Making sense of university

Student Communications Ambassador Kelly Jones is here to tell you what it’s like studying at university, so that you know what to expect when you get here.

If this is your first time entering Higher Education, your education experience up until now has likely been from school or college.

While there are similarities between university and school or college, there are some fairly big differences. One of those differences is the structure of your learning and the form of feedback you’ll receive in response to your work.

If you get your head around the terminology now, you’ll be more prepared to start university. I’ve even thrown in a few tips and suggestions on ways you can get ahead in your academic life – and I have no doubt you'll do great!

The timetable

The academic week is normally split up into lectures, seminars and workshops (unless you study a more practical subject where this might differ). Here's what you might expect from each:

  • Lectures are usually given to large groups of students by one academic. Usually, any questions will be saved until the end, when your lecturer will be happy to answer them.
  • Seminars are smaller groups of students, led by academics. Students are encouraged to discuss topics and ask questions.
  • Workshops are similar to seminars but they tend to focus on helping you to develop your skills.

All of these teaching methods usually equate to about ten to 15 hours in one week, but this can vary from subject to subject.

TIP: I like to use a digital calendar so that I can see my week at a glance. This usually means that once a week I’ll sit down and put all my university contact time into my Google calendar, which is linked to my student email address. I can then schedule the rest of my time from there.

Independent study

Although I’ve covered the way your contact-time will work at university, that doesn’t mean we’re done!

One of the main parts of university life is independent study. This is the time outside of your lectures, seminars and workshops when you’re expected to prepare and do the required reading for your course.

There are lots of different ideas on how much time you should be spending a week on the independent study, but to give you a rough idea, around 25-30 hours a week is normal.

TIP: I like to split my independent study time up to help keep myself organised. I have the work I do before my contact time to prepare, the work I do after my contact time to review, and general work where I read any other relevant materials and work towards deadlines. It may sound like a lot but you’ll find your way of doing things in no time!

The grading system

University work is usually submitted online. Feedback and grading are given by academics and it is then sent back to you electronically within a few weeks of the submission date. Grades are given in the form of a percentage, and the definition of a ‘good’ grade is not what you might think.

  • 40.00% - This is the grade you need in order to pass. Anything below this and you may need to redo that piece of work.
  • 40.00-49.99% - A Third. This is a good grade, especially as you’ll be unfamiliar with the way that university work... works!
  • 50.00% to 59.99% - A 2:2 or Lower Second class. This section is around the mid-range of grades. It’s a great place to be with your work. A lot of students will finish their degree with a lower second class.
  • 60.00% to 69.99% - A 2:1 or Upper Second class. A step up from the 2:2, this grade is a really good place to be with your studies. A lot of students tend to aim to finish with an upper second class degree.
  • 70.00% and above - A First. This is an exceptional place to be with your studies, it requires a LOT of preparation and independent study and will take hard work and dedication. Only a small number of students achieve this grade.

TIP: Read the question and the marking scheme carefully when completing any work. Make sure you’re ticking all those boxes!

There you have it! Now you know a little bit more about what to expect when coming to university. Uni can be both fun and challenging but I know with hard work and determination you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.



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