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University policy, not clerical error, makes for longer winter break

Photo: Marta Kierkus

Thousands of university students across Canada were holed up in airports, bus, and train stations the first January weekend as they tried to make it back in time for Monday classes, while winter storms pounded the country.

But students at the University of Ottawa, who don’t begin classes until Jan. 12, avoided the fuss as they got to enjoy another cozy week at home.

Many students assumed the extra week of holidays was due to a clerical error, but it’s actually because of a university policy.

The policy states that the winter term “is to begin on a Monday, preferably the first or second Monday of January but never before January 6th.”

Caroline Milliard, manager of media relations, explained the policy was adopted in 2010 “to allow the longest possible break for students returning home for the holidays.”

She noted that this was especially important for the 10 per cent of the U of O’s student body who are international students.

“Classes must begin on a Monday, because there are already two statutory holidays on a Monday in the winter session. A course runs once or twice a week, so the semester needs to include a proportionate amount of each weekday,” said Milliard.

However some faculties did not get an extended holiday because they have different class schedules and semesters.

Common law students, for example, have been required since 2004 to take an intensive three-week course in January, which provides the opportunity for students to fulfill their heavy course requirements, as well as learn from visiting professors. They then have a second winter semester from Feb. 2 to April 14.

Students in some other faculties that offer professional or graduate programs have also begun classes Jan. 5, including education, engineering, health sciences, and medicine.

The winter term will still consist of 12 weeks of classes just like the fall, meaning U of O students will finish a week later than other Canadian university students.