By Megan Turner, Geography, University of Auckland, New Zealand
As an international student, the University of Auckland were very happy for me to take a range of courses from different subjects and faculties without any hassle. As well as geography courses, I was able to study In terms of course structure and assessment, Auckland is quite similar to Manchester, however there are some differences to look out for.
- At Auckland you have to complete a certain number of points (their equivalent to credits) each semester. For me it was 60, and as most courses are 15 points, I had to take four modules each semester, one more than I was taking in Manchester. This did mean that I had a larger workload than I had at home, but it wasn’t a massive jump.
- Auckland has an A B C grade system instead of a First, 2:1 etc, where A is 85%, B is 70% and so on. This means that you tend to get a higher grade percentage for your work, but when this is transferred back to Manchester I think they take 10% off to calibrate it, though I’m not certain on this. You then get a final GPA (Grade Point Average) ranging between 1 (lowest) and 9 (highest- A+).
- The New Zealand university system is much for flexible than in the UK. They have majors and minors instead of distinct subjects, which means you can change what subjects you want to take and specialise in throughout your time at university. Also, if you have a bad semester/fail courses you can actually add semesters on to the end of your course to catch up on points in order to complete your course. This is a much more forgiving system than in the UK where you often have to drop out in order to change courses, and may have to repeat the year if you have a bad semester.
- Auckland has three course stages, like at Manchester, though because of the flexibility of the system you can take whatever stage courses you like as long as you accumulate enough points. However, I did find that stage 1 courses seemed extremely basic, more like taking an A level course, which is good if you’re planning on doing something completely new and unfamiliar to you, but probably a bit pointless otherwise. Stages 2 and 3 were a much more suitable level. In the second semester I did three stage 3s and 1 stage 2, meaning that I was essentially working at third year level PLUS another second year module. This was challenging but I worked hard and really enjoyed the courses.
- I found the standard of teaching pretty similar to the UK, though this varied from course to course. Some lecturers were more organised than others, some were harsh markers, some were more generous, everyone had a different teaching style and wanted different things from their assessments. This is the same as in Manchester though so you just have to work out what each lecturer wants from you. Contact hours were largely the same with many courses having lectures and tutorials.
- Again, the assessments varied between courses but were quite similar to Manchester. Some courses had exams, some were all coursework, some were marked for attendance and participation, and some had weekly quizzes.
- Being able to study a range of courses was really fulfilling. Over the course of the year I studied two geography, three english (including two creative writing), two anthropology and one sociology course. Back in Manchester I was unable to take any english courses as they are only open to those taking english literature, so it was great to have the opportunity to study it in Auckland as it is another interest of mine besides geography. The anthropology and sociology courses were also really interesting and introduced me to a new academic perspective whilst also incorporating geographical elements. I learnt a lot about New Zealand’s historical, cultural, environmental and political conditions which I found incredibly enriching.
Overall, the academic experience of studying in New Zealand isn’t too dissimilar to Manchester, though the grade system is different. It has allowed me to take really interesting courses that I wouldn’t have been able to back home, and even though these were sometimes challenging, I ended up doing really well!