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Coursework/Academic year at University of Edinburgh

concernedauntieconcernedauntie 1 replies1 threads New Member
edited April 2019 in United Kingdom
Concernered aunt and former St. Andrian here. My nephew was accepted at the University of Edinburgh, and attended a meet-and-greet w/ current students in DC a few weeks ago. He spoke (very briefly) to an American student who gave him the impression that coursework basically consisted of 1 or 2 lectures a week, to an audience of 100 or more; little to no student-professor interaction; no papers/essays/quizzes etc., and that grades are based solely on the outcome of a cumulative exam at the end of the year. I suspect some braggadocio on the kids part. Based on my own albeit ancient experiences at St. Andrews (weekly tutorials, several essays per term) I cannot imagine this is true. Would anyone be able to give me a brief summary of how the academic year plays out?
edited April 2019
7 replies
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Replies to: Coursework/Academic year at University of Edinburgh

  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8021 replies85 threads Senior Member
    edited April 2019
    It varies a *lot* by course and by module, but if you do a deep dive into the course description online you will find pretty detailed info on how assessment works for each course. That said, drawing on the current & recent past students that I know at Edi:

    => tutorials do exist for many classes
    => there are varying forms of continuing assessment for many classes
    => there are classes that have continuing assessment (such as essays or problem sets) but those only provide indicative marks- your actual grade is your result on the year end cumulative exam. For one of my collegekids (in an English, not Scottish, university) even though she had weekly essays and interim exams, all of her on-the-record marks were based on cumulative exams at the end of years 1 & 3,
    => in most UK unis student-professor interaction outside of tutorials is not really a thing, esp in the early years. I know some Edi students who developed more of a relationship with their supervisor during summer internships

    My guess is that the student your nephew heard speaking is reflecting the realities of a course or (more likely) a module (class) or two- and is trying to impress on applicants how different the system is. Most of the regular UK posters on CC have seen posts from students with really romanticized ideas about what it will be like- this student may be trying to balance that out with a perspective as to how different it can be.

    I don't know how long ago you were at StAs, and I've only paid attention for the last 8 years or so, but at least these days there is more emphasis on continuing assessment at StAs than at most UK universities.
    edited April 2019
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  • Dodgers1Dodgers1 53 replies0 threads Junior Member
    I think the student can Google "University of Edinburgh" and "Course finder" and can find out exact details for his or her proposed/required classes. Click on "view the timetable and further details" within a particular course for more specific info.

    I looked up one required Univ of Edin first-year History class, for example: it has 4 lectures and 2 tutorials per week. Assessment for the course is based on 3 total marks: 2 papers plus an in-class, 1-hour final. It does not indicate how many students are in a typical lecture or tutorial, but I guess one could e-mail the Department, to find out. It also gives the breakdown of what each assessment is worth for the total mark.

    For comparison, currently in a first or second year required history class at St Andrews, I think lectures are either 3 or 4 times per week (depending), with 1 tutorial per week. Tutorials there are less then 10 students, I think usually about 5. There are about 3 papers (1 shorter, 2 longer) plus a 2-hour final. Students are also responsible for presenting material in at least one tutorial, but I don't think it's part of the final mark.

    I think it depends on the major/course, and science courses, for example, are significantly different, with labs and a different assessment system. I suppose there could be some classes where a final is the total of a student's mark.
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  • VickiSoCalVickiSoCal 3487 replies34 threads Senior Member
    I would drill in to his exact course and modules. I find it hard to believe humanities classes have no papers and as stated above science and math courses will usually have some labs or practicals.
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  • VickiSoCalVickiSoCal 3487 replies34 threads Senior Member
    For example, English 1, the year long course taken by all English Lit students at Edi is assessed as follows:

    Mark for the 2,500-word essay, submitted semester 1, week 11 15%
    Mark for the 1,500-word close reading exercise, submitted semester 2, week 5 10%
    Mark for the 2,500-word essay, submitted in semester 2, week 10 15%
    Tutorial Assessment mark for the first semester 10%
    Tutorial Assessment mark for the second semester 10%
    A three-hour examination at the end of Semester Two 40%

    Lectures are 3 hours a week, tutorials are 1 hour.

    You must pass both the final exam and the coursework independent of the other grade to pass. (This has been true of all the modules my daughter has taken at St. Andrews as well, you can't fail the lab/coursework and ace the final or vice versa)
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  • concernedauntieconcernedauntie 1 replies1 threads New Member
    Thank you all so much for your time and advice. Very much appreciated!!
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  • lizzzarlizzzar 70 replies0 threads Junior Member
    St Andrews may have moved from the Oxbridge system to the modular system now more common in UK universities. Edinburgh appears to be similar. At Oxford, you typically write one short tutorial essay a week, but it doesn't count for your final result. Sometimes one or two extended essays may be substituted for exam papers, but these are different from tutorial essays and you get more time. Your final result will be based on your final exams only (sometimes incorporating some extended essays). Other Uk universities have moved to a system that is a bit different, including results from some essays along the way, but your final result will still be almost exclusively based on your one or two main subjects, and will be classified first, upper second, lower second, third, occasionally pass, not by grade point average. This is still quite different from the US; although most UK universities do have the reputation of being quite generous graders at the moment; you will probably end up with a pretty good degree if you do a reasonable amount of work.
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  • edimomedimom 1 replies0 threads New Member
    Mom of American student currently finishing her first year at Edinburgh (accepted at St. Andrews, KCL and Durham as well as competitive US schools). IR major - 3 classes per semester. First semester: Intl law was only one assessment and that was the final exam (terrifying tbh for a first semester, first year student from the US). Politics required course only two assessments: mid term essay and final. Elective: mid term essay and final. Same ratios second semester. Big lectures plus tutorials. Not many classes. You are expected to do learning on your own. My daughter has honestly never been happier but the system is VERY different than either her American high school or American colleges. No one holds your hand. It’s sink or swim on the few assessments. Science classes have more assessments on an ongoing basis. Not much braggadocio imo.
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