Universities in Britain and Iceland

I've only been to one university in Britain (University of Sheffield), and only one in Iceland (Háskóli Íslands), so perhaps this won't actually all be valid, but here are a few differences between tertiary education in these countries in my experience:

1. It costs practically nothing to go to university in Iceland, whereas in Britain it costs an awful lot. In Britain you will definitely finish in debt, whereas in Iceland you can pretty much pay for your studies yourself with a part-time job.

2. Anybody can go to university in Iceland. If you managed to finish menntaskóli, apply and you pay the 60,000 kr., you've basically got a place. No UCAS forms, interviews, conditional offers... Much more egalitarian. Then once you're in university, you can try out a few courses, switch departments, whatever - it's incredibly relaxed. 

3. To a certain extent, however, you get what you pay for. Basically all UK universities, to my knowledge, offer their students access to online academic publications. J-Stor or whatever, you can log on via your university and read thousands of journals and articles. Here at HÍ... nope. You have free access to any thesis written by a past HÍ student, but no J-Stor. You actually have to pay for access yourself or see if it's there in paper form in the library (probably not).

4. Here, essay or project length is measured in pages, which is clearly ridiculous. Sometimes formatting instructions are part of the requirements, but sometimes not. Which obviously means that you have a fair amount of leeway with regards to length. In Britain, essay-length is quite rightly measured in words. Because, obviously.

5. The grading system can take some getting used to. To me, coming from a UK humanities department, 70 is excellent, 80 is ridiculously good, anything above that is pretty much impossible. Here, 7 (they do it out of 10 rather than 100) is quite good, 9 is excellent, 10 is ridiculously good but very much possible. This is bizarre to me. How can any work done in the humanities be "perfect"? Maybe it is a little silly to have grades that are never used and exist only as a sort of artificial space to remind you that perfection is unattainable.

6. Hardly any seminars. At Sheffield our contact hours were 50% lectures, 50% seminars, in which you would discuss what you had learned in the lecture, plus additional reading. I took some modules that were only seminars, never any modules that were only lectures. Here a lot of modules are only lectures. Which doesn't seem like a very good approach, to be honest. You don't learn so much just by sitting there listening to a lecture as you do by actually engaging yourself in an discussion of the topic. Mind you, lectures are certainly a lot easier, and I am quite lazy, so swings and roundabouts.

P.S. It's worth noting that there are universities in Iceland that charge tuition fees (Háskóli í Reykjavík does). Apparently they have fancier technical equipment and are more rigorous. Maybe students there even get online journal access. 

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