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The end of Week 5 Blues: Students campaign for a reading week

Karris McGonigle, Natsci at Jesus College, is campaigning for the University to introduce a reading week.


The 'Week 5 Blues' describe the mid-point of term where Cambridge students are said to struggle from mental and physical exhaustion. An extra helping of welfare teas, cakes and puppies are usually on offer to help students get through the week.

Reading weeks are the norm for many universities across the UK. The petition argues that a 9-week term in Cambridge, with a reading week in Week 5, would support student well-being and make the degree workload more manageable.

As a fresher, Karris McGonigle was quickly made aware of Week 5 by the forewarnings of older years: "I hadn't heard of it before I came here. As you get used to being at this University it's easy to forget that this feeling of dread isn't normal. The University should be doing everything it can to actively discourage physical and mental health problems."

In 2015, Cambridge Defend Education (CDE) and CUSU started a campaign to #EndWeek5Blues through the introduction of a 9-week term. Students participated in a controversial work boycott in Week 5 to raise awareness for the campaign. A Varsity poll found that 53 per cent of students were in support of the change.

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The 2015 campaign to #EndWeek5Blues.

Despite the failures of the last campaign, Karris is confident that it could have more success this time. "I think there's a real desire for change. If we give students the time to recover and recuperate, productivity will skyrocket. It also promises to make the holidays more effective and enjoyable. Students will be able to start revision during term time and consult supervisors on content they find difficult early on."

In response to the petition, CUSU told The Tab Cambridge: "We believe that drastic action needs to be taken by the University in order to tackle the unsustainable workload students are currently facing. We fully support the call for the introduction of a reading week and will be lobbying the University on the issue in the coming months."

A Cambridge University representative did not respond to our requests for comment.

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