The Bartlett


Uni in the UK: What’s it really like?

by Celine Lessard-Brandt

For me, the answer was: unexpected! I split my undergraduate degree between France and the United States, so I assumed I had differences in university cultures down. But when I got to The Bartlett, lots of things surprised me. In this blog post, I’ll discuss some of these elements from my perspective as a Bartlett postgraduate student, so you’ll know what to expect when you come here.

UK vs. France: selective postgraduate coursework vs. a broad undergraduate curriculum

I spent the first two years of undergraduate study at Sciences Po in Reims, France, and the main factor was LOTS of hours of class time. I had 10 classes per semester, adding up to over 20 hours of class per week. At The Bartlett, the opposite is true – you only have a handful of classes, and they meet only once per week. It’s a great opportunity to pick classes you’re deeply interested in, because you get to spend more time focusing on each class. 

Another major difference is the relationship between students and professors. In France, professors often have a more formal role and they are less available to provide academic support to students, much less chat about the coursework topics outside of class time. But at The Bartlett, I’ve experienced a very different scenario. Professors and students share the School of Planning office, and most professors are happy to sit down with you for a conversation about anything at all, whether it’s feedback on your essay or career guidance. Definitely a valuable resource!

Prof. Michael Short touring MPlan students around Glasgow, 2019 fall field trip

UK vs. USA: self-scheduled postgraduate work vs. structured undegraduate homework

I finished my undergraduate degree with two years at Columbia University in New York. Like the UK, I only had a few classes per semester, which provided in-depth learning. But in the US, most classes happen 2-3 times a week. They also require a lot more weekly homework than my Bartlett classes do. So in the UK, I’ve experienced a lot more unstructured time, and assessment is based on major projects due at the end of the semester. Get ready to set your own schedules!

University in the US is also much more campus-based than life at UCL. UCL students don’t live on campus, and while campus offers a wide range of services, it’s not designed to ensure you don’t have to leave it. Students take advantage of this to study, eat, and work around Central London, from cafes in Camden to local museums. In other words, campus is a great base for your London explorations!

3 students on a fieldwork trip in East London

UK vs. USA and France: timelines of postgraduate programmes

The last important item to discuss is the length of your postgraduate degree. Most American and French postgraduate programmes are two years long, while most UK degrees last one year (although mine is a two-year programme). So when you get to the UK for your postgraduate education, get ready to go! It can be stressful to think about applying to jobs and networking when you’re just starting your course, but if you focus on making friends and setting future goals from the very start, you’ll form even deeper connections and build a great launching pad into your post-postgraduate life. And after all, that’s what higher education is all about.