US university system better than Oxbridge?

Rebecca Temerario compares her experiences on both sides of the Atlantic…….

 While the system of higher education in the United Kingdom is accommodating to individualism, this does not mean that the American system needn’t be. I attend Sarah Lawrence College, near New York City, which enrolls about 1,000 students each year. Sarah Lawrence doesn’t have any fraternities or sororities, as other American universities do; instead, Sarah Lawrence offers seminar courses based on the Oxford system, which takes Oxford’s model and makes it better.

As a visiting student at Wadham College, I’ve been able to experience the differences between the educational systems in Britain and America firsthand. Oxford’s one-to-one tutorials definitely offer the ability to study one’s particular course in-depth. American colleges combine this depth, however, with breadth. Since most American students have been studying a range of subjects since high school, I’ve found that the American collegiate model is focused on creating a more well rounded individual, whereas Oxford produces experts in one field.

At my American institution, I will focus on a particular subject or two, in which I will “major.” But along the way, I will also be required to take courses outside of my discipline. The classes I enroll in will allow me to meet at least twenty other students who I am able to bounce ideas off of, besides my professors. At Sarah Lawrence, students also meet individually with their instructors, just like at Oxford. To me, the American system has the potential to offer students the best of both worlds: a range of fulfilling academic work, as well as the ability to meet other students in the classroom.

The collegiate experience students pay for in America ($15,000 to $60,000 per year, for four years) is an all-encompassing cost. For the price of tuition, a student is offered a meal plan, room and board, and access to clubs and on-campus events. Students receive housing for the full four years, and do not need to look for off-campus accommodation unless they wish to do so.

And that fourth year of college is there for a reason. Since American students take a range of classes outside of their major, a fourth year allows one to pursue a thesis or explore an internship for academic credit. Thus, the American collegiate system focuses on more than just academics. It develops the person as an academic and social creature, and prepares one for the working world before they even leave college.


May 2012
S M T W T F S
« Apr   Jun »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

8 Responses to "US university system better than Oxbridge?"

  1. John  21/05/2012 at 09:23

    “The classes I enroll in will allow me to meet at least twenty other students who I am able to bounce ideas off of, besides my professors.”

    I don’t see how this is a benefit of the American system over Oxford in general, seeing as teaching provision varies from subject to subject at Oxford. For Modern Languages you get both tutorials and seminars,often at different colleges, so you meet a variety of students. Other subjects like English also have seminars. It’s a bit misguided to equate Oxford to only having one-to-one tutorials and the American system to one-to-one tutorials and classes.

    As for breadth, that depends entirely on personal preference. Some love flexibility, others really want to specialise in a specific field. I doubt you can fit as much maths in a 4 year liberal arts degree as in a 4 year Oxford course and equally an Oxford maths degree won’t give you much flexibility. Neither is intrinsically better…

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +3 (from 5 votes)
  2. M  21/05/2012 at 17:48

    As an undergraduate PPEist who was tossing up between taking my Oxford offer or places at top Ivy League schools, I thought I might add my two cents.

    The breadth of a US degree was something undoubtedly attractive to me – I still think it would have been more ‘fun’, certainly. Indeed, also the fact that the academic side of life in US schools is not as intensive (instead you’re expected to put time into co-curricular pursuits, unlike Oxford where your degree is (ostensibly) your priority) of course was also attractive.

    However, even graduates from schools as good as Harvard are still expected to go onto graduate school, simply because they are not specialised enough yet for the workforce. This is particularly the case for, say, someone who wanted to study Economics and go into business. Having already paid up to $50,000 for each year of a 4-year course, a US undergrad must then add sometimes $100,000 p.a. for an MBA (potentially costing over $300,000 for the minimum expected qualifications). Contrast that to Oxford, where my PPE degree will cost 3 years at perhaps £25,000 when fees, living costs, etc., are all said and done, and where there is absolutely no onus on me to pursue a graduate degree, it seems pretty obvious where value for money lies.

    The US system certainly may be more ‘fun’, and less intensive, for students, but in terms of value for money and the average length of time an individual has to spend as a student, rather than as a productive, active member of society, the choice seems pretty obvious as to which system is better in the long-run.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +6 (from 8 votes)
  3. Pingback: US universities better than Oxbridge? | Oxbridge UK Essays

  4. Dagmar  23/05/2012 at 01:52

    This article is rather peculiar.

    “Sarah Lawrence doesn’t have any fraternities or sororities, as other American universities do; instead, Sarah Lawrence offers seminar courses based on the Oxford system, which takes Oxford’s model and makes it better.”
    I don’t see how the presence or absence of Greek letter societies has anything to with what sort of educational structure an institution has. It’s a mechanism for getting boozed. Also, I’m glad to hear your confused relative clause reaffirming the Oxford system takes Oxford’s model and makes it better, because that makes a great deal of sense.

    “I’ve found that the American collegiate model is focused on creating a more well rounded individual”
    Having now been in universities in the UK and the US for several years now, I am still amazed at the cockroach-like durability of the “more well rounded individual” chimaera. That person doesn’t exist. Most people are weird.

    The two sorts of university experience are in radically incommensurable. You can only ever have one proper undergraduate experience (only being 18-21 once, and all) and it’s as clear to me as an Oxford student on exchange at an Ivy that I’m not getting the same deal there as the real undergraduates, as it was to me when I was at Oxford that American exchange students equally aren’t having the same sort of time as normal undergraduates.

    But anyway, bully for Rebecca Temerario telling us that Sarah Lawrence is better than Oxford.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +5 (from 5 votes)
  5. nope  30/05/2012 at 15:39

    Thank you for completely embarrassing the rest of us SLC students with your grossly reductive and poorly structured/argued reasons for why the American school system is a better alternative to an Oxford education. While I love SLC and am excited to return, I would never trade the experiences and the education I have received attending OU for the year, and can confidently say that I believe the system in this country to better prepare students to work effectively and knowledgeably in their occupation of choice. Who gives a fuck about being well-rounded when you can become an expert in what you are basically choosing to do for the entire rest of your life? Not me.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +5 (from 11 votes)
  6. Kanye West  30/05/2012 at 15:41

    yo go home then

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +2 (from 6 votes)
  7. Jean-Baptiste Poquelin  01/06/2012 at 17:15

    A learned fool is more a fool than an ignorant fool.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  8. Alex Kien  20/04/2013 at 08:06

    “The academic side of life in US schools is not as intensive.”

    This is not true. From my experience, it is indeed the opposite. Whereas the majority of universities in the UK require little coursework throughout the year and simply offer a final exam in each subject weighting 90% of the final grade, in the U.S. you are continuously assessed, expecting you to work much more intensively throughout the year.

    “However, even graduates from schools as good as Harvard are still expected to go onto graduate school, simply because they are not specialised enough yet for the workforce. This is particularly the case for, say, someone who wanted to study Economics and go into business.”

    This is absolutely flawed. The case is indeed the opposite! Whereas in the UK the majority of graduates proceed directly to master’s degrees, in the U.S. the proportion of students going straight to grad school is much lower. You fail to realise that the workforce requires no such extreme specialisation as you are describing, at least in 99 percent of the cases. Just look at the graduate job entry requirements of large multinational companies.

    It is scary how even Oxford students doing PPE fail to recognise the very realities of the labour market that they intend to proceed into. The overwhelming majority of university graduates will have a job that does not require the specific knowledge you obtained throughout a 4-year Maths course, for instance. It will require general skills that make you a fast learner.

    These skills might be better developed by the U.S.-system where you constantly face new fields and different types of tasks.

    There is no need for a university student to go into such extreme specialisation that some UK universities require them to do so. The scary part is that it seems that even some of the nation’s brightest students can be fooled into thinking the opposite.

    All the above are my observations having studied both at a top U.S. university and a top UK university – and now working for an international higher education consultancy.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: -2 (from 4 votes)

Comments are closed.