National University of Singapore, Chemical Engineering
When choosing the top choices for my semester abroad, I looked a lot into how the universities ranked academically. Another deciding factor in me choosing NUS was the intrigue of living in a Southeast Asian country, with easy access to all of Asia. Unfortunately, as I have come to experience, these two aspects do not neccessarily go too well together. While I do not regret any of the travelling I have done (which I hope to write about soon enough!), it has caused the academic pressure (along with time spent at the library) to increase to respectable amounts as the semester is coming to an end. Any student who has done some research into the academic side of NUS, will most likely have read that the university is extremely competitive. I would like to emphasize that while it is entirely possible to get through it, the competitive side of NUS is no joke. The fact that grades are given along a set distribution curve means that students are directly competing against their peers, at every stage of the semester. Beyond this frightening underlying side to NUS academics, I’ll try to list some of the structural differences that I have noted so far:
1. Continual Assessment, or coursework which is the term you’ll be familiar with if you have studied in Manchester, counts for slightly more of your overall grade at NUS. In Manchester my exams would generally not be worth any less than 80% of my final grade, sometimes even 90%. Here at NUS, I do not think any of my exams count for much more than 60%
2. The coursework seems to often be more similar in style to exams than I am used to from Manchester. In Manchester, I was used to more report style coursework, while at NUS, 3 out of my 4 modules had mid-terms as (at least one of) their coursework type. Effectively this also reduced the amount of group projects I’ve had, with only one module providing the setting for, or even encouraging, any type of group work.
3. The exams were mostly open book. 3 out of 4 exams I had (including all of the core modules) had open book exams. In my opinion, this caused the exams to be less straight-forward. You are expected to extrapolate your knowledge well past the content covered in lectures and tutorials, as the core principles has to be applied to very complicated problems
As a bit of an end note, it is worth mentioning that I, in good conscience, only can apply these observations to my degree (Chemical Engineering), the modules I have taken and for my own experience. I have spoken to other students, some of whom seem to agree with me, while others have had different experiences. While the following statement will be highly generalized and definitely not 100% accurate, Science and Engineering students seem to find NUS quite challenging, while some Humanities students actually seem to find the modules here easier. However, I don’t really feel like the academical challenges are something to get discouraged by. University is a place to learn, and NUS is a great arena to extend your knowledge and develop effective learning methods. Along with the discipline needed to keep up with the pace at one of the very best universities in the world, I’ve got no doubt that my time abroad will prove very beneficial; to my remaining time in Manchester and beyond.