Would you go to an 8am class?
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Source: Photo by Vladislav Muslakov/Unsplash

Recently, Durham University junked plans to introduce 8am lectures after students, student representatives and their tutors alike put up strong resistance against the ungodly proposition.

The Independent reported that the British university had initially intended to make law and business studies undergraduates attend the early morning class from next term, proposed under a new timetable to help the institution cope with rising student numbers.

Students were reportedly “suffering” because of this “over-ambitious” expansion plan, according to Megan Croll, former President of the Durham Students’ Union (SU).

There were also “serious and potentially highly detrimental implications” for disabled students, as expressed by the school’s Students with Disabilities Association.

In response, Professor Alan Houston, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Education at Durham University, said: “Durham’s preliminary timetable for 2018-19 included four modules in business and law whose lectures were to be taught at 8am.”

“Both students and staff expressed concern at this possibility. We have listened and responded. Working closely with students and departments, the Student Registry explored all alternatives.”

He added: “Thanks to their hard work, I am pleased to report that there will be no 8am lectures scheduled next academic year.”

It’s easy to see why the announcement incited such levels of controversy within and beyond Durham’s campus.

Many could predict that university students would not be pleased about starting the day earlier. And to do so because Durham can’t cope with oversubscribed modules, sparked by a mad rush to expand student numbers to 21,500 by 2027? No, thanks.

But their reasons for protest are even supported by science.

According to researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno and the UK’s Open University, students’ learning process starts improving after 11am and peaks in the afternoon/evening.

The study comprised of a survey of 90 students at their schools, as well as a separate review of research in circadian neuroscience and how lack of sleep influences cognition.

“Adolescents have a much later body clock,” Mariah Evans, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and a co-author of the study, told the Wall Street Journal.

“It’s hard for adults to understand the degree to which ‘teen shift’ is real.”

The study, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience last year, builds on a growing body of research that shows it’s not suitable for young adults to start the school day early and cut back their hours of sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends classes to start after 8.30am, since research shows this improves both physical and mental health.

There you go, a scientific basis not to get between university students and their beds, as well as a reminder to always consult students before pulling such drastic moves.

Whether or not such a strategy will hold against their future employers, however, remains to be seen.

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