As a Geography student at the University of Bergen, I have noticed several differences in the academic culture, compared to in Manchester. The main takeaway I think is to be organised at the beginning of the semester, and thoroughly research the timetabling of each modules and the assessments required.
While UoM lectures are very consistent and generally follow the same weekly timetable, courses at UiB are often at different times and days each week. Thus, when you are checking that your modules don’t clash with each other and that the timetable fits, don’t just look at the early weeks – check the whole semester. I had to change one of my modules at the last minute when I realised two courses would clash for 3 weeks halfway through the semester. One wasn’t recorded and the other had strict attendance rules, so I couldn’t take both. Also take this into consideration when you are arranging trips, or visits from friends and family! Stay organised!
While UoM has a standard 12 week semester, with almost all courses beginning in Week 1 and finishing sometime between Weeks 10-12, there are around 16 teaching weeks at UiB and courses can begin and end at any time. For example, this semester, one of my courses is consistently once a week for 12 weeks from early January, another is twice a week for 6 weeks, while another doesn’t begin until March! Thus, make sure to choose modules that are spread across the semester. Don’t be waiting until March for all of your courses to start; try to spread out your workload and lectures.
Modules at UiB are generally 5, 10 or 15 credits. As a Geography student, I had to have 30 credits each semester. Generally, the more credits a module is worth, the more contact hours there will be. I have found that only 15 credit modules have a weekly or fortnightly seminar, and these are optional. However, assessments tend to vary. For example, I had a 15 credit module where there was only an exam at the end of the semester, while another 15 credit module included a mid-term essay, a group presentation, and the final exam. Meanwhile, a 5 credit module I have taken involved a mid-way essay and the exam. Thus, I do not think the assessment weightings are generally reflective of how many credits a module is. Thus, make sure to check the compulsory assessments beforehand to ensure you have a manageable workload.
For mid-term essays, I found the advice and expectations to be very different to UoM. For example, in the Social Sciences faculty at UoM, we were given a very different structuring style to what I am used to, and told to only use the reading list. Independent readings and courses would not be helpful or improve a grade! This new style took some getting used to but in the end I think it made the process easier than at UoM. The essays are then graded with a Pass/Fail, with a Pass being required to enter the exam. If your essay is not approved, then you have a second chance to make corrections and resubmit. Almost everyone seems to Pass on their second attempt, if they didn’t Pass on the first attempt.
Due to the pandemic, I have only experienced ‘at home’ exams at UiB. Generally, they last either 6-10 hours, or 3-5 days. It is very similar to the at home exams used at UoM. Exams are graded A-F, and surprisingly there is no feedback, only a grade. In school exams at UiB are very different to UoM. Rather than being handwritten, UiB require you to download a software onto your own personal computer, and then attend the exam with this. Exams can easily last up to 10 hours, and you can leave whenever you want.