Religious Observance 2020
Religious Observances 2020 which may impact on university activities
This is to advise of the dates of various key religious festivals which are likely to be observed by both staff and students in the course of this calendar year. As always, this is not meant to be an exhaustive or complete list of all religious activities, but it concentrates on those where religious obligations may have an impact on aspects of our life and activities together.
The agreed policy is that any requests from students to be absent during term-time for necessary religious observance should be considered by Departments/Faculties as they arise, although the position is that the university is happy to consider such requests for absence for religious reasons as long as they are made sufficiently in advance, and appropriate alternative arrangements should be made to ensure that students are not disadvantaged by their religious observance (see the Timetable Policy at https://www.kcl.ac.uk/governancezone/Assets/Teaching/Timetable-Policy.pdf). Staff members are advised to inform their line managers as soon as possible in advance if they are likely to need leave for religious reasons at any point in the year.
The Jewish festival of Purim begins at sunset on Monday 9 March and ends at nightfall on Tuesday 10 March. Work and travel should be avoided during this time, so Jewish staff and students may need to leave a little earlier than usual on the Monday, and may also ask for leave on the Tuesday.
The Jewish festival of Passover begins at sunset on Wednesday 8 April and ends at nightfall on Thursday 16 April (although this festival lasts for just over a week, the first two days and the last two days are the most important, when work and travel must be avoided). This is within the vacation, and includes the long bank holiday weekend, so the impact may be less than might otherwise be the case. However, any staff and students who do need to ask for leave may do so for some or all of Thursday 9 April (Friday 10 April and Monday 13 April are bank holidays), and Tuesday 14 to Thursday 16 April.
It is worth noting that Orthodox Christians will celebrate Easter a week later than other Christians, on Sunday 19 April, so some people may wish to take leave on Friday 17 April.
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan will begin on or around Friday 24 April (in the revision week before Exam Period II) and will last until around Saturday 23 May when the feast of Eid al-Fitr is marked (both dates are dependent on the sighting of the moon, hence the slight uncertainty). Since fasting is required during hours of daylight, which will be getting longer at this time of year, this can lead to fainting. Staff who are invigilating exams during this period should be particularly aware of Muslim students in case they get into physical difficulties, and students on clinical placements may also need support to ensure that they can meet their clinical learning and assessment requirements whilst maintaining their religious observances.
You can find information and advice regarding students fasting while on placement during Ramadan here [information and advice regarding Ramadan will appear here soon].
You can find information and advice regarding Ramadan and the exam period here [information and advice regarding Ramadan will appear here soon].
The Jewish festival of Shavuot begins at sunset on Thursday 28 May and ends at nightfall on Saturday 30 May. Once again, work and travel must be avoided, so people may wish to request leave for Friday 29 May, if relevant (by this time of year, sunset should be late enough that people will not have to leave early on the Thursday, but flexibility is requested if necessary). This festival falls right at the end of Exam Period II, so if there should be a clash with a scheduled exam, or with teaching which may still be happening (for instance for the Medical or Dental Faculties), such clashes should be advised to Faculties/Departments and the Examinations Office as soon as possible, and advice sought from the Dean’s Office (we work closely with the Rabbi to the London Universities, and we now also have a part-time Jewish Chaplain as part of our team).
The Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha falls on Friday 31 July; since this is during the summer vacation, the impact is likely to be less as those people whom it is likely to affect may already be on annual leave at the time. The festival of Ashura, which is celebrated by Shia Muslims, then takes place from Friday 28 to Saturday 29 August. This involves the avoidance of work as far as possible, so staff may request annual leave on the Friday.
The Jewish New Year festival (Rosh Hashanah) begins at sunset on Friday 18 September and ends at nightfall on Sunday 20 September. As before, work and travel must be avoided, so people may ask to leave earlier than usual on the Friday. Since this and the next few festivals occur during the first few weeks of the new academic year, obviously it will be difficult for new students to make such requests in advance if the need for absence is in their first few weeks at King’s, so some flexibility and understanding will be required.
The most solemn festival of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, runs from sunset on Sunday 27 September until nightfall the following day, and is then followed by the linked festivals of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, which begin at sunset on Friday 2 October and end at nightfall on Sunday 11 October (as with Passover earlier in the year, the first two days and the last two days are the most important). People may therefore ask for time off for some or all of 28 September and Monday 5 to Friday 9 October.
The Shia Muslim festival of Arbaeen, which is related to Ashura (in August), takes place from Wednesday 7 to Thursday 8 October. Again, ideally work should be avoided so time off may be requested.
When the new academic year starts in September, it will be helpful to remember that new students may not, at the very start of term, have found the Muslim Prayer Rooms on the different College campuses. As a reminder, these are Strand Building room S-1.03, on the first floor of the Franklin Wilkins Building at Waterloo, in the first basement of the Hodgkin Building at Guy’s, and room W1.07 in the Main Building of the IoPPN at Denmark Hill. Prayer times are spread throughout the day, with the most important prayer time being Friday lunchtime; it is always appreciated if Muslim staff and students can be permitted to go to pray when required, although it is good practice to make it clear to students that it is expected that they should request permission for this first, rather than just getting up and walking out at the relevant time.
More widely, staff and students are – as always – very welcome to the Opening of Year Services in the College’s two Chapels. The service at the Strand is on Wednesday 30 September at 1.10pm, and that at Guy’s is on Thursday 1 October at 5.30pm.
The Jewish feast of Hanukkah will fall within term-time this year, as it begins at sunset on Thursday 10 December and ends at nightfall on Friday 18 December. Work does not need to be avoided, although people may need to leave earlier than usual on Friday 11 December.
If there are any queries or problems, please contact either the Dean’s Office or one of the Chaplains, and we will do our best to help. As mentioned, this is not a comprehensive list (there are, of course, many other festivals of different faiths across the year), but also as mentioned it tries to focus on those festivals where religious obligations may particularly impact upon exams at the end of one academic year, and attendance for registration and the start of teaching at the start of the next.
7 January 2020