Revised Academic Calendars

For the 2020-21 academic year at Brown, the University is offering three terms of instruction and arranging for undergraduate students to be on campus for two of these three terms, thus providing an environment with fewer students on campus at any one time. Each term is slightly compressed at 14 weeks rather than the usual 15.

Major dates for the academic calendar for undergraduate and graduate students are summarized as follows:

  • Beginning of the fall term: Sept. 9, 2020. After Thanksgiving break (commencing at noon on Nov. 25), there is a weeklong remote reading period Nov. 30 to Dec. 4, followed by a remote final exam period Dec. 7-11.
  • Beginning of spring term: Jan. 20, 2021. Remote reading period begins April 12, followed by remote final exams April 19-23.
  • Beginning of the summer term: May 12, 2021. Remote reading period begins Aug. 2, followed by remote final exams Aug. 9-13.

Visit the Academic Calendar page maintained by the Office of the Registrar for more details:

Academic Calendar

As shown in the following table, juniors and seniors are attending during the fall and spring terms; and first-year students are attending during the spring and summer terms. Sophomores are attending fall-spring:

  First Year Sophomore Junior Senior
Fall   X X X
Spring X X* X X
Summer X X*    

*Sophomores in only exceptional circumstances may be fall/spring or fall/summer.

“Quiet Period,” Reading Period and Breaks

The start of classes each term is preceded by a “quiet period,” during which students are expected mostly to self-quarantine within their residences. Each term includes two or three long weekends. However, longer breaks like fall and spring recess have been eliminated due to calendar constraints and to avoid out-of-state travel. 

Reading period — the period following the end of classes and prior to final exams that is devoted to study — and final exams are being offered remotely.

Eligible students may opt to complete one or both of their terms remotely, and during “off” terms, students are not enrolled at Brown and can pursue internships, research programs or other academic/professional development opportunities.

Graduate students (doctoral and master’s) are enrolled primarily in the fall and spring terms, although we anticipate that significant numbers of new international students may need to defer arrival due to expected delays in visa processing. Most of the essential graduate courses are being delivered in fall or spring.

In most graduate programs, summer is traditionally used for fieldwork, full-time lab research or internships. Graduate students who were unable to come to campus in September were given the option to defer for one term (with or without an online start in the fall), for one year, or to begin the program online and to join on campus part way through the fall term. In all other respects, graduate instruction is similar to the plans described for the undergraduate program.

Medical education is substantively different from undergraduate and graduate programs in many respects, including the fact that third- and fourth-year instruction takes place almost entirely in Brown’s affiliated hospitals and is subject to the plans and policies of those institutions. The Warren Alpert Medical School (AMS) has adopted the following guiding principles for delivering the medical curriculum in the coming year:

  1. Continue to deliver an innovative, evidence-based curriculum that creates an optimal educational experience for all medical students.
  2. Use a variety of pedagogical methodologies including, but not limited to, lecture, small groups and clinical experiences.
  3. Adhere to best practice guidelines from the CDC and RIDOH in regard to physical distancing and other safety precautions.
In order to do so for first-year medical students (beginning on August 3, 2020), AMS is operating as follows:
  1. Conduct all large group lectures virtually through delivery mechanisms such as Zoom, Panopto and Brainshark. (Note: as the first year, first term typically progresses, up to 50% or more of students typically watch recorded lectures rather than attend lectures in-person.)
  2. Conduct small groups in-person or, in some cases, through a hybrid model of virtual and in-person methods of delivery.
  3. Continue with the clinical skills component of the first year in-person, using social distancing guidelines to ensure safety of students, faculty and standardized patients (for example, reducing the number of students in clinical skills suite rooms by 50%).
  4. Continue students working with mentors in the clinical setting for a half day per week (with appropriate personal protective equipment provided).
  5. Conduct anatomy laboratory sessions using a mix of prosections and mobile applications.
  6. Administer examinations either: (1) remotely using Zoom or artificial intelligence applications; or (2) in-person, adhering to guidelines from CDC/RIDOH on appropriate physical distancing.
For second-year medical students (beginning on August 5, 2020) AMS is operating as follows:
  1. Conduct all large group lectures virtually through delivery mechanisms such as Zoom, Panopto and Brainshark. (Note: In the second year, many students typically watch recorded lectures rather than attend lectures in person).
  2. Conduct small groups in-person or, in some cases, through a hybrid model of virtual and in-person.
  3. Continue with the clinical skills component of the first year in-person, using social distancing guidelines to ensure safety of students, faculty and standardized patients (for example, reducing the number of students in clinical skills suite rooms by 50%).
  4. Continue students working with mentors in the clinical setting for a half day per week (with appropriate personal protective equipment provided).
  5. Administer examinations either: (1) Remotely using Zoom or artificial intelligence applications; or (2) in-person, adhering to guidelines from CDC/RIDOH on appropriate physical distancing.
For third- and fourth-year medical students (first term began on May 26, 2020) AMS has done the following:
  1. Appropriate personal protective equipment has been provided for all students at the same level as other health care providers in the setting in which students are working for all clinical rotations that began on May 26, 2020.
  2. Any didactic sessions for students (typically groups of 12 or less) are conducted either in-person (usually at hospital sites) or virtually (if a larger group).
  3. Written (multiple-choice) examinations are proctored remotely via Zoom.
  4. Objective Structured Clinical Examinations are administered in AMS’s clinical skills suites with appropriate precautions (1 student: 1 standardized patient ratio; each individual wearing masks).

Last updated January 4, 2021. Information on this page may be updated as the University’s planning evolves and/or public health guidance prompts a shift in Brown’s operations and protocols.