Visiting Oxford University on Monday afternoon, lead me to question the similarities and differences between Oxford and San Diego State University. Upon my arrival, I had figured that there couldn't be that much of a difference between the two institutions. How much could college education possibly differ throughout the globe for it to still prepare individuals for lifelong success?
Apparently quite a bit. Once standing outside the steps of St. John's College with my classmates, Professor Makey went into detail about the similarities and differences of Oxford education versus any American Institution. What surprised me the most was that Oxford University, although equal to an Ivy League US school, is a public school along with the rest of the majority of Britain’s institutions. It surprisingly also costs about the same as the surrounding public schools regardless of their high scholarly praise. In turn, Oxford is a public university just like San Diego State.
In the United Kingdom, students attend 3 years, as opposed to 4 or more, in an undergrad program at SDSU. There are no “General Education” programs, as those are all completed in high school in the UK. Once they get accepted into University, they begin their studies specifically associated with their major. Formal classroom settings are rare, and faculty members generally teach only a few students at a time. All of these differences sound like a foreign concept to San Diego State students.
Each student is given a tutor where they are to be assigned books and work, and once they complete their work, they may move on in their education. The drive to learn is increased in the UK as opposed to the US where education is expected and easily taken for granted. Once Oxford students are finished with their work, they meet with their tutor in which he/she decides if the student is fit to move on with their education. British students don’t attend lectures, and they don’t worry about attendance. Education in universities is based solely on the personal desire to learn. It teaches time management and responsibility by removing the restrictions and rules of many US institutions.
Unfortunately, the direct and immediate start of upper education can have its downfalls. Many students who change their mind about their major in the middle of their college education can run into the problem of having to start over again. Because of the removal of general education, if you decide to drastically change your major, you’ll need to start from square one. Luckily for students attending SDSU, if you decide to change your major, you have enough "General Education" courses to hold you over until you can start taking classes for your new major.
Unlike in America, once British students are accepted to University, it’s smooth sailing from there. Most careers just require the degree to find a properly paid position in the company of their choosing. In the US, career positions are much more competitive and may require other skills than just a college degree.
Overall, if you are strongly passionate about a certain major, Oxford University would seem to be the best university of choice. You would have the freedom and motivation needed to excel in your field while completing your degree in record time. But on the other hand, if you enjoyed the freedom of changing your mind, while enjoying the year round beautiful weather, San Diego State University would definitely be the institution for you.
Ariana Frayer, July 30, 2014.