In academic calendars, the year usually starts in late summer or early fall – in both hemispheres – and it is usually subdivided into 2 to 6 terms of similar length: semesters, quadmesters, trimesters or quarters etc. A school calendar often includes long summer holidays between years and several shorter breaks throughout the year, often between terms and around national holidays, civil or religious. Holidays are mostly free recreational time in primary and secondary education, but in tertiary education, weeks without classes (i.e. lectures, seminars or other courses) are often intended for exams, test preparations, term papers, internships, excursions (field trips) and so on.

Academic terms vary wildly between and even within countries. One problem of harmonization, among many, is whether the major break, usually summer holidays, is part of a division or stands on its own. Since academic schedules are usually primarily focused on weeks, not months, the international week calendar is used henceforth.

Academic YearEdit

48 Study Weeks Edit

Each calendrical quart of 13 (or 14) weeks contains one complete academic quarter or trimester and at least one holiday week. Free weeks are located where local holidays afford it; they may be split. If possible they should occur as 1st or after the 4th, 8th or 12th week. The trimester is then subdivided into 3 months or modules of 4 (consecutive) weeks each. 4 consecutive months are regrouped as a quadmester. 2 consecutive trimesters form a semester, this may span the year boundary.

Semesters of 6 months are labeled by the season they fully incorporate, i.e., on the Northern hemisphere, a winter semester contains Q4 and Q1 of the following year, spring semester Q1/Q2, summer semester Q2/Q3 and autumn or fall semester Q3/Q4. Trimesters of 3 months take the name from the season they begin in, i.e., again in the North, winter quadmester Q1, spring quadmester Q2, summer quadmester Q3 and autumn or fall quadmester Q4. Quadmesters of 4 months are named by the trimester they contain the major part of, or by the later part if both are equal.

Up to half the terms or months may be reserved for independent study, i.e. no mandatory lectures are held and rooms may be used otherwise (e.g. for exams or conferences). For winter and summer semesters, it’s customary to assign the final 2 months to such use (Feb+Mar, Aug+Sep), but for fall and spring semesters, it’s often the initial 2 months instead (Jul+Aug, Jan+Feb) – there’re just 32 weeks of classes then in both cases. No exams are held in break weeks.

Twelve 4-week blocks (months): quadmesters, semesters or trimesters (Northern hemisphere)
Period Weeks Description Quart Season Trimester Semester Quadmester
W40/43 4 October Q4 Fall Fall, Michaelmas Winter Fall Fall Summer Fall Fall
W44/47 4 November Winter
W48/51 4 December Winter
W52/53 1–2 Christmas Winter break break break
W01/04 4 January Q1 Winter, Hilary Spring Winter
W05/08 4 February Spring
W09/12 4 March Spring
W13 1 Easter Spring break break break
W14/17 4 April Q2 Spring, Easter Summer Spring
W18/21 4 May Summer
W22/25 4 June Summer
W26 1 Pentecost Summer break break break
W27/30 4 July Q3 Summer, Trinity Fall Summer
W31/34 4 August Fall
W35/38 4 September Fall
W39 1 Michaelmas Fall break break break

45 Study Weeks Edit

The major Christian holiday of Easter (including Good Friday) actually falls in weeks W13–W17 and rarely W18, with the Monday of the week after that also being conisdered a holiday in many countries. The nominal date of “Easter break” at W11 in an academic calendar with 5 basic blocks of 9 continuous weeks each therefore probably would have to be adaptable into the “Spring term” in practice.

Five 9-week blocks: terms (Northern hemisphere)
Period Weeks Term / Break Weeks Semester
W33/41 9 Fall term 19 Fall semester
W42 1 Fall break
W43/51 9 Holiday term
W52/01 2–3 Christmas holiday
W02/10 9 Winter term 19 Spring semester
W11 1 Easter break
W12/20 9 Spring term
W21 1 Spring break 12 (7+5) Summer
W22/30 9 Summer term
W31/32 2 Summer holiday

With 9 blocks of 5 weeks each, a collective term of 3 such blocks, i.e. 15 weeks, is between 3 and 4 months or ¼ and ⅓ year long, so it could reasonably be called either trimester or quadmester – or triterm.

Nine 5-week blocks: terms or trimesters (Northern hemisphere)
Period Weeks Term / Break Weeks Trimester Weeks Semester
W37/41 5 term 1 15 Fall trimester 22–23 Winter semester
W42/46 5 term 2
W47/51 5 term 3
W52/01 2–3 Christmas holiday
W02/06 5 term 4 15 Spring trimester
W07/11 5 term 5 5 Spring break
W12/16 5 term 6 22 Summer semester
W17/18 2 Spring holiday
W19/23 5 term 7 15 Summer trimester
W24/28 5 term 8
W29/33 5 term 9
W34/36 3 Summer holiday

42 Study Weeks Edit

In about 40% of years, the “Easter holiday” of an academic calendar with 6 constituent blocks of 7 weeks each in W16 and W17 actually covers the current Western Christian date of Easter; otherwise it’s usually 1 to 3 weeks earlier, i.e. somewhere near the end of “Winter term 2” and “Winter trimester”.

The “trimesters” in this variant are of equal overall length, i.e. 15 weeks, as with 9 blocks of 5 weeks each (i.e. 45 study weeks), but they include a variable week-long break and are all offset by 1 week: W36–W50 vs. W37–W51, W01–W15 vs. W02–W16 and W18–W32 vs. W19–W33.

Six 7-week blocks: hexamesters, trimesters or semester (Northern hemisphere)
Period Weeks Term / Break Weeks Trimester Weeks Semester
W36/42 7 Fall term 1 15 (14+1) Fall trimester 24–25 (21+3∨4) Fall semester
W43 1 Fall half term break
W44/50 7 Fall term 2
W51/53 2–3 Christmas holiday
W01/07 7 Winter term 1 15 (14+1) Winter trimester
W08 1 Winter half term break 1 Winter holiday
W09/15 7 Winter term 2 24 (21+3) Spring semester
W16/17 2 Easter holiday
W18/24 7 Spring term 1 15 (14+1) Spring trimester
W25 1 Spring half term break
W26/32 7 Spring term 2
W33/35 3 Summer holiday

With 7 constituent blocks of 6 weeks each, the resulting “Winter semester” (16 or 17 weeks) is considerably longer than the “Summer semester” (14 weeks). Its roughly 3-month trimesters are all exactly 13 weeks on the other hand. Its “Easter break” in weeks W14 and W15 covers the date of Catholic Easter in almost 50% of the years, but may be 1 week earlier or up to 3 weeks later in other years – “Pentecost term” and “Carnival term” are likewise only close to their actual dates.

Seven 6-week blocks: terms, trimesters or semesters (Northern hemisphere)
Period Weeks Term / Break Weeks Trimester Weeks Semester
W38/43 6 Fall term 13 Fall,
6 Fall break
W44 1 Halloween break 16–17 Winter
W45/50 6 Holiday term
W51/53 2–3 Christmas break
W01/06 6 Winter term 13 Winter,
W07 1 Carnival break
W08/13 6 Lent term 8 Winter exams
W14/15 2 Easter break Spring break
W16/21 6 Pentecost term 13 Spring,
14 Summer
W22 1 Ascension break
W23/28 6 Spring term
W29 1 National break 9 Summer break
W30/35 6 Summer term 8 Summer exams
W36/37 2 Year break Fall break

40 Study Weeks Edit

Ten weeks are always less than 3 months or ¼ year (but also more than 2 months), so it’s not really appropriate to call it a trimester.

Four 10-week blocks: trimesters with guaranteed Easter break
Period Weeks Trimester / Break
W40/41 2 Fall break
W42/51 10 Fall term
W52/01 2–3 Christmas break
W02/11 10 Winter term
W12/18 7 Easter holidays
W19/28 10 Spring term
W29 1 Summer break
W30/39 10 Summer term

The summer term is optionally free of lectures, then this is a 30-week plan that would probably start the academic year in W40 or W42 with “Fall break” or “Fall term”, respectively.

36 Study Weeks Edit

There are several useful patterns to spread 3 trimesters of exactly 12 study weeks with intervening breaks each across the year, two are shown here. The first has a convetional longer summer holiday, the second almost guarantees (over 99% of years) to cover Catholic Easter with the respective break and all 3 breaks are 5 or 6 weeks long exactly.

Three 12-week blocks: trimesters (Northern hemisphere)
Period Weeks Trimester / Break
W38/49 12 Fall trimester
W50/53 3–4 Christmas break
W01/12 12 Winter trimester
W13/15 3 Easter break
W16/27 12 Spring trimester
W29/37 9 Summer break
Three 12-week blocks: trimesters with guaranteed Easter break
Period Weeks Trimester / Break
W36/47 12 Fall trimester
W48/53 5–6 Christmas break
W01/12 12 Winter trimester
W13/17 5 Easter break
W18/29 12 Spring trimester
W30/35 6 Summer break

Holidays Edit

Traditional English term names
Name Fix date Third, Quadmester Quarter, Trimester
Michaelmas term 29 September W39-3 thru W40-3 1st 4th
Hilary term 14 January W02-4 thru W03-3 2nd 1st
Epiphany term 6 January W01-3 thru W02-2 2nd
Lent term 6 weeks before Easter, usually in February W06 thru W11 2nd
Easter term variable date in March or April W12 thru W17 3rd 2nd
Trinity term 8 weeks after Easter, in May or June W20 thru W25 3rd 3rd
Summer term 21 June W25-1 thru W26-1 3rd (2nd/2 etc.)
Week days of some popular holidays[1]
Dom. Frequency *-01-01 *-01-06 *-02-14 *-05-01 *-11-01 *-12-25
C 43 ⇒ 10¾% W53-5 W01-3 W06-7 W17-6 W44-1 W51-6
CB 15 ⇒ 3¾% W17-7 W44-2 W51-7
B* 13 ⇒ 3¼% W53-6 W01-4 W07-1
B 30 ⇒ 7½% W52-6
BA 13 ⇒ 3¼% W18-1 W44-3 W52-1
A 43 ⇒ 10¾% W52-7 W01-5 W07-2
AG 15 ⇒ 3¾% W18-2 W44-4 W52-2
G 43 ⇒ 10¾% W01-1 W01-6 W07-3
GF 13 ⇒ 3¼% W18-3 W44-5 W52-3
F 44 ⇒ 11% W01-2 W01-7 W07-4
FE 14 ⇒ 3½% W18-4 W44-6 W52-4
E 43 ⇒ 10¾% W01-3 W02-1 W07-5
ED 14 ⇒ 3½% W18-5 W44-7 W52-5
D 44 ⇒ 11% W01-4 W02-2 W07-6
DC 13 ⇒ 3¼% W18-6 W45-1 W52-6
Week days of some national holidays, dow of original date highlighted
Dom. Frequency US France Germany
1776-07-04 1789-07-14 1990-10-03
C 43 ⇒ 10¾% W26-7 W28-3 W39-7
CB 15 ⇒ 3¾% W27-1 W28-4 W40-1
B* 13 ⇒ 3¼%
B 30 ⇒ 7½%
BA 13 ⇒ 3¼% W27-2 W28-5 W40-2
A 43 ⇒ 10¾%
AG 15 ⇒ 3¾% W27-3 W28-6 W40-3
G 43 ⇒ 10¾%
GF 13 ⇒ 3¼% W27-4 W28-7 W40-4
F 44 ⇒ 11%
FE 14 ⇒ 3½% W27-5 W29-1 W40-5
E 43 ⇒ 10¾%
ED 14 ⇒ 3½% W27-6 W29-2 W40-6
D 44 ⇒ 11%
DC 13 ⇒ 3¼% W27-7 W29-3 W40-7

If Christmas Day, 25 December, is in week 51 it is always either on a Saturday or Sunday, hence week 52 can safely be assigned a holiday week at the end of the year. (In jurisdictions where christmas matters, that is of course.) If the first week of the year is also a holiday, 1 and 6 January are almost always included, too.

Probabilities for the weeks of Catholic holidays dependent on Easter[2]
Week W06 W07 W08 W09 W10 W11 W12 W13 W14 W15 W16 W17 W18 W19 W20 W21 W22 W23 W24 W25
Carnival 12.1%23.5%23.2%23.3%17.6%0.3%              
Passa       12.1%23.5%23.2%23.3%17.6% 0.3%        
Easter        12.1%23.5%23.2%23.3%17.6% 0.3%       
Ascension             12.1%23.5%23.2%23.3%17.6% 0.3%  
Pentecost              12.1%23.5%23.2%23.3%17.6% 0.3% 
Corpus Christi               12.1%23.5%23.2%23.3%17.6% 0.3%
Sum 12.1%23.5%23.2%23.3%17.6%0.3%12.1%35.6%46.7%46.5%40.9%17.9%12.4%35.6%58.8%70.0%64.1%41.2%17.9%0.3%
North-American holidays defined by week
Holiday Definition Primary date Secondary date
USA Canada
ML King Day 3rd Mon / Jan W04-1 57% W03-1
Presidents Day Family Day 3rd Mon / Feb W08-1 86%  W07-1
Mothers’ Day 2nd Sun / May W19-7 64% W18-7
Victoria Day Mon < May 25 W21-1 96% W22-1
Memorial Day Last Mon / May W22-1 96% W23-1
Fathers’ Day 2rd Sun / Jun W24-7 82% W25-7
Civic Holiday 1st Mon / Aug W32-1 75% W31-1
Labor Day 1st Mon / Sep W36-1 82% W37-1
Columbus Day Thanksgiving 2nd Mon / Oct  W41-1 54% W42-1
Election Day 1st Tue > 1st Mon / Nov W45-2 96% W44-2
Thanksgiving 4th Thr / Nov W47-4 53% W48-4

Academic Day Schedule Edit

Thirteen 1-hour lessons timetable (with three lunch groups)
Name Period Duration
Breakfast 07:15–08:00 00:45
1 08:00–08:45 00:45
  08:45–09:00 00:15
2 09:00–09:45 00:45
  09:45–10:00 00:15
3 10:00–10:45 00:45
  10:45–11:00 00:15
4 11:00–11:45 00:45
Early lunch 11:45–12:00 00:15 11:45–12:30 00:45
5 12:00–12:45 00:45 12:30–13:15 00:45
Lunch 12:45–13:30 00:45 13:15–13:30 00:15 12:45–13:00 00:15
6 13:30–14:15 00:45     13:00–13:45 00:45
Late lunch 14:15–14:30 00:15     13:45–14:30 00:45
7 14:30–15:15 00:45
  15:15–15:30 00:15
8 15:30–16:15 00:45
  16:15-16:30 00:15
9 16:30–17:15 00:45
  17:15-17:30 00:15
10 17:30–18:15 00:45
Dinner 18:15-19:00 00:45
11 19:00–19:45 00:45
  19:45-20:00 00:15
12 20:00–20:45 00:45
  20:45-21:00 00:15
13 21:00–21:45 00:45
Night 21:45–07:15 09:30

Primary and Secondary Education Edit

Credit points and hours in secondary education
Period credit points hours weeks
ECTS CATS min max 26⅔h 30h
school 320 640 80009600 336 288
degree license 320 640 80009600 336 288
year 40 80 10001200 42 36
term semester 20 40 500 600 21 18
trimester 13⅓ 26⅔ 333 400 14 12
quadmester 10 20 250 300 10½ 9
unit course 6 12 150 180 7 6
module 3 6 75 90 3
block 2 4 50 60 2⅓ 2
credit point 1 2 25 301⅙1
Credit points and hours in primary education
Period credit points hours weeks
ECTS CATS min max 20h 23h
year 30 60 750 900 42 36
term semester 15 30 375 450 21 18
quadmester 10 20 250 300 14 12
trimester 15 190 225 10½ 9
bimester 5 10 125 150 7 6
unit course 4½–59–10 120 150 7 6
module 5 60 75 3
block 3 40 50 2⅓ 2
credit point 1 2 25 30 1⅓

The amount of expected work in secondary education is two thirds and in primary education half that of tertiary education, but the value of credit points is the same, therefore pupils earn either 40 or 30 ECTS points per year instead of 60. As a rule of thumb, in ISCED level 1, a pupil is expected to have a ratio of roughly 3:1 attendance to preparation, in level 2 it is 2:1, in level 3 and 4 it is 1:1, in level 5a 1:2, in level 5b rather 1:3 and in level 6 at least 1:4.

Every child in the world is entitled to a basic education, which covers literacy and calculus, of at least 4 years free of charge. If this ISCED level 1 education ends after 4 years, the school type is called Primary School, whereas Elementary School lasts for 6 years and may be subdivided in equal parts into Junior and Senior years. Primary School may be followed by a 2-year Middle School. Consecutive options are then the same.

Every developed country must offer all of its youth a place in secondary education and even require them to attend school for an overall of 10 years. It should do so at no extra cost for the parents. Secondary education should include mandatory lessons in at least one non-native language. Whether secondary education begins at year 5 or 7 and whether or how pupils are separated by performance levels, is up to local governance.

Schools directly following Primary School (Aspirance) include the Gymnasium, Lyceum (both with special admission requirements) and High School, which all commonly lead to tertiary education (level 5a) qualification with Abitur, Matriculation and License, respectively. Only High School is subdivided into Junior and Senior years, where the first part may end with Graduation as it ends at the same stage as Grade School. Regular School, on the other hand, ends after 6 more years with Commendation and may be followed by 2-year Upper School (Matura) or any of Military, Career, Vocational, Trade and Preparatory School.

After Elementary or Middle School (i.e. Candidature or Transition), a 4-year Secondary School (Diploma) or a 2×3-year Grammar School (Baccalaureate or simply Laureate) follows, where a secondary language is mandatory.

Less frequent school types are the 2-part Comprehensive School of 10 years (first degree Warrant, second degree Qualification) and first-level schools that start later and hence are prepended not by Nursery School, but Infant School, First School or Preschool which also award Admission at the end. They are usually followed by alternative primary education schools: either 3-year Lower School, which ends with Aspirancy like Primary School and later usually leads to Regular and Upper School, or 2×3-year Grade School, where Senior Grade School ends up much like Junior High School.

After 12 years of primary and secondary education a pupil may attend level-4 Postschool in preparation for tertiary education degrees.

Schools and Degrees in Primary and Secondary Education
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Play, Nursery School Junior Senior Career School
Comprehensive School Military School
Junior Senior Junior Senior
Elementary School Grammar School
Junior Senior Middle School Junior Senior Vocational School
Secondary School Preparatory School
Junior Senior Trade School
Primary School Regular School Upper School
Sexta Quinta Quarta Tertia Secunda Prima
Infant School Lower School Junior Senior Post school
First School / Preschool Junior Senior High School
Grade School
0 ISCED 1 ISCED 2 3 4
Admission Warrant Qualification Certificate
Candidature (Bacca-)Laureate, Award
Aspirance Transition Diploma Matura
Graduation License

Tertiary and Later Education Edit

Credit points and hours in tertiary education
Period credit points hours weeks
ECTS CATS min max 35h 37½h 40h 45h
study 30060075009000 240 225 210 180
degree bachelor 24048060007200 192 180 168 144
22044055006600 176 165 154 132
21042052506300 168 157½147 126
20040050006000 160 150 140 120
18036045005400 144 135 126 108
master 12024030003600 96 90 84 72
10020025003000 80 75 70 60
9018022502700 72 67½ 63 54
8016020002400 64 60 56 48
6012015001800 48 45 42 36
year 60 12015001800 48 45 42 36
term semester 30 60 750 900 24 22½ 21 18
quadmester 20 40 500 600 16 15 14 12
trimester 15 30 375 450 12 11¼ 10½ 9
bimester 10 20 250 300 8 7 6
month 5 10 125 150 4 3–4 3–4 3
unit course 9–1020 225 300 8 7 6
module 5 10 125 150 4 3
block 3 5–6 75 90 2⅔ 2⅓ 2
credit point 1 2 25 30 ¾ ¾ ½

We will specify a default system that works well with International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) and European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System(ECTS) requirements, where 1 credit point (CP) accounts for 25 to 30 hours of work. This works out reasonably well with 42, 45 or 48 study weeks per year, not all of which will require attendance of lectures. It would of course also be possible to use 49 (= 7 × 7), 44 (= 4 × 11), 40 (= 4 × 10) or 39 (= 3 × 13 weeks/term) study weeks per year. A student will usually first earn a Bachelor degree, potentially followed by a Master degree and finally an academic Doctor degree. There are several kinds of bachelors, masters and doctors, though, and even preliminary degrees.

The most common kind of bachelor is a Honors or Honours Degree (BHon) which takes three years of study and a final thesis. An extra semester is requried for a Research Degree (BRes) and the maximum of four years may lead towards a Letters Degree (BLitt). All of these may be followed by a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) study programme usually lasting for as long as it takes to make a consecutive programme five years in total. An intermediary study of one year is possible, too, and awards either a Bachelor of Letters (BLitt) or a Master of Research (MRes) degree. After achieving a MPhil, a graduate may choose or may be requried to enrole in a Master of Letters (MLitt) study before starting doctoral studies.

If a student first receives a Certificate after one year, an Associate Degree after three semesters or four to five trimesters, a Foundation Degree after two years or a Pass Degree after five semesters or seven to eight trimesters, they must add another short degree including a thesis, often a Bachelor of Research (BRes), in order to get accepted into master programmes. Even then, they may be restricted to certain kinds of masters, especially the Master of Research, which may be suceeded by a Master of Philosophy and finally a Master of Letters or a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil). A Doctor of Science (DSci) usually requires at least a MPhil degree or even a MLitt, a MRes will not suffice.

Bachelors of Honors and Masters of Philosphy in most fields are labeled with a more specialised degree: Bachelor and Master of Arts (BArt, MArt) in the humanities, Bachelor and Master of Engineering (BEng, MEng) in the applied sciences, Bachelor and Master of Science (BSci, MSci) in the sciences, Bachelor and Master of Education (BEdu, MEdu) in teaching.

The Bachelor of Muse (BMus) in the liberal arts usually takes four years, hence is a Bachelor of Letters degree. It is followed by a one-year or two-year Master of Muse (MMus).

The studies of laws and medicine are unusual in that a Bachelor of Laws or Medicine (BLaw, BMed) takes three years as is the default, but the consecutive Master of Laws or Medicine (MLaw, MMed) also lasts three years, but the succeeding studies for a Doctor of Laws or Medicine (DLaw, DMed) degree take not as long as elsewhere.

Only Universities may offer study programmes at all levels. Colleges, sometimes split into Junior College and Senior College, are limited to bachelor degrees, but may also offer preparation courses. They may coopereate with a Doctoral College which offers matching master and doctor programmes. The strictest division is in Undergraduate, Graduate and Postgraduate Schools, which offer bachelor, master and doctor programmes, respectively. Preparatory Schools may not reward formal degrees that include a thesis, whereas Academies will only offer programmes concluding with a thesis. Vocational Schools focus on study on or close to the job and may be amended by Professional Schools which award bachelor and master degrees.

Tertiary and Quartary Education
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0 30 60 90 120 150 180 210 240 270 300 330 360 390 420 450 480 510 540 570 600
License Certificate Foundation Degree MRes MPhil Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil)
MRes MPhil Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil)
Associate Degree Candidate Degree (BPhil) Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
Foundation Degree BRes Master of Letters (MLitt) Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil)
Pass Degree BRes
Bachelor (BArt, BSci, BEng, BEdu) Master (MArt, …), Diploma Doctor(ate) (Dr)
Research Degree (BRes) MPhil Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil),
Doctor of Science (DSci)
Honors Degree (B…) MPhil
BLitt MPhil
Bachelor of Letters (BLitt)
Master of Letters Doctor of Science (DSci)
MPhil Master of Letters (MLitt) Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil)
Certificate Honors Degree (B…)
Foundation Degree BRes
Bachelor of Laws (BLaw) Master of Laws (MLaw) practice Doctor of Laws (DLaw)
Bachelor of Medicine (BMed) Master of Medicine (MMed) Doctor of Medicine (DMed)
Undergrad(uate) School Grad(uate) School Postgrad(uate) School
Prep(aratory) School Academy
Junior Senior Doctoral College
Vocational School Professional School

Sources Edit

  1. Mathematics of the ISO 8601 calendar
  2. Symmetry454 Calendar Birthdays, Anniversaries, Memorial Days, Holidays and Annual Events (PDF)

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