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Winter break extended in 2015-16 academic calendar

Duke's calendar for academic year 2015-16 has shifted—with students set to receive five additional days of winter break, and graduation scheduled for five days later than this year.

University Registrar Bruce Cunningham emphasized that the structure of the academic calendar itself has not changed, but that the shift was made to help students attending Winter Forum avoid traveling conflicts with New Year's. Winter Forum—an annual event in which undergraduate students spend three days exploring a major global issue—is scheduled for the Sunday through Tuesday of Jan. 10 to 12.

Spring break and final examinations will also be pushed back five days next year, with the last exam in 2016 falling on May 7.

“What appears to be a change for next year is really just the result of the ways the days fall at the start of the Spring semester,” Cunningham said. “It’s just part of the routine cycle of the calendar.”

He said that the University sets aside the Sunday to Tuesday prior to the beginning of the spring semester for the Undergraduate Winter Forum, and the first day of Spring classes is scheduled in relation to the Forum. In 2016, the Forum will begin on January 10, rather than January 3, so that students can avoid conflict connected with New Year's travel.

Students expressed a range of opinions about the schedule's shift.

“It could cut into internships and other opportunities,” said freshman Delaney Thompson. “Right now, we have a leg up on other schools because we get out sooner.”

Caroline Ginty, a junior, said that she enjoyed benefits from Duke’s Spring final exam schedule last year, which was earlier than it will be in 2016.

“I was at my internship two weeks earlier than the other students, which was really nice,” she said.

Cunningham said he did not believe summer internships would be affected by the calendar shift—noting that even with the later exam schedule, Duke students will still be let out "earlier than several other schools."

He added that he did not think the later Spring break date —scheduled from March 11 to March 21—would interfere with March Madness, which is set to begin March 15.

Some students said they favored the 2016 calendar over past academic schedules.

“The longer winter break will enable students to partake in better activities over break, whether these are social or academic,” freshman John Lu said. “The cost of that might be a loss of a week of summer break, but quite frankly, the summer is so long that we probably won’t notice.”

Senior Akhil Sharma said the calendar shift will make it easier for students to connect with friends at other universities during breaks, noting that when he first gets home, many other schools are still in session.

Cunningham emphasized that the shift, though it may seem large, is part of the normal rotation of the calendar.

“Basically, [each year] the first day of spring classes, and commencement day, both move up one day, except where leap years impact those dates, and then flip back a week when the next cycle begins,” he said. “This is not, in any way, a new or different calendar.”