Why are commencements at the end of the academic year, not the beginning?


15 thoughts on “Why are commencements at the end of the academic year, not the beginning?”

  1. Why is May week in June?

    Why do some universities not teach on Saturdays?

    It’s all a mystery.

  2. @ dearieme
    Because they were founded after the 5-dsay week became the norm
    Not May Week, May Balls (someone interested in dancing and the history thereof may know the answer, but I am sorry I don’t because I never cared enough to find out).
    Oxford taught on secular Bank Holidays* as well as Saturdays. My old school had lessons on Saturdays, from which Jewish pupils were not excused – although they were excused from attending Chapel (a concession *only* to Jewish pupils – Muslim, Buddhist and Communist pupils were not exempted!)
    *except Boxing Day and Easter Monday which were traditionally a minor part of the previous day’s religious celebrations, St Stephen’s Day being a major Saint’s Day

  3. The Meissen Bison

    It’s from the French where ‘commencement’ has the secondary meaning of ‘initiation’

  4. “Because they were founded after the 5-day week became the norm”: well that’s balls. The 5-day week is far too recent to explain it.

    “Not May Week”: nope, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Week

    Only some sort of cowardy-custard university would avoid teaching on Easter Monday if it should happen to fall in term.

  5. @ dearieme
    That’s only Cambridge: we didn’t have a “May Week”
    There are very many universities founded since the 5-day-week became a norm in the early/mid 20th century and few founded before it. All the old universities whose lecture schedules I have encountered have/had Saturday lectures.
    Easter Monday *cannot* fall in term, nor can Boxing Day because terms were set to fit between harvest and Christmas, between Christmas and Easter and between Easter and high summer.

  6. May Week is the week of the May Bumps, which used to be held in May (albeit before my time). It’s also the week of the May Balls. However, recently founded Colleges tend to hold June Events instead, at about the same time.

    The October Revolution happened in November, because the Tsars, unlikely the Bolsheviks, would have no truck with popish calendars.

  7. Bloody Hell, Worstall, you’re bloody thing is messing around again.

    Anyway, in response to john 77.

    i) Cambridge is a uni.
    ii) Edinburgh is old (400+ years) and never had any Saturday teaching that I heard of when I taught there. (We are talking of routine undergraduate lectures, aren’t we, rather than ‘prentice medics poking at patients in hospital, or the odd weekend gallivant to geological sites?)
    iii) I well remember a case of Easter Monday falling in term in Edinburgh.

    Maybe you won’t be allowed to take September resist – perhaps you’ll just be sent down.

  8. john77,

    Some universities have fixed Easter holidays (to make managing term dates easier I guess, although there might be soe other reason) – problem with this is that unless you have a four week Easter then there will be times when Easter falls outside. Interestingly, all those examples I know were founded before the 1960s – all the modern universities (the really secular ones) actually seem to have holidays that follow a religious festival. My alma mater instead seemed to base the holiday on my birthday (itself somewhat odd, since my birthday is towards the early part of the range of possible Easter dates).

  9. @ dearieme
    i) I never said Cambridge was not a university (it is NOT a “uni”): I said that *we* did not have a May Week; *we* had May Balls in June; what anyone else does is merely derivative.
    ii) I have no experience of Scottish universities: I reported on what I had observed which caused my hypothesis. Your experience may, probably does, destroy that (caveat – if unions have spread the five-day week from redbrick to some older universities it may not).
    iii) Edinburgh sounds like atheism on the rampage: the overwhelming majority of agnostics treat Easter as a traditional holiday, most years it falls within Passover, so Jews will not be doing any secular work. Any reasonable person would avoid including Easter during a term.
    Were you aware that the name of the middle term at Cambridge is “Lent”?
    As far as I know my university did not have resits: if it did the information was not widely disseminated and I should never have needed one anyway. A resit is basically an admission that the university examination system is inadequate.

  10. @ watchman
    How difficult is it to select term dates to cater for moveable feasts? Oxford has done this for well over a thousand years and Cambridge for about a thousand and when I was young all schools managed it without anyone remarking thereon. The idea that there are bodies describing themselves as Universities which have trouble with this is frankly appalling: so ask yourself why they do this. Are they really incapable of fitting term dates round Easter? Or are they making a “declaration of independence” from the church (the founder of education in this country) at the expense of efficiency and thereby reducing the quality of education provided to students?

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