For Students: An Exciting Plunge into Academics and Foreign Cultures
Academic Differences
One of the greatest rewards of study abroad is the opportunity to experience a different way of studying and learning. The systems and traditions of higher education can vary greatly around the world and in the universities where we have programs, but this section gives you a general overview of what to expect in your classes and studies overseas.

General Differences
  • In most countries, students’ degree studies are restricted to one faculty and usually no more than one or two departments, because degree students begin choosing their academic focuses in secondary school. Thus at the time students enter college, they already possess an extensive background in the subject(s) they plan to study. Whereas most U.S. colleges and universities strive to give students a well-rounded education, universities in other countries expect that students will already have a broad range of knowledge as a result of their high school education.
  • Continual assessment is rare. At most universities, all or most of a class grade is based on the final exam or one large essay. Multiple-choice tests are unusual, with even science courses requiring essay exams.
  • Professors do not usually monitor a student’s individual academic progress. It is the student’s responsibility to keep up with the class work and to approach the professor with any problems or concerns.

New Zealand and Australia
Universities offer fewer class instruction hours per week and emphasize individual study outside the classroom. University degrees are only three years long, so degree students concentrate more heavily on one subject.

A course at an Australian or New Zealand university usually combines both seminars/tutorials and lectures. You are expected to enter into discussions during the seminars and tutorials and are usually assessed on your level of class participation in addition to your regular assignments. Attendance is graded, and failure to attend the majority of lectures and tutorials can result in a professor refusing admission into the final exam and/or giving you a much lower grade.

Latin America
Students studying the same subject take all of their classes together throughout their full degree program, so they know each other well and see each other almost exclusively throughout the academic day. Some IFSA-Butler students have found that a good way to get to know other students is to take at least two classes with the same group (e.g., two “year two” classes in the department of sociology).

Because students follow a set curriculum for their area of study and do not choose which classes they want to take, most professors feel that course descriptions are unnecessary. In addition, professors do not have to present a syllabus to be approved by their departments, and they may not present one to students until class starts. Keep in mind that many professors work two or three jobs just to make ends meet.

United Kingdom and Ireland
At most universities, students are not admitted to the university or college itself. Instead, students apply directly to the one or two departments in which they intend to take either a single-subject degree or a “joint” (two-subject) degree. The departments accept students into the course, which is roughly equivalent to an American major.

Generally, the structure of a class combines both seminars/tutorials and lectures. You are expected to enter into discussions during the seminars and tutorials and are usually assessed by your level of class participation in addition to your regular assignments. Students work toward an overall mark for their course (degree) in history, physics, etc.

A degree program in England is three years, although many students choose to stay for a fourth-year Honours degree. Scotland has a four-year university system, and universities in Ireland have both three- and four-year degrees systems.
 
Institute for Study Abroad, Alliance For Global Education and MORE CULTURE. LESS SHOCK. are registered marks of the Institute for Study Abroad, Inc.