Seeing as we’ve just passed through our first lot of exams in Groningen, this seems like a good opportunity to make an informative post telling you a little more about what it’s like to study in this city.
I can remember that the first thing that I was slightly dubious about when coming here was that there were to be no tutorials for any of the courses. One two hour lecture a week (well, one and a half hours, really, seeing as classes don’t actually commence until quarter past the given hour, and you get a much valued fifteen minute coffee break in the middle) and that’s it for most courses. Given that in Edinburgh, I generally felt that I gained most understanding of the subjects in the tutorials, I was a wee tad worried.
But you just really have to accept that that’s the way things are over here. Students are expected to learn independently to a far greater extent than back home. You really have to make yourself go to the library and read the books, because no one’s going to be checking up on you until the exams roll around.
However, Dutch universities do tend to be more strict about lecture attendance. I seem to have slipped through a loophole, in that the law faculty doesn’t seem to be all that bothered in taking attendances or reprimanding those absent, but I’ve got a couple of friends in other faculties who’ve almost been thrown out of their courses due to missing a lecture or two due to illness (or whatever other reason). So, if you’ve got a penchant for sleeping through those early morning lectures then you really have to get your act together and make it in every time.
The quality of the lectures themselves tend to vary, depending on what lecturer you happen to get (and sometimes, the level of their English can also be a factor), but on the most part they tend to be most informative. In the law faculty, students from the UK are only allowed to take one M5 masters level course per semester, and must pick the rest from the M4 or bachelors choices. The lower level courses tend to give less credit, so I’ve found myself with quite a heavy workload compared to that of some of my Canadian, Australian etc friends taking purely M5 courses, but I’m pretty sure that it’s about equivalent to what I might expect at Edinburgh.
The year is split into two semesters, as in Edinburgh, but those two semesters are further split into a part A and a part B. So you might have some courses running for just the first half of the first semester (1A) or the second half (1B), or they might run for the full semester (1AB). It’s probably smart to take a look at when the different courses finish when you choose what to take at the start of the year. It didn’t occur to me, and now I’ve ended up with 7 exams at the end of this semester when many more savvy friends have split theirs up so that they’ve already done about half of their exams and only have three or four to go.
Like everything it’s trial and error. Groningen is a lovely place to study though, and it’s well worth learning to cope with the slight differences!