Campus & Community

Harvard announces coordinated academic calendar

4 min read

Harvard President Drew Faust announced today (Jan. 15) the adoption of a coordinated academic calendar that synchronizes the academic schedules of Harvard’s 13 Schools.

The new calendar, which will take effect for the 2009-2010 academic year, is an important step toward enhancing and facilitating intellectual exchange among Faculties and across traditional academic boundaries. It will also improve student access to University-wide resources and make it easier for students to take classes in more than one School.

“This is a crucial milestone in our ongoing efforts to make Harvard a more collaborative and integrated institution,” said Faust. “I am grateful for the leadership of Provost Hyman and Professor Verba, the efforts of the University Committee on Calendar Reform, and the tremendous dedication of our Schools’ registrars and faculty in helping to make this happen.”

Starting in September 2009, the changes to the calendar affecting all Schools will include:

  • Fall terms beginning in early September with exams completed in December before winter recess
  • Spring terms starting in late January with Commencement scheduled for the end of May (the first May Commencement will be held in 2010)
  • Coordinated Thanksgiving and spring breaks
  • A three-week optional session in January

The optional January session may be used at the discretion of each School to encourage individual interests outside the University or provide enhanced educational opportunities such as study abroad, lab experiences, internships, and mini-courses. A copy of the coordinated calendars for the academic years 2009-2010 through 2015-2016, as well as the 2009-2010 undergraduate academic calendar, can be viewed on the provost’s Web site.

“I am particularly pleased to be moving forward with a calendar that preserves the traditional eight-day reading periods for undergraduates, one of the best features of our existing calendar, while eliminating impediments to student cross-registration,” said Provost Steven E. Hyman. “The new calendar also aligns Harvard’s calendar with those of most colleges and universities in the U.S., making it easier for our students to compete for internships, study-abroad experiences, and work opportunities during breaks and summer vacation.”

While the coordinated calendar will serve as the framework for all Harvard Schools, small variances may continue to exist for specific parts of programs that are not open for cross-registration and that have specific accreditation, clinical, or other curricular requirements. Variances will be highlighted on individual School Web sites, as they are finalized.

A University Committee on Calendar Reform, chaired by Professor Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor, began its work in 2003. This committee was composed of students (undergraduate and graduate) and faculty members drawn from across the University’s Schools and Faculties.

After extensive consultation and research, the Verba Committee issued a report with nearly unanimous support (18-1) for a coordinated calendar, while recommending that final decisions be deferred until various curricular reviews then under way (including the undergraduate curricular review) were completed.

As the Harvard College curricular review drew to a close last spring, the University community was asked to comment on the proposed framework set out in the 2003 report. More than 1,100 responses were received, with 94 percent indicating support for the new framework.

This past summer, Hyman initiated a University-wide process to plan for the implementation of the new calendar, in consultation with the deans and the registrars. A set of coordinated calendars for the seven academic years beginning in 2009-2010 was developed by the registrars working group during the fall of 2007 and subsequently endorsed by the president, provost, and Harvard Corporation.

The registrars working group carefully considered all options to ensure a smooth transition to the new calendar. The decision to wait until the 2009-2010 academic year to convert to the new calendar was made in order to provide adequate notice to students, faculty, and staff and to provide sufficient time for the University to prepare effectively for the change. The dates for Commencement, which will continue to take place on a Thursday, were carefully researched to prevent conflicts with the commencements of other Boston-area institutions, in order to ensure that adequate hotel and restaurant accommodations will be available. For the May 2010 Commencement, the University is notifying local hotels about the change so that they can alert individuals holding reservations.

“I am delighted that calendar reform is finally taking place,” said Verba. “Harvard is becoming more and more a single university, with greater sharing of teaching and research among the various Schools. The change to a coordinated calendar reflects the hard work and strong consensus of students, faculty, and administrators from across the University. By harmonizing the varied calendars, we have made it easier to work together. And winter break will now be more relaxing for everyone.”