Dal approves fall study break, revamps academic term schedule

- November 20, 2015

(Danny Abriel photo)
(Danny Abriel photo)

Dalhousie students and their instructors will have more time to catch their breath during the late fall-term crunch starting next year, thanks to a new study break approved by the university’s Senate last week.

Dalhousie’s winter term has long included a week without classes or exams. And, for the past few years, Dalhousie has had a fall term “study day” on November 12, effectively turning the Remembrance Day holiday into a short break from classes. Now, the new fall study break will extend that existing two-day breather to a full five-day stretch each fall.

In 2016/17, the fall study break will run from November 7-11.

Dal joins a growing group of universities across Canada offering a fall term break. The University of Saskatchewan did so last fall for the first time, and more than half of Ontario’s publicly funded universities offer some kind of time off during the fall term.

Mairead Barry, Dal’s acting registrar, says one reason Dal has moved to institute the second break is to account for the shift away from full-year courses to more term-based classes over the last decade or so.

"The move in that direction meant that in the winter term students and faculty would have a break from their classes, but they wouldn't if they took those same classes in the fall term," she says. "That seemed unfair to us."

Barry says the break will be a good opportunity for faculty to catch up on work or research and for students to complete collaborative projects that otherwise might be a tough squeeze between classes, to work on class assignments, or to just relax and spend some extra time with family and friends.

As with the winter break, students in professional programs who are completing co-op terms, clinical placements or internships during the fall term will not have the time off.

A broader revamp

The new break is part of a larger overhaul of the university’s academic schedule that’s being rolled out starting with the 2016/2017 academic year. The fall term will now start on the Tuesday following Labour Day instead of the Thursday, with the winter term starting in the second week of January rather than the first.

“One of the things we really wanted to do was bring some consistency to the academic terms,” explains Barry.

Another key part of the overhaul addresses the fact that, currently, courses scheduled on a Monday or a Friday or that fall on a holiday typically end up with fewer classes. Under the new system, class schedules will shift at the very end of the term to make up for those lost days, says Barry.

For example: to account for a holiday Monday, an entire Monday schedule of classes might be moved to a Tuesday at the very end of the term, if that’s what’s required to ensure each course gets equal class time.

“It is going to be a big change for the campus community,” says Barry.

The modifications grew out of the findings of a review committee convened about two year ago after the Dalhousie Student Union (DSU) requested the university look at adding a fall reading week to help give student a chance to relieve some stress at a critical juncture in the academic term.

Below are a few of the key dates for the 2016/17 academic year. The full list of dates will be published in next year's academic calendar.

First day of fall classes 2016: September 6
Fall study break 2016: November 7 - 11
First day of winter classes 2017: January 9
Winter study break 2017: February 20 - 24


All comments require a name and email address. You may also choose to log-in using your preferred social network or register with Disqus, the software we use for our commenting system. Join the conversation, but keep it clean, stay on the topic and be brief. Read comments policy.

comments powered by Disqus