English and American Universities: a Comparison

My name is Daniel Cohen, I go to Leeds but am on my year abroad at Penn State. After 5 months in America, I’ve noticed some major differences between English and American universities, which I split into education and social life. I study politics, and I think the following relates to most degrees, although not all of them.

Daniel Cohen 1


In America, assessments for classes are split up into lots of different areas. There are weekly homeworks, monthly quizzes and exams, whilst participation and attendance in class count towards your grade, usually between 10-20%. This means that going to class regularly is important, and you are required to work much more often than in England. In England, going to lectures and seminars won’t directly affect your grade, and most lectures can be viewed online a few hours after they take place. The work is less constant as it is split into only a few things, such as a presentation, exam and essay, or just two essays or two exams worth 50% each. This means that when you have work to do, it really matters and you can’t mess around. In America though, each piece of work you do rarely counts for more than 20% and therefore you don’t have to go crazy over it – if you do badly, there are other chances to make up for it. The English way is more independent and I prefer it as it gives you more time off to enjoy university life as a student. However, the level in America compared to England is much easier, and whilst working more often, it requires much less time and effort.

Social life:

Daniel Cohen 2In America, the drinking age is 21. This means the social life of students is very different to that in England. Also, fraternities and sororities dominate – Greek life does not exist in England. In America, going out occurs at frat parties, and the main time for going out and drinking is on the weekend. For those over 21, there are bars which you can go. In England, with 18 the drinking age, all students go clubbing, with house parties rarer and mostly for special occasions, for example birthdays. Week nights are also the main time for going out and drinking. Going out starts later in England too. This links back to the education system and Americans needing to go to class all the time, so their nights finish much earlier to allow this to happen, usually latest 2am. With college sports in America so big, this is also a reason why weekend drinking occurs. Day longs on Saturdays are very common, something which doesn’t happen in England.

I hope this is a helpful comparison. Both models are great in their own ways and provide a fantastic new experience!

by Daniel Cohen – Penn State University – USA


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