The UK academic system

On this page you can find information and resources about academic life at UCL and in the UK, as well as English language support.

International student orientation events - January 2024If you are coming to study at UCL from abroad, you may find that the UK academic system is different to the education system you have known so far. There are a range of resources and support services available to you at UCL to help you improve your academic and English language skils. Below you can find more information on the following:

Academic life in the UK

As you begin your studies at UCL, here are a few guidelines on what to expect from your UCL learning journey. 

Independent work and research

While in some countries the focus will be on spending a significant amount of time in the classroom, studying in the UK is typically more independent. Most lectures or seminars will last one hour, and you will be expected to work and prepare for classes autonomously.

UCL is also a very research-driven institution, which means you will often be asked to answer complex questions with real-life applications. While studying at a UK university, you will become used to expressing your own opinion, engaging in debates and challenging existing viewpoints.

When writing and submitting work, UCL expects its students to maintain the highest of standards and always comply with academic integrity. For more information on academic integrity, please see UCL's webpages. 

More information on studying in the UK can be found on the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) webpages.

Different teaching methods

There are different teaching styles depending on your programme of study. At UCL, you can expect to encounter a broad range of teaching and learning methods and environments. These include:

  • lectures (20 - 350 students)
  • seminars (5 - 30 students)
  • practical work (lab courses, field trips, installations etc.)
  • tutorials (one-to-one and/or small groups)
  • private study (individual, study groups etc.)

Naturally, with restrictions imposed by the UK Government due to COVID-19, the nature of some of these teaching methods will change.

Universities also put an emphasis on attendance: at UCL, you need to have at least 70% attendance across all teaching events.

Different assessment methods

The most common forms of assessment are examinations, which usually take place at the end of the academic term, and written coursework, which is usually in the form of essays and reports. You may also be asked to prepare individual and group presentations, and to work on collaborative projects.

You will likely be marked on a scale from 0 to 100, although scaling may be different according to your discipline.

For more information, you can take a look at the UCL Student Guide to Assessment and Feedback.

You can also find out more about how UK marking compares to other countries.

Engaging with AI in your education and assessment

There is a lot of interest in and experimentation with artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT, DALLE-2, CoPilot, and most recently Google Bard. 

We believe these tools are potentially transformative as well as disruptive. To make sure you use them effectively, ethically, and transparently, read UCL's guidelines on the use of AI in your education and assessment. Remember to also follow the specific guidelines put forth by your department. 

Academic support at UCL

To allow you to make the most of your studies at UCL, we ensure that you have access to academic support services throughout the duration of your time with us.

Personal Tutor - for all students

At UCL, every student is allocated a Personal Tutor, who offers guidance on their overall academic progress and their personal and professional development. Your Personal Tutor (or supervisor for research students) will normally be a member of teaching staff, but may not necessarily be teaching courses on your programme of study. 

Tutors can offer you a range of help, from essay-writing techniques and using online learning facilities to advice on course progression and options. They can also give you recommendations for further study as well as general career advice.

To find out more about personal tutors, take a look at the personal tutoring webpages.

Affiliate Tutor - for affiliate students

All affiliate students will be allocated an Affiliate Tutor, who will be your main point of contact for academic support and queries related to your programme.

To find out the contact details for your departmental Affiliate Tutor, please visit our department information webpage.

Transition Mentors - for undergraduates

As part of the study skills support UCL also runs the Transition Mentoring programme. If you are a first year undergraduate you will be assigned a Transition Mentor to help you settle in at the start of your course.

For further information about this please see the Transition Mentors webpages. 

UCL Doctoral School - for research graduates

The UCL Doctoral School provides support to postgraduate research students through courses, scholarships and inter-disciplinary programmes. The School is committed to ensuring that the quality of research training at UCL is at the highest international level. 

To find out more about the Doctoral School, please visit their website.

Online resources

Below are a few resources to help familiarise yourself with student life and the ways of teaching and learning in the UK.

Access to a wide variety of online resources is available on UCL's study skills and e-learning webpages

Amongst these you can find the online learning platform LinkedIn Learning, which offers a wealth of different training courses including academic skills

The British Council has launched a new open online course (MOOC) on preparing to study and live in the UK.

View your timetable

You can view your personal timetable by visiting the UCL Timetables webpages.

Here you can see your weekly timetable and switch between week, year and term views at a click. Events are updated on the timetabling system as and when they change, therefore ensure you check your timetable regularly as there may be room or time changes. Modules appear in your timetable the day after you select them on Portico.

If you are a student within the School of Pharmacy you will need to contact the School for all of your timetabling information.

Students from the IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society should contact their programme administrator for details of their timetable.

Students' Union UCL

The Students' Union UCL academic sections provide an opportunity to discuss academic-related concerns, needs and interests within the Students' Union, UCL and beyond. The academic sections also encourage extra-curricular activities such as social events and skills development opportunities. There is also a Students' Union Education Officer who is responsible for representing UCL students’ educational and academic needs to UCL.

To find out more about the academic sections, visit the Union's webpages.

The Union's academic support webpages also provide a list of resources and helpful guidance.