It is awfully concerning how quickly time seems to pass. Tomorrow will be the first of 4 oral viva examinations, which will no doubt reveal how much I don’t know about optimisation algorithms in operations research… A week from today, the entire semester will have finished. I will be madly packing for a week trip to the Italian alps and hopefully not getting frostbite while I’m doing that. Perhaps it is just the experience of being a tourist student, but I do remember semesters at Sydney being much more of a struggle, especially towards the end of exams.
Although I have no felt the wrath of 8 exams in one session, I do feel like the UK system is rather conducive to and encourages laziness for a whole term (or two!) Students don’t have much incentive to learn the material in term 1, and it’s a wonder they even turn up (I wonder if I would…) The heavy emphasis on the examination (90% in the Stats department, and probably similar in maths) is rather daunting. It does not measure cumulative progress or allow for adequate feedback. The 10% midterm is nothing in comparison to the final exam. I feel that assignments that allow students to think about problems over time (period of a few weeks, perhaps) is more indicative of what would be experienced in the workplace or real life. Having noticed much blatant copying of ‘coursework’ from students in other subjects, I can see why there is no such problem solving encouraged here. In a similar vain, I feel as though students at UCL do not feel the inherent need to work hard. Many feel that their brand name university will get them a job straight out of university, which is probably true. Any student at Oxbridge, Imperial, LSE, UCL would definitely be put on top of the recruiting pile over, perhaps, Oxford Brookes.
Among my fellow flatmates, nearly all of whom are international, compare the UK education system to that in their home countries. It seems that many universities in the UK have let students off the hook, compared to their continental neighbours. I feel as though that it is due to some of the issues related to international students (that is also experienced in Australia) that causes this. It is absolutely apparent in my 3rd year inference course, where the lecturer had to ‘dumb down’ assessments because too many students were failing in previous years. Having seen the ‘revised assessments’ (and previous assessments), I cannot but feel for the academics who are pushed to pass as many students as possible, some (most…) of which who are paying international fees. This contradiction is evident also in Australia, as universities crave the goldmines that international students provide.
Academically, UCL has been an eyeopening experience and I will reflect on it further as I return to statistics at Sydney. For now, memorising algorithms awaits.