Studying in Britain vs. studying in the rest of Europe

I finished a five year course in my own country before I came to Sheffield, so I thought I knew a thing or two about how universities work… I couldn’t have been more wrong. I won’t tell you which country that is, I will let you guess, but, needless to say, we do things a bit differently over there. I will also refrain from saying which system I find better, so I welcome any comments.

Let’s start from the calendar. In Britain (or Sheffield at least), you have 12 weeks of classes followed by a three-week exam period. In my country, you have 15 weeks of classes followed by a four-week exam period. British students also have longer holidays. You get four weeks for Christmas, three weeks for Easter and almost three months of summer. We get two weeks for Christmas, half a week for Easter, and our summer exam period finishes around 15 July, by which time all British students are sunbathing somewhere in the Mediterranean. Also, what’s the deal with Reading Week? It’s like another week’s holiday in the middle of the semester. I wish I had those.

So, what happens after you’ve been patiently going to classes for those 12/15 weeks? Exams, naturally. You might find this hard to believe, but in my country you can actually take an exam more than once. During the exam period, you get two, even three dates for one exam. So what most people do is go to the first sitting, see what the exam is like, fail, and then come back two weeks later for another try. And that’s okay. You can re-take an exam up to four times in one academic year.

At this point you must be thinking, “Well, anyone can pass after that many attempts.” You might change your mind after I tell you the marking criteria. I still haven’t got my head around your firsts, 2.1’s, 2.2’s etc., but as far as I understand it, here you need only 40% to pass. Seriously, 40%? In my country, you need 60% to pass (in some exams even more), and to get the top mark you need 90%. Doesn’t sound so easy anymore, does it?

And we don’t have any of that blind marking and external examiner mumbo jumbo. The only person who marks you is the professor who has been teaching you and they know exactly who they are marking. If the professor doesn’t happen to like you because you were rude to him or you didn’t turn up to classes, trust me, your grade will reflect that fact. At the oral exam, it’s just him and you, no witnesses, so help you God.

The list of differences doesn’t stop here. But I will. So, after I presented you with some of the facts, where would you prefer to study, Britain or this mysterious country? (Hint: scenes of King’s Landing from Game of Thrones are filmed there.)

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