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Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by JohnnyG on 2004-02-08 00:34:04

Speaking with a recent graduate of a UK institution of higher learning regarding standards for instruction and graduation from college surprised me. The surprise arose from the difference in instruction and expectation of students. Indebting myself painfully and requiring all professors to account for my time and effort to achieve my documents of higher learning in a meaningful and valuable way were recognized by the Brits. Though instruction accountability seemed not as important to them (UK). Any thoughts? I have observed and recorded them on behalf of the few Europeans I investigated. Please comment on your experiences and observations. All in the name of science of course.

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Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by Kid on 2004-02-08 09:51:05  |  Reply to this
  I'm not sure I quite understand what you mean (Is this part of the quiz?). That sentence beginning 'Indebting myself' and ending 'by the Brits' doesn't read to have an active verb, and as such doesn't scan as making any sense to me (Sorry, I've been reading a grammar book all afternoon).
If you're looking for an assessment of - for example - the amounts of work, and the amounts of contact time different students are expected to have...which is what I think then I can give you my experience.

Every student in the UK has different demands on them placed by a lot of different sources. Myself? I can speak for. My 3 year uni course worked like this
Year One Essentially an arse around. I had about 12 contact hours a week - but only because of 6 for French, otherwise it would have been 6 in all, I think. I didn't do Maths and it was a long time ago. In that, there were 3 essays for each of the 6 units, 2 of which counted to the end credits. Other than that, work was down to the individual except French, which relied on regular homework each week, a bit like school. All anyone needed was 36% to pass the year, and though I got 55ish%, I didn't really try at all, it was just getting used to the system.
Year Two This was where it all went wrong for me. Contact time was down to about 5 hours a week, and - to my credit - I worked a load of time outside that, about 20 in all...maybe I could've done more, but I chose some bad things, and other things didn't work out for me. Same with the essays, but they were longer than the previous year (All 3000-5000 words, and one that was 7000). Before Christmas, things were going really badly for me, and I actually failed a unit (32% - despite handing in...because we worked on it together...the same piece of work overall as two of my coursemates...now my housemates...they got 57% or something. More of this later). Nothing improved until Easter, and my overall year average was 49%. (In simple terms this is a 3rd, below a 2:2). So, ultimately, my fate was sealed at the end of this year. Little did I know until about Christmas of my 3rd year that I could have resat the unit I failed, but I went to a university that wouldn't tell us such things.
Third Year. Same as second year, but I worked less hard, knowing I wasn't going to come out of it well anyway. However, my grades picked up. The work was longer, too. A dissertation of a (poxy) 7,000 words, and I could've easily done twice that, and one piece that I actually wrote around 25,000 for and had to cut down and still ended up being my best piece of work overall. At Christmas I was averaging over 60, and would've carried that forward but the guy who failed me that unit seemed to take offence at me (I'm not bitter or angry anymore, more just upset) and arbitrarily gave me 10 marks less for every piece of work I did than everyone else. And we did actually hand in the same piece of work 3 times, and each time I came out 10 marks down.

So my experience wasn't the best. I found working hard (ultimately) is its own reward, and that it doesn't matter how hard you work if you pick the wrong things to do. Also, if this wasn't the question you wanted answering you've had a long read for no reason, so sorry.

Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by JohnnyG on 2004-02-08 12:29:55  |  Reply to this
  Kid, I'm sure I meant well by this question. In viewing the time stamp of this entry and the tranquilized condition of my brain at the point of it's submission, I'm clearly pleased you find anything sensical and meaningful in it. The fact you derived some level of understanding from it and responded the way you did is satisfying. I mean never mind the third sentence in my paragraph Kid, just look at the first sentence, "surprisingly" weak. Yes, I suppose I was seeking some sort of assessment of general academic focus from which I might do a bit of comparing & contrasting between my American Uni experience and your experience in the UK. That definitely seems to be the mark I was aiming for last night. Also, it apperars, I was inquiring as to the bang you get for your Sterling lb. Accountability of professors to students and a student's recourse in the face of instructor ineptitude and bias,etc... You must understand I'm pathologically driven by just this sort of curiosity. Kid, I must ask about the %ages. A "36% to pass the year"? I would like to know more please. Also contact hours per week? At UT, credit hours were used to gauge progress towards graduation. In a typical week for which I enrolled 15 credit hours in a semester I attended 3 MWF classes of 1 hour duration and 2 TTH classes of approx 1.5 to 2 hours each depending on professor stamina (not his real name). I wager you type a consistent 80wpm+ Kid. Essay writing of the magnitude you describe in the "Third Year" paragraph would seem to adequately motivate your typing skills! Thank you Kid for your candor and brilliant dialogue. I'm through typing now cause my hand is cramping.
Re: Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by Kid on 2004-02-10 12:39:52  |  Reply to this
  I'll tackle each one individually, I think. There'll be some overlap, but...c'est la vie.

For this question...I'll take the sterling £ (not 'lb' - that's a unit of weight)...though it is all under review for the next year's intake.
I paid £3300 fees a year for my 6 units. Quick maths. 6x12=72 72x2=144 £3300/144=£22.91 per hour of contact time. Now, if I give them the benefit of the doubt, and half that amount (thus doubling the time lecturers spend on our course) that gives me £11 an hour - at current rate, that's around $20 per hour of education.

As for the 36%...well, obviously its an average over the pieces of work, and anything less than 35% is considered a fail. I used to have the descriptions for each band. Essentially, a 35% piece of work could be submitted by a 15 year old, and shows no academic development since then. As the %s rise, so the academic level does too, until the high 80s, wherein the professors themselves would struggle to write such a piece.

I remember one band had "barely perceptible to the naked mind"...it was in a bad way.

I felt I was ripped off paying £11 an hour. A lot of my lectures were conversations that carried on, with friends, long after the lecture was finished - and thus, we could have just turned up, asked for a topic and talked amongst ourselves with a coffee, rather than in a classroom.
Re: Re: Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by JohnnyG on 2004-02-10 22:07:25  |  Reply to this
  With various grants and scholarship proceeds I spent roughly half your expenditures for my undergraduate document. The University of Texas supplements students with the PUF fund. This system procures revenues from oil/gas leases throughout the state as well as collecting interest on alumni donations and stock/bond investment gains. This mainly assists with paying top professors a handsome wage and the happiness of the educational staff translates theoretically to inspired lectures and thorough tutorage. It also made the journey less painful for me financially.

Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by JohnnyG on 2004-02-08 20:47:20  |  Reply to this
  Let me start from the beginning on this entry and explain why I'm typing. Here in Austin TX at the engineering building we employ many foreign nationals to construct the next generation of microcircuits. The human primates I associate with from Great Britain/Germany get together at places such as "The Continental Club" and "La Zona Rosa". We speak about our uni experiences and what the whole educational process from our country of origin did for our brains. The comments made by these co-workers and friends has been entered into my personal journal. I only seek more commentary from you fellow taters as to your experiences in higher education. Specifically you Brits. This entry is absolutely NOT about proving academic superiority between any country or institution. Ok. Ok then. Comment my friends.
Re: Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by Kid on 2004-02-10 12:43:53  |  Reply to this
  I found that the educational experience is coloured very much by the people who seek to give the education. I got on well with a lot of my lecturers, and they taught well, and - thus - I got a lot out of it. However, some I didn't get on quite so well with, and found it all a struggle. If there were no interaction between teacher and pupil, there would be nothing to inspire, really, as once one reaches university level, one ought to strive to acheive something. The best people to give inspiration are those who have already acheived in the field. (In my opinion). Educationally, then, it can be hit or miss. However, life experience (which didn't enter your question) makes university (for me) something I would encourage everyone to partake in. From being lumped in with a load of people you don't know, to spending 3,4,5 years with them, getting a whole new life made - its all a wonderful, ahem, personal growth. I think, anyways.

Again, if I'm all wrong on my answer, let me know.
Re: Re: Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by JohnnyG on 2004-02-10 22:45:10  |  Reply to this
  Allright is my response Kid. Yes, the experience factor is a good thing and so I say too right. Difficult to analyse quantitatively but good nonetheless. I was lumped into compulsory courses in which the redneck population of Texas seemed to overwhelm the professors discourse with questions such as "you sure that Santa Anna fella was a Mexican cause I thought he was shit kicking Spaniard", also "How do I know the difference between a derivative and an integral in this here set of equations". What a humiliating way to spend a few hours Kid when the folks around you spoke of the process in which "souse" was made (essentially head cheese, if you know what that is). Looking back now it seems to have added to my cultural awareness but at the time it seemed pretty close to intolerable. Thanks for the input, it helps to quench my curiosity in the matter.
Re: Re: Re: Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by Missy M on 2004-03-01 13:26:28  |  Reply to this
  I went to a small Arts and Humanities college in London,UK. I dropped out in the 2nd year because I had next to no support. I had 8 hours of contact per week, 4 in lecture situation with a staff:student ratio of maybe 1:70, and then 4 hours in seminars (more like 1:12)- we had no 1:1 time as the college chose to divert all funding into its creative arts programme and I was studying English. I had next to no money, was quite ill, and nobody ever explained what I was supposed to be doing. I guess that sounds whingy- but the drop out rate for my course was stupidly high bearing in mind it didn't require much to get on the course in the first place. We all hated it. I feel robbed by my university; I'm not thick and I should have been able to get a degree. I've been signed off sick ever since I left and am still heavily in debt.

Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by Wash! on 2004-03-22 07:31:47  |  Reply to this
  Year 4: Week 24. That's what i'm in now!! The last ever week, of my studies!! And as i have no Spanish classes today, and i'm going to miss my French Business class on Wednesday to avoid French (as I have a Spanish Oral Exam 30 mis after it would finish)... today is my penultimate day of being taught. Ever.

I've a 2hr lecture now. Then 1hr tomorrow morning. And that... is... it...!

And i'm gutted!
Re: Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by Kid on 2004-03-22 10:19:22  |  Reply to this
  Aw, mate. Does this mean you lose contact with the cute Spanish teacher whose name eludes me. Enjoy the last couple of lectures, then.
Re: Re: Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by Wash! on 2004-03-22 10:55:45  |  Reply to this
  No, i've set the friends out of class foundation enough so that we'll see each other a lot the next term - exam term. She's invigilating (?) the Spanish oral exam though. Bugger!
Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by Lola on 2004-03-23 09:39:35  |  Reply to this
  University? Collague? Further education in England is, in my view, going down the pan. I'm 14, so what I may have to say might suddenly be pointless to you, but I'm English, and I spend 6 1/2 hours, 5 days a week, 59 weeks a year in a class room, having my brain filled with pointless dribble. (Most of it anyway). Less than 1/4 of the things we learn in school are actually worth while and are tings we actually -use-. Over 3/4 of the other garbage doesn't evern appear in tests, unless you wish to specalize in topics and area's of work. Most lessons, like german, seem pointless to me. english is one of the most spoken langues in the world, and german is only spoken in Austria and Germany? (I think! Or very few countries!) And I doubt I'll be going on a holiday there! We have as many German lessons as we do Maths! And instead of wasting my time with german, I could be doing extra maths, which in my eyes, is more important, and a subject I need extra practise with. School teaches to you to think their way, act how they want you to act, feel what your supposed to feel, and be who they want you to be. All kind of self expression is stamped down. It's a jail to keep kids off the streets and to cause crime. I'mt aking my opinions, and they forced kids to do things they don't -want- to do. Nothing has changed in the 50 years of my schoo being open, and nothing will do for another 50. We still haven't moved on. I rest my small case in a big world.
Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by Wash! on 2004-03-24 08:55:05  |  Reply to this
  As a 14 year old, I would expect you to feel like that, and Iím sure I felt the same when I was that age. But having reached the end of the educational ladder, I can look back, and be grateful for what I learned. Only the other day for example, did Pythagoras come in useful, as did my knowledge of headlands, ions, and the fact that there are 52 weeks in a year. You canít put a price on a broad knowledge, and you have the choice to develop your personal interests at A Level. German may not be top of your priorities, but for some it will be, and you really canít put a price on knowledge of a foreign language either. Believe me, your missing without it! You may feel like one of a flock at the moment, and to be fair, you are. We all were, traipsing into school, all dressed the same, all learning the same shit. But thatís what these early teenage years are for. But when you finally get past that, say, after GCSE level, you can become who you actually are. Develop your own interests, and make your own decisions on your own future.

The better times are to come, Lola. Put up with this school shit, and get the best out of it. Itíll all be worth it in 4 years time, and for the rest of your life!
Re: Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by Kid on 2004-03-24 11:45:50  |  Reply to this
  Yeah, on that 52 weeks in a year thing. I worked with (top, but not called Time) bloke at the Jobcentre had always worked with 56 (for 20 or so years) and was massively happy to discover that he was wrong, and his wage was going further.
Re: Re: Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by Ringo* on 2004-04-13 02:13:37  |  Reply to this
  Wash, that is quite simply, the most intelligent speech i have EVER seen you type or heard you speak, period! Beer tonight?
Re: Educational standards: USA/Europe/College+ by JohnnyG on 2004-03-26 23:24:35  |  Reply to this
  Yah Wash, I second that thought and Kid makes good on his writings as well. When attending school in San Antonio I was educated amongst the offspring of Conquistadors and in travelling with these particular Hispanics to Mexico ( I am a European "mestizo" of UK & Nordic descent so I need help with matters south of the Texas border and those crazy Spaniards sure populated the hell out of these regions and the regions of Mexico/Central & South America for reasons that include gold and religion so I defer to them when on their turf and using their language) it was enjoyable having studied Espanol and being able to communicate with the Aztecs on firm ground knowing that my Spanish teacher instructed me well in regard to Mexican history. This same teacher tolerated my inability to roll my rrrrrrrrrrrr's and enunciate words such as "otra vez" without the lisp I thought was required. Bottom line here is that the study of language, any language, helps you understand a cultural perspective as well as proper enunciation. Sometimes speaking the language is less important then understanding the culture. At least that's what I keep telling myself as I continually butcher the Spanish language. Mach schnell on the Deutsche mit fraulein. Shit, you guys know I can't speak German either. However, it is important to know your educational weakness.