Religious observances which may impact on university activities in 2023
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.
March / April
The Jewish festival of Purim begins at sunset on Monday 6 March and ends at nightfall on Tuesday 7 March. Work and travel should be avoided during this time, so Jewish staff and students may need to leave work/classes early on the Monday, and may request the Tuesday as leave (staff) or not be able to join classes that day (students).
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan will begin on or around Wednesday 22 March and will last until around Friday 21 April when the feast of Eid al-Fitr is marked (both dates are dependent on the sighting of the moon, hence the slight uncertainty). Much of this festival occurs within the vacation, although the first ten days will overlap with the end of the spring semester, when there will be some teaching and revision taking place. Ramadan will therefore not directly affect the official exam periods, but staff are encouraged to be aware of students who could still be affected. Those students who are on clinical placements may also need specific support to ensure that they can meet their clinical learning and assessment requirements whilst maintaining their religious observances.
Ramadan Staff and Student Guidance (pdf, 262 KB)
The Jewish festival of Passover begins at sunset on Wednesday 5 April and ends at nightfall on Thursday 13 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 – since Passover falls in the vacation this year, teaching is less likely to be affected and staff may ask for the relevant time off as annual leave anyway.
The holiest day in the Buddhist calendar, the Day of Vesak, occurs on Saturday 8 April, which is in the middle of the Easter bank holiday weekend, so additional time off is unlikely to be needed.
It is worth noting that Orthodox Christians will celebrate Easter a week later than other Christians this year, on Sunday 16 April, so some people may wish to take leave on Friday 14 April (Orthodox Good Friday).
The Jewish festival of Shavuot begins at sunset on Friday 26 May and ends at sunset on Saturday 27 May. Once again, work and travel must be avoided, so people may need to leave early on the Friday to be home by sunset. In addition, if there are any timetabling issues, for instance with exams or with teaching which may still be happening (for instance in 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 (Rabbi Dr Harrie Cedar, as Jewish Chaplain, is a part-time member of the Chaplaincy team, and we also work closely with the Rabbi to the London Universities).
June / July
The Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha falls between Wednesday 28 June and Sunday 2 July; since this is during the summer vacation, those people who are likely to be observing this may already be on annual leave at the time. The commemoration of Ashura, which is celebrated by Shia Muslims, then takes place on Thursday 27 July and Friday 28 July. This involves the avoidance of work as far as possible, so again staff may have already factored this into their annual leave requests; it does not, though, coincide with Exam Period III.
September / October
The next few festivals occur during the first few weeks of the new academic year, when it will be difficult for new students to make 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 Shia Muslim commemoration of Arbaeen, which is related to Ashura (in July), takes place from the evening of Tuesday 5 September to the evening of Wednesday 6 September. Again, ideally work should be avoided so time off may be requested.
The Jewish New Year festival (Rosh Hashanah) begins at sunset on Saturday 16 September and ends at nightfall on Monday 18 September. As before, work and travel must be avoided, so again people may ask for annual leave on Monday and Tuesday – since this will be in Welcome Week for the new academic year, it may not be possible to give as much advance notice as would be ideal.
The holiest festival of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, then runs from sunset on Sunday 24 September until nightfall the following day, meaning that Monday 25 September, the first day of Semester I, will be the day when leave is requested. This is followed by the linked festivals of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah, which begin at sunset on Saturday 30 September and end at nightfall on Sunday 8 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 particularly on Monday 2 and Friday 6 October, as well as possibly also the days in between.
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 (this is presuming that teaching and other activities have returned to campus by then). 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 Celebrations in the College’s two Chapels. The interfaith event at the Strand will be on Wednesday 27 September at either 1.10pm or 5.30pm (to be confirmed), and the Christian service at Guy’s will be on Thursday 28 September at 5.30pm.
The Hindu and Jain festival of Diwali, the Festival of Lights, falls on Sunday 12 November, but should not require time off for observance either before or afterwards.
One of the most significant festivals of the Sikh community, the Birthday of Guru Nanak, occurs on Monday 27 November, although celebrations usually start two days beforehand but should not require time off.
The Jewish feast of Hanukkah will occur in the last week of Semester I, beginning at sunset on Friday 8 December and ending at nightfall on Friday 15 December. Work does not need to be avoided, although it is good to remember that at this time of year Jewish staff and students will need to leave in mid afternoon to be at home by sunset for the start of the feast.
If there are any queries or problems related to this subject, 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.