International Student Support

Study

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 show you some of what you can expect.

Undergraduate and Visiting & 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, read, solve problems, write reports or essays, and review 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, use PowerPoint presentations that can be made available on-line, or put learning 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.

Postgraduate students

There are two main types of postgraduate programme:

  • Masters degrees and other taught programmes (eg Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc), LLM (Master of Laws), Common Professional Examination (CPE), Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and postgraduate diplomas).

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 Masters 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.

  • Research degrees (eg Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))

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:

  • students often work independently, studying on their own for significant periods of time
  • students are expected to develop critical judgment, which means an ability to assess whether an argument is coherent and well supported by evidence
  • learning large amounts of factual data is important in some subject areas, but in many cases a critical approach is considered more important.

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:

  • how long is the piece of work required? Are footnotes/diagrams included in this length?
  • is a piece of work being formally assessed, and what proportion of your marks does it count for?
  • what is the deadline for submission of the work (deadlines at Sussex are very strictly enforced)?

This information should be included in the course syllabus, which you will be given at the start of term.

Lecture notes

Many lecturers provide an outline of the content of the lectures either in a hand-out or on the internal student webpages.  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:

  • if there is something you don't understand, make a note to ask after the lecture or in a tutorial. Keep your notes in order in a file, and make sure, immediately after the lecture, that they are clear enough for you to use them later for study and review.
  • don't worry if you find it difficult to understand the lecturer. This will get easier as you get used to their style and, if you are not a native English speaker, as your English improves.

Seminars

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.

Reading

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:

  • essential, basic reading or reference material for the course
  • an overview of the subject or background information
  • useful information for a specific topic or piece of work.

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 Centre for Language Studies offers a range of Academic Development workshops covering both language and academic study skills. One-to-one tutorials are also offered. You can find further information on the SCLS website. Helpful information on study skills is also available on the Study Success at Sussex (S3) website.
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:

  1. Collusion is when students work together on assignments that should be completed alone. For some assignments, students may be required to work together and even submit joint/group work for assessment, but usually students must submit work that is entirely their own. A student who helps another produce work is guilty of collusion, along with the student who has benefited from their help. The course documentation should clearly state which assignments, if any, can be done in collaboration with others and whether that includes producing a joint piece of work or only the preparation for it. You must only work together on producing an assignment if the course specifically allows it. Otherwise this is collusion and it is an offence.
  2. Plagiarism is when you use other people's work and don't acknowledge that you have done so by citing the sources. If you copy sentences, phrases or expressions without saying where you have found them, this is plagiarism; if you paraphrase someone and don't say where the original came from, this is also plagiarism. Listing the source in the bibliography isn't good enough. Each time you use a source you have to say so. Word-for-word quotations must either be in quotation marks or indented, and be fully referenced. If you don't correctly acknowledge in the text every time you have used someone else's work, this is plagiarism.
  3. Fabrication of results or observations in practical or project work constitutes an offence.
  4. Misconduct during unseen examinations includes having access to, or attempting to gain access to, any books, memoranda, notes, unauthorised calculators or other material, except such as may have been supplied by the invigilator or authorised by official University bodies.
  5. Personation is when someone other than the student prepares the work submitted for assessment. This includes purchasing essays, commissioning someone else to write an assessment or asking someone else to sit an examination.

There are set procedures for hearing cases of suspected misconduct and those found guilty may be disqualified or be liable to penalties. The number of international students found guilty of plagiarism (particularly involving essays found on the internet) or collusion has increased recently. You should be aware that modern software makes such cases easy to detect and that this is regarded far more seriously in the UK than is the case in some countries. You should seek advice if you have any questions about Sussex's regulations.

We recommend that you look at the University of Sussex academic misconduct webpages for more information.

IT Services

IT Services provide a range of computer facilities to help you study successfully:

  • there are over 800 PCs in computer rooms located across campus, many available 24 hours a day
  • a full suite of Office software, plus free email and internet access. Print and use your personal file storage from all PCs
  • additional specialist software
  • 34 iMac computers
  • help via the web, by email, over the telephone and in person
  • extensive range of IT skills and training courses from beginner to advanced level
  • safe storage for computer files, accessible both on and off campus
  • extensive printing facilities
  • wireless network to enable laptop owners to access online resources
  • wireless and wired access to internet from all campus bedrooms
  • assistive PCs for students with disabilities and special learning needs.

We strongly encourage you to bring a laptop or tablet computer with you if you can, or buy one 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 support and information services.

For more details, visit the Information and Technology Services website.

Assessment

A variety of assessment methods are used at Sussex. These include unseen examinations, projects, dissertations, essays and other types of assessment. Satisfactory completion of assessed work is required for you to progress from one year to the next.

International Student Support

E international.support@sussex.ac.uk
T +44 (0)1273 67 8422