I know this is primarily an American board of sorts but I am interested in what you have to say.
I'm studying Computer Science and Math at a university in South Africa. I came on student exchange to the UK for a semester. I study the same thing here and do similar courses to the ones I would be doing back home. I am 10 weeks into the semester here.
I did 4 'modules' back at home per semester and I do 4 modules here.
I am shocked at the difference. I spend almost no time in lectures in the UK [I have less than half the lecture hours I had in SA]. I also have Wednesdays off and start at 4 pm on a Monday. There are no tests in the semester for any of the modules, no assignments or mini quizzes. We get homework once every 2 weeks that we have a week to do, there are about 4-6 questions to solve (quite short), which are similar to questions that have been preworked by the lecturers in 'examples classes'. So 12 weeks of lectures, 6 homework pieces, average of those homeworks gives you your coursework mark, the rest of your mark comes from your exam [2 hours, you can choose which questions to answer]. Overall pass mark of 40% required. That's it. As a result I have become lazy and uninterested in my modules.
In South Africa each module had a minimum of 3 class tests per semester [2 hour long each], and minitest every week (10 marks, about 4 questions), homework every week (80-100 equations out of a textbook but you didn't really have to do all), a 3 hour final exam [all questions compulsory], 50% final mark to pass, if you don't attain 50% in coursework mark, you cannot write the exam and fail. On top of that, many more lectures where the pace seems equal or faster to the lectures in the UK. In South Africa I felt pretty exhausted after each week, days were long and reaching the weekend was a huge relief. It was a MASSIVE jump from school and I made the mistake of taking an engineering physics course as an elective and almost died. People drop like flies at my home uni, I wish I was exaggerating when I said that we had around 1000 people in our first year first semester core maths and only 400ish made it through to second semester. Of those 400 I'm told only about 170 made it to second year. Of these numbers, many, many people are repeating (can tell by their student ID numbers, first few digits tells the year they registered at uni). If you fail a module you have to stay back a YEAR!
This continues until 3rd year (can look at the number of people writing the final exam of 3rd year modules during exam period to verify) when only about 30-40 people are sitting the exams for final modules which are compulsory to earn a BSC Maths/Physics/CSC degree, hence out of thousands or hundreds that register for a degree, very very very few make it! It is extremely disconcerting!
The ironic thing? A three year course in the UK will net you a BSC HONS degree, while a three year course in South Africa will only get you a BSC degree. Why is this? After comparing my first year and students first years here (looked at all lecture slides, attended lectures, did tutorials, practicals etc etc!) I can see very little difference, the course content for math and CSC are very, very similar - even though we are continents away with different schooling systems!
Honors is an extra year in SA and a whoole new story. Masters means something completely different in South Africa than it does here.
Why is this? I ask the same question to senior lecturers and head of schools at my home uni and they all tell me the same thing: that South African degrees are EXTREMELY well regarded on an international level and it is a very, very good thing to have when looking for a job or post grad opportunities (even overseas). They reinforce this by saying that unlike many universities in the UK , they will never, ever drop their standards so that more people can pass.
I don't know what to believe. Studying at my uni back at home is ... horrible. There is no student life, the campus is /very/ depressing, it's NOTHING like here, I'm happy to work but not in that environment....I can whine for another page but to the point - is it actually worth it?
I am 18 years old and already in my 2nd year of uni and I really felt like the part of my life that was meant to be 'fun' never really happened, and the way it's going now it just looks like more math, more math, more exams, no uni life..is all that WORTH it? Life has become very stressful since I left school.
Does anyone have any input?
By the way, you guys are really lucky you live in a country with many well established universities. I did not want to leave home and there was only one 'proper' university near me. So I had to go there. It's not a nice place. We get almost no information about universities or help with subject choices etc etc because going to uni isn't a 'part of life' for everyone like is seems to be in the US, UK etc. There are about 4 other 'good' unis but they are very, very far away.