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The Trinity College choir at Singing on the River 2016
The Trinity College choir at Singing on the River 2016
St John's College May Ball 2014 fireworks from Castle Mound
St John's College May Ball 2014 fireworks from Castle Mound

May Week is the name used in the University of Cambridge to refer to a period at the end of the academic year. Originally May Week took place in the week during May before year-end exams began.[1] Nowadays, May Week takes place in June after exams, and is a cause for great celebration amongst the students of the University. Highlights of the week include bumps races, May Balls, June Events and garden parties.


May Week festivities were originally held in May, in the final week before exams; however, the May boat races, also known as the May Bumps, moving toward June, right after exams to celebrate the year end.[2]

Suicide Sunday

Some cardboard boat race participants on Suicide Sunday 2012
Some cardboard boat race participants on Suicide Sunday 2012

Suicide Sunday is the name used at Cambridge University to refer to the Sunday immediately after the end of the summer term (known as Easter Term). By this Sunday, all students have finished exams but most of the results have not been published, so it is traditionally a period of nerves and suspense. The name, however, refers to the celebration of the end of exam term, in contrast to Caesarian Sunday on the day before the early May Bank Holiday which celebrates the birth of exam term. A student-led campaign in 2015 encouraged use of the name ‘May Week Sunday’ instead, though ’Suicide Sunday’ continues to persist among students and the public.

The event is for current students of the University of Cambridge but is frequented by former students that indulge in the student lifestyle.

The Cardboard Boat Race is a main attraction to Suicide Sunday, offering an alternative to the many garden parties and more serious boating. The first race was in 2010, with three boats from Magdalene College. In 2011, the race was opened to other colleges.[3]

May Week Alternative

May Week Alternative (MWA),[4] is a 'feel good' initiative set up by undergraduates at Cambridge University to encourage students to celebrate the end of the academic year through charitable endeavours. In the organisation's first 3 years, it attracted the support of approximately 650 students, and raised £150,000, protecting almost 180,000 people from malaria[5] according to the Against Malaria Foundation.


The organisation states three main aims:

  1. Direct impact: MWA seeks to raise money for AMF and in doing so transform tens of thousands of lives by providing life-saving anti-malaria nets.[6]
  2. Put charity at the heart of May Week celebrations: The initiative attempts to equip students with a positive framework which allows them to celebrate May Week by making the world a better place. By inviting students to see charity as a central and positive part of the May Week experience, MWA believes it can 'unlock huge philanthropic potential'.
  3. Inspire students with a bold, positive vision for giving: By inviting students to engage with significant giving through this explicitly positive, celebratory context, May Week Alternative hopes that students will develop philanthropic tendencies which they will take forward into their future careers, rather than seeing charity as a burden.



  1. ^ "May Week: balls, boats and bubbly". King's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 6 July 2014.
  2. ^ "We had a Ball" – William Ham Bevan. Cambridge Alumni Magazine, Issue 72 (Easter 2014)
  3. ^ "2011 Cardboard Boat Race". Facebook.
  4. ^ "George Rosenfeld receives VC award for May Week Alternative". Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  5. ^ "May Week Alternative". Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  6. ^ "May Week Alternative: a new way to celebrate". The Cambridge Student. 8 June 2018. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Distanced students celebrate 'May Week Mega Event'". Varsity Online. Retrieved 1 July 2020.