The review of teaching will begin in Lent 2024 and will explore both student workload and the supervision systemKatie Kasperson with permission for Varsity

The University has expressed “serious reservations” about reading week plans, while admitting that students face an “excessive workload”.

Responding to the proposal for a pilot reading week, the University Council wrote of their concerns regarding the “risks” of the plans, and how they could create “inequalities between student groups”.

Instead of taking the pilot forward, the Council has commissioned a ‘Review of Teaching,’ which will investigate the impact of student workload on “mental health and wellbeing”, and evaluate the supervision system.

The review will begin next term, and will be led by Professor Bhaskar Vira, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education.

Varsity spoke to Tara Choudhury, a former campaigner for the SU’s reading week plans, who labelled the review “smoke and mirrors”.

Discussing the Council’s decision to commission such a review, Choudhury said: “Do they seriously believe something as non-committal and vague as a ‘review’ is fooling anyone that they’re at last going to start addressing the mental health crisis affecting this community with the seriousness and urgency it requires?”

“If the situation wasn’t as grave as it is, it would almost be laughable how after years of giving students the run-around with endless working groups, committees and other tactics designed to run a reading week into the ground, the best they have to now offer is a ‘review’,” they continued.

Caredig ap Tomos, the SU’s undergraduate Access, Education and Participation Officer, told Varsity that the SU would continue to campaign for a reading week.

Ap Tomos said: “We recognise that many in the University have challenged the viability of the most recent proposals, but - until they hear a more compelling alternative - this is the change that students want.”

Fergus Kirman, SU Undergraduate President, told Varsity that the review of teaching must be “focused on tangible and substantial improvements” for students when it comes to workload and wellbeing.

“Students cannot, and must not, wait another three years for meaningful action. Provided everyone involved recognises this, we believe the review of teaching will be a positive, productive avenue,” Kirman added.

Kirman pointed to the SU’s upcoming ‘Workload Forum’, where students will address a panel including Pro-Vice-Chancellor Vira, among other senior members of the university.


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Kirman, however, said the SU welcomed “the recognition in a range of University committees, including the University Council, that the problem of excessive workload is a critical issue, which needs to be addressed now.”

A University spokesperson said: “Cambridge’s supervision system remains a distinctive, and valued, element of educational provision and is not under threat.”

“The teaching review is concerned primarily with two areas: student workload (and its impact on mental health and wellbeing), and the future resourcing of supervisions,” they continued.

“The review is ongoing so it would be wrong to draw any conclusions at such an early stage. It’s consulting with student representatives, as well as those from Faculties and Colleges, and it’s anticipated that an initial set of recommendations will be shared with key stakeholders by the end of June 2024,” the spokesperson said.