British Columbia

UBC students to get fall reading break starting in 2021

University's Vancouver Senate votes in favour of new break after years of student campaigning.

University's Vancouver Senate votes in favour of new break after years of student campaigning

The UBC sign is pictured at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on April 23, 2019. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

UBC students will get some extra days off after the university's Vancouver Senate approved a fall reading break starting in the 2021-2022 academic year.

The move comes after campus-wide consultations showed overwhelming support for a fall break. UBC's Vancouver campus is among the few major post-secondary schools in Canada without one, according to the university's Alma Mater Society.

Max Holmes, a third-year arts student and member of the senate, says the new reading week will start in mid-November. It will come at the expense of the university's 16-day exam period, which will shrink to 12 days in fall 2021.

"UBC is kind of like the Titanic, it takes a while to turn," said Holmes, who voted in favour of the proposal after campaigning for it for several years. "It's something that's taken so much work and advocacy, and there have just been countless students working on this."

The break will fall over Remembrance Day, with students getting an additional two weekdays off, meaning students will get a five-day break when the weekend is included. 

The university's Vancouver Senate has 85 members, including dozens of professors and UBC President Santa J. Ono. Eighteen of the members are students elected for one-year terms. 

Strong support

An AMS report suggests that October and November are months where university counselling services typically see the highest amount of traffic, which could indicate greater stress among students during the fall mid-term exam period.

The AMS says the break could alleviate some of the pressure endured by students.

The society surveyed nearly 7,000 students in 2019, with more than 80 per cent supporting an additional reading break.

"People have pushed for this for a long time for mental health reasons," said Holmes. "October and November tend to be the start of the gloomy season in Vancouver. And on top of that, you have multiple mid-terms, multiple essays due, and if you're someone with a really high course load, this can be extremely stressful."

No teaching days will be sacrificed for the extra time off. Instead, the university will shorten its final exam period. The school will also start scheduling exams on Sundays, which had typically been exam-free days.

"This isn't something that can just be done without some sort of trade-off," said Holmes. "Even going down to 12 days, we are still on the much longer exam spectrum of most universities."

CBC News has reached out to university officials for comment.

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