Some differences between Canadian and British universities

Hello! Today I thought I would share with you the differences I have experienced in attending a Canadian university and a British university, but more specifically the University of Surrey with a special attention to the law program. Here it goes:

  • Here in the UK, you can attend Law School right out of high school without having an undergraduate degree unlike in Canada. This is very interesting for students that are coming out of twelfth grade with the intention of doing law. There is an accreditation process that one must go through in order to practice in Canada but I am hoping to write a detailed post about this process in the near future. (This is actually the same for Medical and Veterinary school but I am unfamiliar with how easy it would be to come back to Canada).
    • However, if like me you do have an undergraduate degree, the University of Surrey offers a program for students like us called the Law (JD Pathway) LLB (Hons) program which is two years rather than three without a placement year, or three rather than four if you would like to do a placement year.
  • Every student is assigned a personal tutor for the duration of your degree. This is a University staff in your field that is there for academic and personal guidance. My tutor happens to also be one of my law professors. In general, your personal tutor is a great first point of contact for any queries you might have concerning your time here at Surrey. I think this is an amazing service to have while here and believe I would have greatly benefited of having a personal tutor during my undergrad.
  • Something that is very different from my previous university experience and that I am thus far really enjoying is the tutorials. Being in a science program back home I would have a lot of tutorials or “DGDs”  where we would be 60-100 people on average with a teacher’s assistant that would go through different problem examples. Here (and this might be due to the subject I am now studying) we are on average 10 per tutorial and being a JD student, we normally get our professor as the tutor. Although the tutorials require a lot of preparation, they are amazing in ensuring one on one contact with your professor and allowing you more time to get familiar with the concepts covered in the lectures. I feel like I am doing the most learning during the tutorials.
  • I went from having 5 classes a semester with each having 3 hours of lecture time, with some including a 3 hour laboratory session with 1 to 2 hour tutorial or DGD time; to having 4 classes of 2 hour lectures with 1 hours tutorial time. Although there is a lot of self-studying involved, it really makes a difference in terms of organizing myself and feeling like I have time to accomplish my work. (This is subject to change depending on the course you are taking).
  • There is some type of rule here in England that prevents universities from scheduling classes on Wednesday afternoons in order to allow sport clubs and societies to meet. How amazing is that! I really feel like the University is encouraging my participation in extracurricular activities this way.
  • In line with the previous point, a big difference I have notice between the University of Surrey and my previous university experience is the scheduling of timetables. Back home, the University had to accommodate over 40,000 students which meant that I could have classes that would start as early as 8:30 am and classes with as late a finish as 10:00 pm. This made for really long days. Here however, my earliest start is 9:00 am and my latest finish is 6:00 pm which has been really good in terms of my being able to participate in a sporting club and just general well-being. (Again, this is subject to change depending on the course you are taking).
  • Another difference is the breaks and holidays. I have to say, the English like long breaks (and I have to say, I am loving them too!). My school year at the University of Surrey started at the beginning of October. My first break is for Christmas where we get 3-4 weeks depending on when your exams are scheduled. Then, after exams we get a week off before the beginning of the second semester. During that second semester we get the whole month of April off (which is like an extended reading week) and then we finish the school year by approximately the third week of June. Interesting isn’t it?
  • I am not sure if this applies everywhere in the UK or if this was just something in Ottawa but the textbooks here are so much cheaper!
  • Finally, but most importantly… The size of the paper here is different! Now this might be due to the fact that I had never traveled outside of North America before but no one told me that the paper would be different. Here it is an A4 paper size rather than the classic Canadian 8.5 by 11 inches. I just felt really silly that it had never crossed my mind that the size of the paper would be different (which actually has to be changed in your Word documents too!).

These are just a few of the differences I had been told about before coming or that I have noticed since being here that I thought I would share in this post. If I think of anymore I will be sure to create a new blog post, but for now I hope this will be helpful in your decision making.

Here is a picture of the lake that is right on campus!