Thursday, October 22, 2015


One great thing about studying at Oxford is the tutorial system; once a week, students meet one-on-one or in small groups with a professor and are assigned work (usually reading and an essay) to do by next week's meeting. It's a very flexible system and varies between departments and colleges. For both of my tutorials, I've been given great advice and been able to choose very specifically what to study. These first few weeks of term have involved Beowulf, J.R.R. Tolkien, medicinal plants, and nest-building behaviors in songbirds.

This seems like a pretty good deal; why isn't the tutorial system more common in Universities? Oxford and Cambridge are the main two institutions that use tutorials, and I believe Williams College is one lonely example in the U.S. It could be that holding tutorials is more expensive and difficult to organize than the lectures and classes typical of most universities. I don't know much about the logistics involved.

It is important to note that people go to college to different valid reasons-- the knowledge and skills gained, the relationships gained, the degree at the end. Tutorials may not be the ideal experience for everyone, but I suppose I've already declared which camp I'm in. In the past few years, I've found that after talking to a cynical student with their eye on the finish line, the best thing to cheer me up is listening to someone who really enjoys their work.

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