Many students don't know what to expect by way of teaching and learning when attending university, so here's a little introduction to get you started. 

Undergraduate study is made up of a combination of lectures, seminars, tutorials and laboratories. The number of contact hours vary enormously, however science and engineering degrees tend to have more hours in the lab and in lectures than arts and humanities degrees, where students will be expected to spend more time in the library or in private study. 

Supporting the lecture programme are smaller seminars and tutorials which allow students to address the issues in greater depth, through discussion, analysis, problem solving, or essay writing. Your ideas and opinions will be required and encouraged; you are expected to contribute and speak out. A key part of university is private study. A student can expect to spend a similar amount of time on self-study as on taught sessions. 

Study methods

You will be trained to read widely round a topic and research thoroughly, to reflect on the ideas you have encountered, and analyse and describe them. Assessment will be through coursework assignments, in the form of either reports or essays, and examinations. 


Lecturers give information to a large number of students. Lectures can be delivered to as many as several hundred students in the first year, although sizes tend to decrease in later years. The lecturer will probably give you notes, but you need to make extra notes on the important points, or to aid your understanding. 


Lectures with approximately 10 people.

Small group work

Most courses ask students to work in small groups on a task assigned by a tutor, or by the students themselves. This could be presentations or reports or investigations. In first and second years you might undertake lab work with others in small groups and write up your reports independently.

Laboratory work

Develop skills and expertise through practical skills. 

Computer work

Use computer analysis or specialist software. 


Discussion groups with your tutor and a group of students. The discussion could be about a specific topic or a lecture. Sometimes each student is asked to prepare a short presentation to the group as a basis for further discussion. Tutorials are more informal than lectures and allow you to become more involved. Preparation and reading beforehand is essential. It is fine if you disagree with the arguments being made, you can argue back, and if you don’t understand you can talk to the tutor afterwards for help. There are approximately 4 people in each tutorial. You are welcome to talk throughout. 

Private study

Higher education places a large emphasis on self-teaching. On all courses you will be expected to study extensively on your own. You will be asked to read widely on a subject, make notes, research, write and revise outside of formal teaching.

Assessment methods


All university courses will be appraised through exams which will take place either at the end of each semester or at the end of the academic year. Exams can be either seen or unseen. Seen exams are presented to students at some time in advance and are undertaken either in exam conditions or over a longer time constraint. Unseen exams are presented to students under a standard exam conditions and they do not see the questions in advance. 


Assignments are used as a frequent method of examination, and may relate directly to one lecture or topic, in a similar way to homework at school. They are more likely to occur in the sciences, maths, business programmes, and arts related programmes. 


You are more likely to be assessed through essays in the humanities and social sciences, and depending on their length will take between two to six weeks to complete. They will most likely be loosely based on lectures and tutorials, however the bulk of the subject of your essays will be obtained through private study. 


Reports involve obtaining data, most generally through lab work, and writing it up using your subjects conventional methods, in the same way as a published paper. The format of reports is shorter than essays. 

Examinations and coursework (assignments, essays and reports) will contribute different amounts to the overall assessment.


All examination methods will be inspected for plagiarism, using an online plagiarism checker - this ensures that all you've written is your own work. You can obviously use books and papers to create your essays, however you will need to show where you get your ideas from. If you don't understand how plagiarism works, ask your personal tutor to help you out - universities take counts of plagiarism very seriously, and plagiarising can lead to you being dismissed from the university. Websites such as can also help you understand how to cite your sources depending on what you are studying. 

Personal Tutor

Once you've started university you'll be assigned to a personal tutor who will help you in your academic and pastoral life. They can act as a first point of contact if you don't know who to go to in a situation and can point you in the right direction for extra help. 

If you've a disability or disorder, or a problem that's not as identifiable, they can liase with experts from other departments as well as your lecturers to get your needs met.

Click the button to accept the use of cookies as identified within the Privacy Policy. Accept