what current students do with their time!

What are the benefits of a reading week?

Naturally, the main benefit of a reading week is that you get more time to read.

A reading week can be really helpful in preventing students from burning out, and means that students aren’t left stressing over unfinished work, or the amount of work they’ll soon be set.

Another great benefit of a reading week is simply that students get a break! It’s no secret how exhausting a university term can be, and having that week off means that students who need it are able to regain their energy for the weeks ahead.

A hidden benefit of reading week that students may not consider is that you can use the week for social opportunities. If you had a book you really wanted to read, or a new restaurant in town that you and your friends really wanted to try, reading week is a good opportunity since it happens at the same time for everyone.

When is university reading week?

When your university reading week takes place depends on the university you attend. As I mentioned earlier, some universities don’t have a reading week at all, so you’ll find out when you receive your termly timetable.

However, reading weeks generally fall around late October to mid-November in the first semester, and late February to mid-March in the second semester. You get two reading weeks per academic year.

Your university will publish these dates on their website, so make sure to stay updated. For example, you can find the dates for reading week 2023-24 on the University of London website linked here.

Even if you don’t know when your reading week is, if you have a timetable sent to you by your university, you will probably notice that one week is blank if your university holds a reading week. However, it’s best to stay updated on your university’s website!

Do all subjects get a reading week?

Not all subjects will get a reading week. For subjects that don’t have a lot of reading-based work, such as STEM subjects where labs are the main priority, a reading week is unlikely.

A reading week is more designed for humanities and heavily essay-based subjects, like English, History, Philosophy, Politics, and other subjects.

This is because there is so much reading around the subject that it isn’t possible to do it all in a term without getting burnt out or falling behind, so a reading week is necessary.

Of course, you shouldn’t rely on a reading week to allow yourself to fall behind, but in the case that you do, a reading week is something to fall back on!

Is reading week a holiday?

Reading week is definitely not a free holiday, nor is it an officially recognised holiday of any kind.

There’s no harm in taking a few days off to relax or for your mental health, but it’s important that you don’t see it as a free pass to do nothing. Even if you only use one day of the week for studying and the rest for recuperating, it’s better than nothing.

While reading week isn’t actively monitored, and you won’t be asked what studying you did during reading week, your university still expects you to use the time properly and dedicate at least some of it to your studies.

However, universities also know that students are only human, and unless you’re absolutely swamped with work from earlier in the term, your university will know that you won’t spend every single day completely devoted to your reading.

As long as you spend the time wisely, a reading week is a great opportunity!

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