Differences Between the American and British University Systems

From my experience so far, I have noticed some large and subtle differences in the way classes or modules are conducted in the United States and in the U.K.  I just want to share some of those differences for anyone trying to decide what university system would be a better fit for them.  However, I will let you know that I have only attended one university in the United States and one university in the U.K.  My experience may be different from others who have studied in both places.

At Aston, I have now been to one week of lectures.  I have four main modules along with a few modules that only occur a few times throughout the term, which are dedicated to career progression, ethics, and starting our dissertation topic.  Lectures from each module are held only once a week.  Lectures are followed by tutorials, which is basically when group projects are discussed, presentations are given, and case studies are analyzed.  The rest of my free time is spent reading course material and getting together with my group to work on projects.  Aston focuses a lot on teaching us how to work in teams.  A portion of our final grade or mark can even be determined by how team members present material we have prepared.

The benefit of structuring our modules like this is that it prepares you well for the real world.  You learn how to work in a team, which is almost always the case when working in any organization.  You also won’t always have a professor or boss to be there when you have questions.  The set up at Aston teaches us how to find answers on our own and be self sufficient in the learning process.

I did my undergraduate work at Brigham Young University in the United States.  There I had five to six classes or modules every term.  Each class had lectures two to three times a week.  There were more assignments and exams and it was more hands on as opposed to self-directed.  The majority of my time outside of class was spent reading course material on my own.  We were also expected to do things pertaining to career development on our own.  There were resources available, but there wasn’t time set aside for us within our coursework.

The benefit of this class structure was that I had more face-to-face time with my professors.  I was able to build relationships with them and felt very comfortable going to them for help and advice.  The learning process was more about going to class than doing research on my own, as it pertained to the course material.

Obviously, both structures have their pros and cons.  I am happy that I have been able to be a part of both structures and have done my best to take advantage of their strengths.