A Different Set of Expectations

This week marks the second week of class meetings at Roehampton. We’ve met our professors and fellow students, and most of us have finalized our schedules for the semester. From the sounds of it classes are pretty similar, right? Guess again! Our classes (which are called modules here) only meet once a week for three hours. Going into our first class meeting, we also didn’t know what book or books we needed to buy. That’s typically something that is hashed out in the first meeting (unless you have an upper level class, in which case it is probably expected that you get the book and do some reading before the class starts).

Another piece that’s quite different about classes at Roehampton is the fact that there are these things in the syllabus called further readings and suggested readings. It’s pretty much a list of books or articles that the student is expected to read to gain further knowledge on the subject. It’s not required, but chances are it can make the difference between getting an “A” or a “C” in the course. The materials also help the student better understand the concepts that are being talked about during the class lectures.

As the classes meet only once a week, it is highly recommended that you attend all lectures. Not only will you miss valuable information by skipping a lecture, but also you’ll likely not know what to read for the next class. They don’t list out class readings and assignments on the syllabus like we do in America. It goes on a week-by-week basis.

Grades, or marks as they are called here, are also figured a bit differently. It is quite common for a student to get between 50 and 60 on an assignment. And that’s a good grade here! I should mention, though, that the grading is a bit different. Instead of 90 and above being an “A,” 70 and above denotes the equivalent of an “A” in the UK.

Courses are also much more rigorous here than in the US. Students aren’t required to complete general education courses like we are. They take only courses in their area of their study. The courses are also graded much harder. Even though a 70 is a good grade, it’s not an easily attainable one. On the first day of one of my classes the professor told the class that likely 2-3 students in that class would complete it with a mark of 70. That’s not to say that most students wouldn’t pass the course, it’s just more difficult since the programme convenor (the equivalent of our department chair) and the professor are responsible for assigning grades.

I’m used to doing a lot of work outside class, but they take the concept of independent learning to a whole new level. Students are ultimately responsible for how much they get out of their University experience since they decide how much they will learn. No one is telling them to read the text, and it might be that the text isn’t even discussed in class. When it comes to the assessment though, it will be quite hard if the student hasn’t kept up on their reading and learning outside of class meetings. University in the UK is all about independence, and it’s definitely a great quality to walk away with.

Taking classes at Roehampton does a great job of shining light on the differences between the US and the UK. It helps to illustrate the point that people do things differently around the world, and it makes for a great talking piece. It’s not easy by any means, but it is a chance to experience a completely different way of learning things. And that, my friends, never hurt anyone.

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