Learning in Britain vs Learning in Asia: the differences you should know
There are some key differences to the teaching styles of Asian and British universities and I’ve experienced both, so I figured I’d share what I’ve learnt here with you guys so you’re prepared if you come and study in the UK!
1. The lecturers are happy to be addressed by their first names
It can take a bit of time to get used to calling your lecturers by their first names. In Asian cultures, we usually address our teachers using some sort of title and their first / last name. However, in the UK, you don't really need to use any title while talking to your teachers. Some lecturers even told me they felt a bit weird when their students called them Ms. A or Mr. B!
2. You're expected to be critical and ask questions
This is one of the biggest differences between Asian and Western learning strategies. In most universities in the UK, asking questions is a way to show that you're interested in the topic and eager to learn more. Teachers play the role of the facilitators and learning is a two-way communication. In seminars, you will be asked for your opinions, and if you can, to explain yourself and convince people. This can be quite challenging if you have been studying in Asian educational systems in which debates in the classroom are generally not encouraged. Now that you're here you don't have to agree with everything in your lectures, so feel free to interact and challenge the conventional ideas, as long as you can support your arguments with relevant evidence.
Being critical is also one of the most important elements of a well-written piece of work. You don't want your work to be descriptive and merely sound like a collection of already existing literature. This is VERY difficult and sometimes seems impossible, especially for international students. Fortunately support is always available at the University of Portsmouth and we can talk about it more in number 5 of this list.
3. Exam results are important, but your participation in class is important, too
Your contribution towards the lesson can make a huge difference on your final result for the module. Assignments and group work usually make up 40% of your final score, so you will want to put a lot of effort in to the process. You will certainly have to work with other students for a presentation or a project at some point of your course and the work / score is often equally divided. So, be cooperative and try your best to fulfil your part, because people could be quite serious and demanding with something that can affect their own results!
4. Referencing = nightmare?
References might be a real life horror story when you first start your course. Not all of us are familiar with the citation and referencing system, but in Western universities, especially those in the UK, plagiarism is a crime! Your score will be deducted for bad referencing or your assignment can be marked as 'failed' if it doesn't pass the plagiarism scanning. Therefore, you may want to invest your time to learn how to properly cite and avoid troubles. Of course, you're not alone, there are plenty of support services that are sympathetic to fresher's academic problems.
5. Don't be afraid to ask for help
Coming to study in a completely different country can be frustrating, so always seek help whenever you need it, regardless of it being a personal, financial or academic problem. For general problems that you may have with any of your subjects, your personal tutor will be the first one to contact. They can either provide direct help or will at least recommend someone who can help. If your concerns are about citations, referencing or how to search for literature, make sure you register for the library induction at the beginning of your course. The friendly staff will give you instructions on how to access multiple useful online resources which can help to address these problems.
If you're looking to improve your overall academic writing, complete a simple entry test and register for the in-session courses. These courses are run by the university all year round to assist oversea students with their academic writing and they're totally free!
Appreciating the differences between your own educational environment and the one in the UK can really help you to adapt and feel much more confident. Good luck and enjoy your exciting journey ahead!
Jo Tran, UoP Global Student Ambassador from Vietnam.