I felt that I might need to write something about my own experience through comparing the HE in these two countries. But apparently, my personal experience involved in HE in China was during 1993-2000 and in the UK is during 2003-2008. It’s unfair to compare the educational system in ten years ago China and today’s UK and it has a strong culture context as well. I am not a teacher. What I’m writing here is a view from a learner. I want to list my humble ideas of the key differences based on a reflection on my personal experience. I got benefits from both educational systems as well as had negative experience of both systems. I don’t judge it’s bad or good here because I do believe things are always changing, improving and my experience doesn’t represent a serious research result.
C (HE in China) – U(HE in the UK)
(1) the relationships between teachers and students (undergraduates)
C- Teachers are highly respected by students. There are two examples of Chinese education ideas. According to Han Yu’s (768-824) idea, a teacher is the person who gives all he knows to students, tells them the way to live, and answers students’ questions. Also Confucius (551-479BCE) said, for one day as my teachers, forever I respect them as my parents. Students therefore see a teacher as the one who is wise, knowledgeable and learned. It’s very rude to call a teacher’s name directly.
U- Teachers are facilitator. A teacher is a person who is knowledgeable and helps students to learn. Students do not respect a teacher as their parents but a teacher or a friend. There is an equal sense. Therefore, it’s normal that students call a teacher’s name directly.
(2) the relationship between supervisors and students (postgraduates)
C- A supervisor is a boss and a person who directs students. A lot of research is industry project based. Students do research for the boss most of time and need to report their work to supervisors regularly. Supervisors and students have good relationships. Most of supervisors invite their students to their home for a dinner or meet together in restaurant during big festival time. In general, a student’s achievement reflects the achievement and abilities of his/her supervisor. Therefore, if a student got fail, then it directly affected the supervisor’s fame and further recruiting students.
U- Supervisors are people who give students advices and suggestions. They are likely to meet students on a regular basis and check the student’s progress. The student is expected to have their own research opinions and interests. Supervisors and students have good relationships and the relationship is like colleagues and friends. Not so many supervisors will invite students to go to their home or together for a meal; they prefer to talk with students in a relaxed place, such as cafe. It seems that a student’s achievement/failure does not affect their supervisor’s fame so much. It’s mainly the student’s responsibility.
(3) students’ behaviours (in the classroom and campus)
C- In general, the university has certain regulations to guide students’ behaviours, such as do not wear high-heel shoes, sunglass, hat, and flip-flops in classroom; do not dye hair red, green or bright colour. Do not leave the classroom when the teacher is talking or without their permission. When the teacher walks into the classroom, all students have to stand up and say “good morning” or “good afternoon” to the teacher. When teacher asks a student question, the student needs to stand up and answer. In addition, I rarely see students sit on stairs, a corridor or the ground in the classroom building.
U- Students are very free, wear what they want and even have their breakfast in the classroom when the teacher is talking. Students don’t stand up when they answer questions and they do not stand up when a teacher comes into the classroom.
(4) the visibility of student’s examination results
C- It is open to everyone, the student’s name, registration number, subject and score. So I know my classmates’ results and they know mine. If it’s an excellent/worst essay, it might be presented in the class as an example. I didn’t feel it’s something very private as from primary school to university, my examination results were visible to people. My results of each semester were often directly sent to my parents by the university.
U- It’s private. Only the student and the teacher know the results.
(5) the style of teaching
C- seminar-style; mainly individual coursework; often the teacher is talking from the beginning to the end of the class; sometimes they call a student’s name to answer a question.
U- workshop-style; many group works; more discussion in classroom between peers as well as the teacher and students; more interactions.
(6) negotiation of assignment
C- It’s not often that a student negotiates the submission or results of an assignment with the teacher.
U- It’s normal that a student negotiates the submission or results of an assignment with the teacher.
(7) reference and bibliography style in writing
C- Emphases copyrights, but not highly stress the bibliography and reference styles.
U- Highly emphases copyrights, bibliography, reference styles and the origin of a source.
(8) textbook and reading list
C- In general, textbook fees are included in the tuition fee. Textbooks will be selected and bought by the teacher and issued to every student in the first session of a module. The teacher will suggest some important and relevant books/articles to students; but they won’t check if the students read them or not. Students often focus on those textbooks and notes they made in the class.
U- Often the teacher will suggest some books or a reading list to students in each session. They do not focus on one or two books. In general, students have handouts from the class or resources online that they can access to. Students need to read a wide range of books and articles.
C- In general, the teacher checks who does not turn up in the class and calls the roll at the beginning of a class session.
U- The teacher does not check who is missing so often.
(10) class time and arrangement
C- Class sessions are arranged at 8:00-12:00am; 2:00-5:00pm; 7:00-9:00pm. Students have two hours noon break. Each lesson is about 50 minutes and 10-20minutes break between two lessons. Students often study by themselves in scheduled time or free time such as evening time in library or any classroom that is available. In general, a class building is close at 10:00pm. There was no out of hour training at that time.
U- Class sessions are often arranged at 9:00am-4:00pm. There is no particular lunch break; some classes are at 12:00-2:00pm. There is no evening sessions and most classrooms are not available after 6:00pm and students who use the room in the class building need to apply out of hour training. Students often study by themselves in library or their own accommodation.
(11) students’ accommodation
C- Arranged by the university and it’s not one person per room, but a few (2-8) students shared one room. Female and male students are arranged in different buildings separately. Students from different faculties are often arranged in different buildings or different floors. Normally female students are free to go into male students’ accommodations, whereas male students need to get permission from the officer who is in charge of the female’s accommodation to go into a female student’s accommodation. Students who lived in one room always built good and long relationships. They are like sisters or brothers.
U- Booked by students before they arrive at the university. Often in one building, there are female and male students unless the student has the requirements to have same gender students in the same flat. One student per room or a few (2-8) share one flat or a house.
(12) library services
C- Seldom that a library opens 24 hours; not enough books, journals and international journals; limited accessibility; very limited online databases and sources; lack of experienced academic librarians to help students (I do feel there are lots of functions and services that Chinese libraries need to develop)
U- More accessible to diverse sources; flexible services; professional librarians; lack updated books and journals.
C- The university does not have invigilation team. Often teachers invigilate students that they teach or students from the same faculty. Students need to prepare everything that they need in the exam by themselves.
U- The university exam office often provides good exam invigilation team to support and help students attend exams smoothly. They provide many services, such as drink, pens, tissues, etc.
(14) career development
C- Seldom part-time jobs or placement chances for students. Students have practical work opportunities when they are in the final year or do dissertation.
U- Encourage students to do part-time job/voluntary work, placement job. Students have many practical work opportunities.
C- To all undergraduate students, Sports, Politics, English are compulsory courses. Many courses are compulsory and a few are optional.
U- Students are more flexible to choose what they are interested in and they are able to change modules easily when they feel the course is not suitable for them.
(16) social activities in universities
C- Students often have social activities in the campus. They go dancing at weekend nights, engage in sports, go to English corner to practice English and meet people, go to cinema, play Karaoke, outings, societies based on interests, cook and chat over tea, engage in sports meetings (every year once, every class will be involved), etc.
U- drink, societies based on interests, sports, outings, people often meet in a café or bar, quiz night, weekend “give it a go” trip, cinema. The university does not hold a sport meeting every year.
(17) military training
C- Almost every freshman needs to attend a military training in the first month of their freshman year. The soldiers train students as soldiers. Students wear military uniform and learn shooting, target practice, walk in goose-steps, sing warsongs and behave like a real soldier. Students like those trainers, soldiers and regard them as brothers. The training is unforgettable experience.
U- Not in a general university
(18) individual and the collective
C- A student does not have a strong feeling of individual. There is a sense that a student is always related him/herself to a class or the collective. The class, the flat, the subject or the collective is the core of a unit.
U- Students are very independent. There is a sense that a student is an individual and the individual is the core of a unit.
(NB. There is an article from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU), you may be interested in reading.)