“Uni” in the UK

By: Zach

Hiya! University, or “uni” as the Brits call it, in the United Kingdom is quite different than in the United States. There was only so much I could anticipate and prepare for before my departure to London. With studying abroad becoming increasingly popular among UMD students, for today’s edition of Peer into Your Career, ‘London Style,’ I decided to address student and university life in the UK.

Before I dive into the academic differences, I want to address the initial change and ongoing emergence one will experience with their time abroad. One of the first things that study abroad programs will address is the transition you will have to make as a student when it comes to study habits and class expectations. Along with course layout, programs will also prepare you for ‘culture shock’, and emotional ups and downs you will ultimately have while submerging yourself into a new environment. As silly as this transition may sound, it is important that foreign students understand this concept in order to be successful with their academics abroad.

British museum

Now let’s get into the ‘nitty-gritty’ and break down the major differences and transitions US students need to make when studying abroad in the UK:

1. Semester Timetable: First and foremost, you can expect a different semester and timetable layout when studying in the UK. Similar to the US, many universities in the UK run on a semester basis. However, depending on the UK university, there are many different formats the semester can have depending on where you study. At Queen Mary University of London, first semester is about 15 weeks and second semester is only 12 weeks. The major difference is that finals are held at the end of the whole academic year. When second semester courses end in March, the whole month of April is off for students to take a break but also review the year’s academic material. The month of May is then dedicated to finals where some students may have up to 8 exams!

2. Course Schedule & Class Structure: When it comes classes, or modules as the Brits would say, there are quite a few differences. In the UK, a full semester load is seen as taking four modules. With university being only a three-year study in the UK, studies are more directly focused on their major, and therefore, they do not take many classes outside their studies (what we would call electives). This means the modules they need to take have a pretty uniform and timely structure during their years.

Each course itself is broken up into two different learning formats: lectures and seminars. This is very much the same as lectures and discussions in the US. However, the total time spent in class per week is very different. Depending on the department and field of study, it is common to have only one lecture session lasting one to two hours in a week. More of the focus is placed on the seminars, where attendance is not only compulsory, but individual participation is also marked for grading. Overall, you can say that one would spend less time in a UK classroom than one in the US, however, academic expectations seem to be much higher in the UK.

3. Academic Expectations: With less time in the classroom, there is much more emphasis placed on individual studies in the UK. Through my observation, classes in the US use assignments, projects, quizzes, and testing throughout the semester for students to keep up with course material. In the UK, much more weight is placed on essay-based exams at the end of the semester, where the best way to prepare yourself is to actively participate in course discussions and analyze academic articles provided by the course instructor. All in all, the transition in academic expectations is quite manageable. Just like with any university, it is important to stay on top of your academic studies and actively participate in the course to receive the most successful outcome.

With the transition from US classes to UK modules, there was much that I needed to do to adapt to my study techniques and academic styles in order to stay on track. Looking into the two societies, we may speak the same language, however, you would be surprised at how many differences there truly are in our in cultures (including academics). To date, study abroad has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life. This opportunity has pushed me outside of my comfort zone in many different facets, but honestly, I believe that is where the highest form of learning comes from!

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