Cambridge University students are preparing to mount a major campaign to ensure the Easter term is extended by one week. But bursars of the 34 Cambridge colleges are opposed to extending the term because it would reduce income from conferences held during the summer vacation.
Earlier this year, the university's council recommended an additional week be added before the term's examination period. The university's 3,000 academics will vote in November to decide whether the seven-week term should be brought into line with the other two teaching periods.
Neil McInnes, Cambridge University Students' Union academic affairs officer, said the campaign aimed to convince the university community that if students were to be taught properly during the first four weeks of the term, the change was crucial.
He said an extra week would be very useful for most undergraduates, as some begin exams the same week they finish lectures.
"To say students have the chance to assimilate and revise all that material and then sit the exam in the present time scale is unrealistic," Mr McInnes said.
His view echoed the university council's report, which said the present term was "difficult to defend on educational grounds".
But Michael Allen, bursar of Churchill College, said Government funding was falling and colleges had to seek alternative income. "Most bursars would shudder at the thought of losing one week out of what is our prime time for conferences."
Although the effect would vary between years and colleges, Mr Allen said many had extensive conference programmes and would suffer a major fall in income. Bursars fear an extra week would force accommodation charges to rise, increasing students' financial burdens, but he agreed the current system put pressure on students at the end of Easter term.
Joan Whitehead, a member of the Cambridge council, said students whose exams fell at the start of the exam period did not have time to prepare and she found it hard to believe a week would make a significant difference to colleges' income.