The Scoop on the UK University Experience

With a large number of students heading from DU to study abroad in the UK this fall, here I write about my experiences studying in both the UK and the US academic systems.Studying in the UK will expose you to a number of differences in academic culture. Below, I’ve highlighted some of the most significant.

Generally you can expect to have fewer hours of class in the UK. In the UK many full time juniors or seniors might have just three or four hours of class time, compared to 15 hours at DU.

The time you spend in class will be much more lecture-based than at DU. Don’t be surprised to find little student participation in your classes in the UK. Often only the Professor will speak for the duration of the class. Instead, student participation is reserved for “tutorials”. Typically, these are one hour seminar/discussion sessions with the Professor, sometimes in their office with just five or six other students.

cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com
Photo Credit: cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com

Given this, there is a much greater focus on independent research outside of class and you will be expected to conduct your own research. In many cases this means picking your own books and articles to read from a list on the syllabus, rather than being assigned specific readings for each class as you are at DU.  This means that if assigned a particular essay, many students will answer it very differently based on the differing reading that they have done themselves based on their interests. To get strong grades, incorporating this individualized reading into your papers and exams will be important.

Generally, there will be fewer assessments than at DU. For many classes you might find that your assessment comprises either a single exam or a single paper, or perhaps an exam and paper due together at the end of the quarter/semester. Consequently, it is unlikely that there will be a participation grade, quizzes or midterms. Some students like the fact that they have less stress across the quarter, others don’t like that all their assignments may be concentrated at the end of the quarter.

Photo Credit: www.ed.ac.uk
Photo Credit: http://www.ed.ac.uk

This system means that there is more ambiguity and less structure in the UK system as a whole. The Professors will see you as more of a self-starter. Often, a Professor might never mention the assignments for that class and will instead expect you to read the syllabus, see what the assignment is and do it without guidance.

In the UK, particularly in England and Wales, most students only study for three years to earn their degree. The three year degree means that there is no common curriculum. In college, students only take classes in their major and therefore usually only from one department. Therefore, most students choose their College major whilst in High School at the age of 17. A DU Junior studying abroad should be aware that local students taking third year classes in the UK will most likely already have studied as many as ten classes in that major.

Photo Credit: blog.sfgate.com
Photo Credit: blog.sfgate.com

Given these differences, it will be important to adapt quickly by setting your own learning plan, making sure to meet with your Professors and by disciplining yourself to work throughout the term in order to disperse your workload rather than leaving all your work until the final weeks of the semester.

 

-Callum Forster, DU Study Abroad Peer Advisor

Advertisement

Live the Authentic British Life

For those ready to live the authentic British life, here are my five tips to get you started…

1.       British Afternoon Tea – Not to be missed, afternoon tea is one of the highlights of UK cultural life. Afternoon tea is taken between 3 and 5pm, often on a weekend and consists of limitless cups of tea, accompanied by both cucumber and egg and cress sandwiches, scones (with cream and jam) and cakes (Victoria sponge, fruit cake amongst others) and pastries. DU students studying abroad in York  should be sure to check out Betty’s Tea Rooms in York City Center, where it is not unusual to see people lining (“queuing”) down the street as they wait for their tea. The only question is, should you drink English breakfast tea, Scottish afternoon, Twinnings, Earl Grey or Chai?

photo: londonmindthegap.blogspot.com
photo: londonmindthegap.blogspot.com

2.       Visit a Great British Pub – bask in a leisurely drink along with some great traditional British cuisine – fish and chips (served in newspaper), bangers (sausages) and mash or Shepherds Pie (google it). For students studying in Glasgow, check out the Monster Mash Café in Edinburgh, which has a whole menu devoted to different variations of sausage and mashed potato. Anyone for blackpudding sausage and apple mash?

3.       Museums, museums, museums… embrace the fact that nearly all museums in London are free. Britain’s best and most prestigious museums such as the famous British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, or check out modern art at the Tate Modern amongst many other museums with free admission.

Photo: wikipedia.org
photo: wikipedia.org

4.       Relish in the opportunity to move beyond American football, baseball and the like and instead venture to a soccer, cricket or rugby game. Watch Glasgow Celtic play in front of 60,000 people, or those studying in England check out the English Premier League, and watch a match at Old Trafford? For rugby games which are played regularly throughout winter and fall check out http://www.premiershiprugby.com/

5.       Check out Britain’s Roman history, in particular Hadrian’s Wall. As the Roman Empire began to collapse, Hadrian ordered the building of a wall across the entire north of England to keep out Picts from Scotland. The wall, a World Heritage site, still exists today and stretches across the breadth of Northern England (73 miles). Walk it end to end perhaps and see some of Britain’s rugged countryside.

photo: imgur.com
photo: imgur.com

Achieve these five things and you’ll have plenty to write home about…

– Callum Forster, DUSA Graduate Peer Advisor (and Brit)