You may find that the style of teaching and learning in the UK is different from that in your home country. At Sussex, we place a lot of emphasis on the development of critical, analytical and problem solving skills. We will expect you to do substantial work outside the classroom, and to take a high level of responsibility for your own studies. We hope this summary will be helpful and shows you some of what you can expect.
Undergraduate and visiting and exchange students
Most undergraduate courses involve a combination of lectures, smaller group teaching and, in science, practical or field work. You will also be expected to study independently, reading, solving problems, writing reports or essays, and reviewing class material. Classroom hours depend on the courses you are taking, and are not necessarily related to the amount of credit for a course. Science classes usually have more contact hours, including laboratory and workshop sessions. You need to have good study habits, and manage your time effectively to make sure that you keep up with the material and make the most of your learning opportunities. Visiting students sometimes find that they have fewer class hours than they would at home - but attendance is compulsory, and fewer class hours certainly does not mean less work.
Lectures may provide a core body of knowledge for a course, but they are the beginning rather than the end of the learning process. They do not provide all that you need to know on a topic, and you will be expected to read around the subject discussed in lectures, using the reading lists given. Many lecturers provide hand-outs or CDs, use powerpoint presentations that can be made available, or put materials on course websites. This will help you to prepare for seminars, write essays, and revise for examinations.
Lectures are often supported by seminars, in which a smaller group of students and a tutor talk through ideas, question assumptions, and discuss various aspects of a topic in depth. You may be asked to present to the group on a particular topic - preparing this deepens your understanding, and doing this regularly will help you to improve your presentation and communication skills. Workshops or exercise classes are features of science courses, where students work through problems set in advance by the instructor.
Laboratory and practical classes allow science students to test experimentally the concepts they learn about in lectures. Safety is taken very seriously - safety briefings are always mandatory, and you may be excluded from a session if you do not attend. Sometimes you will work individually, sometimes in pairs or groups. Make sure that you are clear on whether you should be working individually or collaboratively. The report that you write on the practical is usually a part of the formal assessment for the course. Even when you have worked with someone else on the experiment, you will often be expected to write your report individually. Be sure that you understand what is expected.
You may also be involved in group work, in which you work with others on a project, production or presentation. This gives you a chance to learn various skills, including leading a group, and to develop skills of teamworking that are highly valued by prospective employers.
There are two main types of postgraduate programme:
Some of these advanced academic programmes are designed to deepen your knowledge of your undergraduate subject, and others are conversion courses that will introduce you to a new subject. With taught Master's programmes, between half and three-quarters of your time is typically devoted to coursework, with the supervised dissertation or project on a topic chosen in conjunction with your assigned tutor.
A research degree is the ultimate opportunity to pursue your own specialist interest. You develop your own topic under the guidance of an appropriate supervisor. To be successful, you'll need to demonstrate intellectual independence. You'll also need well-developed time management skills and a sense of self-discipline because you'll have to set and keep to your own schedule.
UK academic culture
It may take some time for you to adjust to studying in the UK. Academic culture and expectations vary according to the subject and the level of study. However, here are some general trends that you may notice:
Know what is required
It is important to know what you need to do to fulfil the course requirements. Understanding this is the key to effective working. For example:
This information should be included in the course syllabus, which you will be given at the start of term.
Many lecturers provide an outline of the content of the lectures either in a hand-out, on a CD, or on the intranet. If you have the outline in advance, it will help to print this out and take it to the lecture. You can then annotate it with additional material and questions that occur to you. You will need to make some notes, but you don't need to take down every word. Remember:
Seminars can be challenging if you are not used to this kind of teaching. Don't worry, many other students initially feel the same. Participating actively in seminars is an important part of the learning process, so try to contribute even if it seems difficult at first. It may help you to make notes before the seminar of any points you would like to make. If you are having difficulty in seminars, discuss this with your tutor.
On most courses you will be given a book list. You will not usually be expected to buy or even read every book and journal article on the list. Items on a book list may contain:
Check with your tutor what books are essential for you to buy. Most books will be available in the Library, but 'core' texts may be difficult to borrow because everyone on the course needs them. Second-hand books are available in the bookshop, and are also advertised on notice boards around campus. It is usually best to take notes as you read, starting with the title, author, and any other reference material (eg date published). Try to avoid copying out large sections from the text. Make a note of the main points and summarise arguments in your own words. If you copy out a section of the text, put it in 'quotation marks' so that you know to reference it properly if you use it in your work.
Sources of advice and help
If you have a question or problem with your studies you should first talk to the course tutor or convenor, or your academic advisor. Most tutors have a weekly office hour, a designated time when they are available to see students. It is best to seek advice early rather than wait for a problem to become serious. Student advisors are available to discuss more general problems, either personal or related to study skills, that may be affecting your work. The Student Support Unit is available to advise on specific learning difficulties (eg dyslexia), or if you are very anxious about aspects of assessment such as examinations. The Sussex Language Institute offers a range of support classes, including English language and study skills. Helpful information on study skills is available on the Language Institute's website
Plagiarism and academic misconduct
All assessment exercises, including assessed coursework that contributes to a final mark for a unit, are governed by strict rules about collusion, plagiarism and other forms of misconduct. Definitions of the major forms of misconduct are as follows:
IT Services provides a range of computer facilities to help you study successfully:
We strongly encourage you to bring a PC with you, particularly a laptop, or buy one soon after your arrival. As well as being able to prepare your written assignments when and where you choose, you will be in a better position to take advantage of the investment Sussex is making in virtual learning and access to online suppport and information services.
For more details, visit the Information and Technology Services website
A variety of assessment methods are used at Sussex. These include unseen examinations, projects, dissertations, take-away papers and oral tests. Satisfactory completion of assessed work is required for you to progress from one year to the next.
Page published by: Janet Baker for The International and Study Abroad Office,
Level 1, Mantell Building, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RF, UK
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