Studying in the UK vs. Studying in Canada

by Lauren Cameron

Studying in the UK is very different from studying in Canada. It takes some adjusting, but you can definitely get used to the different class schedules, fashion, and layout in no time! The following is based on my experience as a Canadian Masters student who did her entire undergrad in Canada, so it may not be universally true. Read on for the difference’s I’ve spotted!

First of all, before we get into the actual educational experience, I have to say: the fashion over here is different. In Canada, it isn’t out of the ordinary to see students show up to class in sweatpants or pyjamas, but that is not the case in the UK. Everyone looks their best. There are always girls in my class wearing dress or skirts, and at the very least, everyone is in jeans. It’s still casual, but not to the level of casual students take it to in Canada. I think if I actually showed up to class in sweatpants here, people would be concerned for my health. I guess what I’m saying is: be prepared to put in a bit more effort into your look that was expected in Canada.

Next, the class hours. In Canadian universities, classes can start as early as 8am and go until 10pm. That is not the case in the UK. At least at my school, they have a strict 9-6 rule, and all classes are scheduled within that time frame. No more super late or super early classes, yay! This was definitely an unexpected bonus when I moved to the UK.

Also, schedules. In Canada, university students build their own schedules based on the classes they want to take. At my school in the UK, at least for the Masters programs, you have a dictated schedule of classes you have to take, and you maybe get to choose one elective from a provided list, depending on your program. It was nice not to have to plan out my classes, but I kind of miss the freedom it brought. I know that my undergraduate degree had an unusual amount of freedom for choosing courses (I only had 1 required class, and then I got to pick the rest from different categories. As long as the category requirements were filled, I could graduate), but it is something that I miss while studying in the UK.

As well, my course has a scheduled lunch break, which is so nice. Every day we have at least an hour for lunch, which means I don’t have to schedule it in myself! Also, they plan times for clubs and activities. At my school in Canada, clubs and practices took place either before or after class hours, meaning that they were either before 8am or after 10pm. Those hours were not conducive for getting a full nights’ sleep. Here, Wednesday afternoons (again, at my school) are set aside for activities like that to take place, and no classes are scheduled for Wednesday afternoons! It’s a nice midweek break.

I’m not sure if it is just my program, or my UK university, but the school is slightly less organized than Canadian schools. You have to do a lot of organizational work yourself, and really keep on top of your deadlines and assignments, because new things seem to spring up often. As well,  I’ve had to do a lot of assignments that weren’t marked, and participation grades are not a thing here, in my experience. I really miss those 10% attendance marks, I’m not going to lie.

If you’re a person that loves school spirit and sporting events, the UK may disappoint you. Homecoming, school wide St. Paddy’s celebrations, and school spirit events are not really a thing here, but that doesn’t mean that students don’t have school spirit; they just show it in a different way. You may not be attending tailgate parties for Homecoming football games, but you can still get involved and go to the pub on weekends. It’s much more toned down, but people still love their universities here.

The last difference between studying in the UK vs. studying in Canada is how easy it is to make friends. You have almost, if not all, of your classes with the same people, so it’s really easy to get to know people and make friends. In my first year of university, I was in so many different classes with so many different people, that it was more difficult to get to know people. Here, you get to know almost everyone in your cohort pretty quickly, at least at the Masters level! It’s really nice.

I hope this blog could help you see the difference in studying in the UK vs. Canada, and help you decide to study here! Though it is different from my experience at a Canadian university, I love it here, and wouldn’t change the experience for anything (except maybe participation marks!).