Wednesday, June 29, 2011

American Colleges v English Universities Part I of II

Hello! I am Anna Rose MacArthur, a rising senior Theatre and English double-major at BSC. For both semesters of my junior year, I studied theatre abroad at the University of Birmingham, England, and I have been asked to blog about some of my experiences here. Before I launch into my tale, it will help if you understand some of the differences between the American college and the English university system. 

American Colleges v English Universities Part I of II

USA: Undergraduate institutions are called colleges. Postgraduate institutions are called universities.
England: Undergraduate and postgraduate institutions are called universities. College is where students take their A-levels.
Verdict: It is what it is.

USA: Contains over 4,000 higher education institutions
England: Contains 131 higher education institutions
Verdict: With England being 74 times smaller than the US and having ¼ the population of the US, England wins with a larger ratio of institutions to size and population.

USA: Prospective students can apply to as many colleges as they desire and as they can afford. Each college charges a different application fee.
England: Prospective students can apply to a maximum of five universities. No application fees.
Verdict: England wins on cost. US wins on freedom of choice.

USA: College usually lasts 4 years, but can range from 3 to 5 years with students on average taking 32-40 classes during that time.
England: University strictly lasts 3 years with students taking 15-18 classes during that time.
Verdict: England wins on less time and less work. US wins on demanding more from students.

USA: 1st years called freshmen. 2nd years called sophomores. 3rd years called juniors. 4th years called seniors. 5th years called super-seniors.
England: 1st years called 1st years or freshers. 2nd years called 2nd years. 3rd years called 3rd years.
Verdict: USA wins on creativity. England wins on clarity.

USA: Classes meet 2 to 3 times a week.
England: Classes mostly meet 1 time a week with a few classes meeting 2 times a week.
Verdict: England wins if you don’t like going to class. US wins on face time.

USA: Every class taken throughout college is weighted equally in the final mark aka GPA.
England: First year does not count towards the final mark, but students must pass with 40% in order to move onto second year. Second year counts 25% towards the final mark. 3rd years counts 75% towards the final mark.
Verdict: It is as though England know that students are going to behave like debaucherous lunatics during first year and accommodate them accordingly.

USA: Apart from specific upper level classes, students from all years take the same classes.
England: First years only take classes with first years; and second years only with second years; and third years only with third years.
Verdict: England wins on all students being on the same academic level. US wins on combining students from different backgrounds, allowing for more knowledge and intellectual diversity in the classroom.

USA: Each college decides their costs of tuition and fees, which include little government subsidy. College costs between $25,000 to $50,000 per year.
England: Government subsidizes and caps university costs, and almost all universities charge up to the permitted cap. University costs £3,000 per year currently, and due to government budget cuts, university costs will rise to £9,000 per year beginning September 2012.
Verdict: Despite budget cuts, attending an English university is significantly cheaper than attending a US college.

USA: Students can transfer colleges with most of their credits transferring as well. Also, students can easily switch degrees if done during the first two years.
England: Students can transfer universities after year 1 and enter year 2 at a different university. If they change their degree, then have to start as a first year again, because their degree courses are so focused.
Verdict: Just different.

Gap year— the year between finishing high school and beginning college (or the year between finishing A-levels and beginning university for the English) in which students take a hiatus from school to travel, work, and/or volunteer.
USA: Gap years are rare and even looked down upon.
England: Gap years are a common and legitimate option.
Verdict: England wins. US fails and needs to embrace this concept.

Quad at University of Birmingham, UK Where I Studied Abroad

Quad at BSC

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