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THE UK: Before you leave - Must read

Student Insights: Academic cultures in the UK and U.S.

Learn all about the British academic system from an American student who studied abroad in the UK and how it compared to her academic experience in America.

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Moving to another country to pursue your studies comes with its own set of unique challenges. Sometimes it can appear that there is simply too much to learn and adjust to, but you’ll be surprised by how resilient and resourceful you can be in a new environment. Naturally one of the most critical areas to get a handle on is the adjustment to a new academic system and setting. We had a chat to Emilia who came over from the U.S. to study in the UK.



Did you notice any differences in the academic system between the U.S. and UK? 

The main thing that I noticed was the distinct difference between how grades are formed and calculated in the two systems. There is quite a significant focus on attendance and participation as a measurement of academic performance in the U.S. In the UK you are expected to perform similarly, with attendance at classes and seminars, but they do not have a major impact on your marks. In the U.S. your exam marks can be affected by non-attendance at classes or a perceived lack of active participation.  




What about the curriculum?

In the UK I have found that lectures form the basis of instruction for some courses, but this may not necessarily be the case for all programmes. For example, my course has smaller groups sessions and seminars that are the primary mode of teaching. In the U.S. there is quite an emphasis on the lecture-based system and you will spend four years doing your undergraduate degree, including a number of foundation courses, while in the UK it only takes three years to obtain your undergraduate. You can also study your major subjects from the start of your degree in the UK, whereas with U.S. universities you will start with more general introductory subjects and then move on. I guess it can be seen as a plus because in the UK it’s unlikely that you’ll be taking subjects outside of your course programme.



What about marks and grades?

One of the things that I had to get used to studying in the UK was the use of a candidate number for grading, as opposed to my name. In the U.S. the professor or lecturer marking your work would know your name, in the UK it is a more forma l and anonymous process. From my perspective I prefer the way I interact with professors in the UK and how I am graded. It may just be my point of view, but I enjoy the fact that they assess my work on its merits alone, rather than any other factors. It may be formal, but also seems professional to me.





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