What to expect in your first year

Essential information on what to expect from a university-level education, how you will learn and information tailored specifically to your education in 22/23

Your Education in 2022/23

UCL Portico with trees and 'UCL' flags
A UCL education is designed to stretch your intellect, expand your experience and develop your skills.  We want you to learn how to think - not what to think - through dynamic engagement with research-intensive learning. Our aim is to ensure that  you are able to learn effectively by connecting with a wide range of people (peers, teachers, researchers, and other UCL communities) and cutting edge knowledge and research, while making links to impact in the wider world. 

The start of a new academic year is an exciting part of your time at UCL and our campus will be open to all students in September 2022. 

For more information on what this will entail view the following information:

Academic Manual

UCL’s Academic Manual provides information on all academic regulations, policies, and procedures for students.

Timeline for your undergraduate degree

Getting to know UCL

How will I learn at university?

Although this will not cover all the ways in which you will learn at university due to the sheer diversity of disciplines at UCL, these are some of the most typical approaches to education at UCL. 


Traditionally, lectures are a way to deliver core subject content to larger groups of students. This could be anywhere from 20-350 students. Lectures can bring together groups of students studying different programmes but where there are common learning concepts that need to be studied. While the traditional format is for a lecturer to stand at the front and deliver information via slides, lectures are increasingly becoming more interactive and you may find that you break into small groups, answers questions and engage with interactive tools built into the lecture slides - like Mentimeter.

For 21/22 you may find a lot of your lectures are online. Students have greatly appreicated having their lectures online in 20/21 and especially enjoy revisting and reviewing the recordings of those lectures. Typically, online lectures will be conducted through Zoom. Make sure you have familiarised yourseld with how to log in to Zoom using your UCL account in order to gain access to your online lectures. Other platforms that may be used for your online lectures include Microsoft Teams and Blackboard Collaborate

Tips for lectures:

  • You will want to take notes during your lectures but don't try to write everything down. Take a look at UCL's tips for taking notes or The Open University have a notetaking techniques course.
  • Make use of any lecture recordings. This guide for students will help you make the most of the available tools on our lecture recording software, Lecturecast.
  • Make sure you do any relevant readings ahead of your lecture. This will help you engage with the lecture and follow what is being said.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions. The lecturers would rather know if there is anything that you don't understand rather than have you struggle in silence and it's probably not just you! if you don't feel confident during the lecture, you might want to note any questions you have to ask in your seminars, via discussion forums on Moodle or take to your personal tutor. 

Seminars are regular, timetabled small group sessions for around 5-30 students. You will find they are more interactive in nature than you might have experienced at school or college. The expectation will be that you contribute to the discussion. You may have set readings to undertake before your seminars, so it is important that you spend time preparing for them. Seminars will be your opportunity to engage with other students and staff, including trained and enthusiastic postgraduate teaching assistants. Further down the line, you might find you are asked to give a presentations on topics you have been asked to prepare, either by yourself or in small groups. Seminars are your oppportunity to really engage with, analyse and discuss what you are learning in your modules and are a great opportunity get to know others on your course. 

Tips for seminars:

  • Make sure you set aside time to prepare. If you have been asked to do some reading beforehand, perhaps you could summarise key points and note any questions you have as a way of preparing.
  • If you feel anxious about contributing to your seminars, set yourself a goal to make just one contribution and try to make it early on to get over that hurdle. You will find once you start contributing it will get easier and you will want to do it more.
  • Try to focus on the discussion rather than worry about your own contribution and remember that other students will feel as nervous as you do. 
  • Don't interrrupt others and respect divergent opinions. 
Personal tutorials

Personal tutorials can be 1-to-1 or in small groups and often deal with your broader learning and development, including your wellbeing at university. They are your opportunity to discuss your development, career goals, module choices and to find out more about what UCL can offer you. They are also a nice opporutnity to get to know a member of staff better. If you have any difficulties or feel overwhelmed at all, you can talk to your personal tutor. They may not have the solution, but they know UCL well and can help you get the support you need quicker than if you were trying to figure it out on your own. 

There are loads of resources on our dedicated personal tutoring pages to help you make the most out of your tutorials. 


Independent learning

At university, there is a greater emphasis placed on independent learning. Independent learning is about you taking an active role in your education. This means planning and prioritising your time, managing your deadlines and taking responsbility for your workload and other commitments. Independent study isn't a skill you are expected to acquire upon becoming an undergraduate. The learning and activities as part of your programme of study will support and lead you towards independent study through inquiry and exploration.

Tips for independent learning:

  • You can access your timetable on Portico to help you plan your week effectively.
  • For each module you have there will be a related Moodle page which sets out your work on a weekly basis and lets you know your assigment deadlines. Make a note of these key deadlines so that you know what you are working towards and when your busy periods will be.
  • Don't forget to factor in your other commitments: personal, work, sports, wellbeing etc.
  • Find ways to manage your time that works for you. UCL has a guide on managing your time, as does the Open University (Time Management Skills) but everyone is different so if something isn't working, try another approach. 
Labs and practical sessions

Depending on your subject, you may also find you have more practical sessions and even fieldwork. Science, medicine, engineering, art and design subjects may have very hand-on elements as part of the structure of the course. You will recieve more information on these sessions in your department and you may find these opportunities increase as you advance through your studies. There may also be opportunities during the summer to take on research assistant positions on the projects of staff and postgraduate students, or visit other big labs in the UK. For some practical sessions, like science labs, you will also have to undertake safety and induction sessions. These practical sessions will usually be the place where you apply the theories you have learnt in your lectures. You will also develop a new set of skills in using lab/practical equipment, in learning and applying lab/practical technicals as wells as developing skills in analysing, reviewing, observing, interpreting and presenting your findings. 

Tips for lab and practical sessions

  • Make notes and ask questions during the session. 
  • Write up lab reports as soon after your session as possible whilst everything is still fresh in your mind.
  • Seek out other opportunities to refine and develop your skills.
  • If you enjoy certain elements of your course like any practical session, discuss with you personal tutor the learning and career opportunities these could lead to. 

Library Services:


UCL’s Libraries offer a range of online resources to students to support you in your studies. UCL’s Library Services provides information and assistance to all students, both in-person and online. Get started on learning what UCL library services offer.

UCL Library Services also offers online e-resources to support students. Among these resources is Explore, UCL’s online search tool for journals, articles, archive material, and more. UCL Library Services also provides a Digital Collections Repository.

Complete UCL Library Services Online Induction

Digital Education at UCL:

A person rests a laptop on their lap, with a page open to a networking site.

The Digital Education at UCL Moodle course is designed to support you to be a successful digital learner. 

 It’s designed with a range of content and learning activities that:

  • Ensure you have the tech you need
  • Demonstrate how to use our core learning technologies
  • Help you find and use academic resources
  • Guide you towards help and support, and
  • Enable you to become a confident and motivated Digital Learner.

Start Digital Education at UCL now

International students

If you’re also an international student check you UCL’s list of things you need to know about studying in the UK for the first time. For Learning Activities to help you prepare for studying at university check out resources from Prepare for Success.

You may also want to familiarise yourself with the UK Honours System for Undergraduates so you understand how you will be marked/assessed. 

International Students' Online Orientation Course

Glossary of terms

Finding there are lots of new terms being thrown around? This is a searchable glossary to help acquaint you with some of the terminology used at university: