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Teaching and Learning Support Office

Timetable breaks

Midweek and mid-semester timetable breaks

In both precursor universities there was a requirement to observe a midweek timetable break on Wednesday afternoons except for well defined types of programme, and a quite widespread practice of observing a mid-semester timetable break in Week 6.

These requirements continue in the single University, subject to the following guidelines.

Wednesday afternoon timetable break

Within higher education there is a widespread and longstanding convention that time-tabled teaching and learning sessions for undergraduates must not take place on Wednesday afternoons, which are then available for sport, recreation and other extra-curricular activities.

The University of Manchester supports this convention as an encouragement to students to engage in such activities, at whatever level, as a part of their university experience that is complementary to their academic study.

The convention also means that meetings and research seminars held on Wednesday afternoons do not clash with teaching commitments.

At the same time, the University recognises that some students work part-time to help fund their studies, and may have child-care or family responsibilities, and hence that it is necessary to regulate the timetabling of academic work on Wednesday afternoons so that students in these situations can make arrangements accordingly.


Undergraduate programmes

Teaching and learning sessions on full-time undergraduate programmes must not be timetabled after 1.00 pm on Wednesday afternoons except in the following situations:

a) During clinical years, clinical placements and similar activities, primarily in the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences

b) For activities that have to involve a person external to the University when, after all reasonable efforts have been made, that person is available only on a Wednesday afternoon

c) For study at universities outside the local area and placements of more than one day per week in commerce, industry or similar situations

d) For examinations held during scheduled University examination periods, viva voce examinations with an External Examiner, and meetings with an External Examiner;

e) For such other activities as Senate may from time to time decide.

Taught postgraduate programmes and part-time programmes

The same policy should be applied wherever possible to taught postgraduate programmes and part-time programmes.

It is recognised that this may not be possible for intensive professional and vocational programmes, programmes where the teaching is delivered in short blocks, programmes where most students are sponsored by their employer or for the MBA.

Postgraduate research programmes

The above policy does not apply to students registered on research degree programmes or to students undertaking the research component of a taught postgraduate programme.


For the avoidance of doubt, Wednesday afternoons must not be used for:

a) Scheduling remedial or additional classes or re-scheduling postponed activities where attendance is expected or desirable, except when no other alternative exists after all reasonable efforts have been made

b) Activities that, although not mandatory, are considered highly beneficial to student progress (for example, where a programme handbook or tutor might advise, 'You really should attend')

However, Wednesday afternoons may be used for activities that do not form a component of the programme and where progress is not dependent upon or influenced by attendance.

Wednesday afternoons may also be used to offer students the opportunity to make up or to complete practical work, if that is in the students' best interests, and they can choose between taking advantage of the offer and participating in extra-curricular activities. This provision must not be used to make up for any deficiency on the part of the School or the University.

Laboratories or similar facilities may be made available to students on Wednesday afternoons, for example for project work (as the Library and computer clusters are), but students must have access to such facilities for all the learning time they need without using Wednesday afternoons.

Wednesday afternoons were originally reserved for sport and similar activities when Saturday mornings were available for teaching and learning activities.

While there is no intention to timetable Saturday mornings, it should be understood that reserving Wednesday afternoons means that the full timetable must be used intensively for the rest of the week.

Mid-semester timetable break

A change of pace midway through a semester gives students a chance to catch up and catch breath as they move into the second half.

This is particularly valuable for students in the first semester of their first year, as they adjust to the demands of University life, looking after themselves, and (for the majority) living away from home.

A timetable break may mean a change of pace via a reading period or some other change in the nature of the scheduled work, such as a mini-project or group work.


A School may decide to suspend the normal timetable for a mid-semester break and, if so, for how long, but no School is compelled to do so.

The mid-semester break must be wholly contained within week 6 of the semester and must finish with the Friday of that week, adding earlier days within the week as necessary.

The Faculty will decide whether or not to allow the break. It will also decide what variations in practice, if any, it will allow between Schools.

In such a large university, different Schools and different Faculties are likely to adopt different practices. Students taking cross-school or cross-faculty programmes must therefore be informed clearly what the arrangements are for each component of their programme.

A suspension of timetable is not a holiday. Students must be told that they are expected to remain in Manchester, and staff must be available as normal.