The possibility of moving back the start time of secondary schools to 10am was recently discussed in parliament after a petition on the subject gained almost 200,000 supporters. The arguments put forward by schoolchildren and parents generally pivot on the idea that teenagers can’t work as well in the morning when they’re still tired, which is an argument I’ve also heard countless times from university students regarding their 9am lectures. So, this debate leads us to question whether something similar should be considered at universities. Is it time to scrap 9am lectures?
I may as well be honest about my bias from the off. I’m a morning person. I’m that irritating person who will get up bright and early, almost instantly feeling wide awake and ready for the day, while you’re still letting the sleep drop from your eyes into that coffee that you can’t function without. No, I do not think 9am lectures should be scrapped, and nor do I think the situation is comparable to the one being debated about secondary schools.
No, I do not think 9am lectures should be scrapped, and nor do I think the situation is comparable to the one being debated about secondary schools
There are fundamental differences between a day at school and a day at university. Not only do school days often start earlier than 9am, the days themselves are far more rigorously structured and, thus, intense for students. When even your breaktimes are determined by the ringing of a bell, there’s something relentless about the school day. At university, by contrast, you have far more freedom. Your breaks are not structured, they are probably more plentiful (although I am saying this from the perspective of a Humanities student) and skipping lessons is real possibility, with many students regularly weighing up for themselves whether a given lecture will be beneficial enough to warrant attending.
But perhaps the most crucial difference is in terms of the commute. Granted, the bus journey from Leamington is arduous, but I don’t think it quite compares to the school run of many teenagers who have to wake up at 6am or 7am every morning to get to school on time. And as for students on campus, they really don’t have grounds to complain when waking up at 8:55 for a 9am lecture is a real possibility. All in all, I don’t think 9am is so unreasonably early, when considering the relative proximity of students to the university.
University is a time when we learn to take more responsibility for ourselves, and that includes taking responsibility for making healthy sleeping choices.
Some who have weighed in on the debate about schools have criticised the idea on the basis that: “we [would not be] training our young people to be up and ready for a job”. In terms of schools, this argument infuriates me somewhat, since it is yet another example of the ridiculous amount of expectation placed on schoolchildren, who are getting a taste for the stresses and pressures of the working world far too early (but that would be a different article). However, when it comes to university there is a degree of truth to this argument. University is a time when we learn to take more responsibility for ourselves, and that includes taking responsibility for making healthy sleeping choices.
I do not mean to say that (like me) everyone should aim to go to bed before midnight and wake up no later than eight, since people will work better with different routines. And perhaps attending a 9am would interrupt your ideal routine, but that doesn’t mean the system should have to change for you. I often begin to feel tired and less able to concentrate in any class beyond 3pm, but I don’t expect the system to adapt for me since I know that plenty of others work well at that time and later. So, sometimes our timetables aren’t going to be ideal, but rather than calling for our timetables to change and thus finding someone else to blame, we just need to accept that this is the case and do the best we can in the circumstances. And if that means watching your Thursday 9am on Lecture Capture so that you can go to POP! then so be it.
And perhaps attending a 9am would interrupt your ideal routine, but that doesn’t mean the system should have to change for you
I would like to end with a comparison that is probably terribly unfair to make, but it came to mind when thinking about this article and put this debate in perspective for me. In developing countries across the globe, children in schools struggle to concentrate in class or fail to attend altogether because they have nothing to eat and are too hungry to learn. The incredible charity, Mary’s Meals, goes into these schools providing free school meals that have allowed for breath-taking improvements in attendance and concentration. I do not want to undermine the debate about the ability of sleep-deprived teens in our own country entirely, but I do think it’s worth sparing a thought for those with far more serious limitations on their ability to concentrate in class.