(Original post by 0404343m)
You can find out where I studied if you look at my profile. At one university, workload was typically 6 essays (3x1500 and 3x3000) in a 12 week term, although usually condensed into the final nine weeks. Three presentations of 10-15 minutes, and seminars of 6-8 students, most often with a faculty member. Classes usually met in a 19th century sandstone building.
The other had class sizes of 12, two essays a term of 5,000 words, and one presentation although that could be shared. Classes met in an underground nuclear bomb bunker in the library.
Another was class sizes of between one and four, no presentations per-se, but a 2500 word essay a week. Almost always taught by a faculty member. Classes usually met in the faculty members' office.
I've also held a lecturing position at another university which was founded after 1992. Class sizes there were typically 20-25, met in a room that was falling apart, and had one essay of 2000 words and one joint presentation per term. This, I should say, was qualitatively a mile off of the above.
Having taught or mentored at all three, I can make some conclusions. What will probably surprise you is that by far the richest of those three universities, and arguably the one with the largest international reputation, had, in my opinion, the least knowledgeable students (of their subject at least), but perhaps the most impressive in general conversation- it was also (congratulations for reading this far) the one in the underground bunker of a room with the lowest workload. At the other two, things were much the same excepting I detected some more at the top end of one ability pool and some fewer at the other end, but on the whole 70% or so of the students would have matched up- it was probably the difference between a place with everyone with straight As against one with half at straight A and the other half with one B somewhere. Quality of staff, resources, exams were identical, and while one forced you to work harder and the other you could *probably* slack your way to a degree if you really wanted to, both expected the same standards to give out top grades. In a way, not having the safety net of a tutor asking for a weekly essay meant self-motivation was probably harder.
Ultimately, I think Oxford and Cambridge grads come out with the most detailed knowledge of their narrow subject. I think elsewhere, particularly under the broader four year system outside of England, the graduates can come out with lots of detail, but have breadth too. This is by no means a conclusive assessment, as non-English universities can still have a lot of the top students in their country and thus not be exactly comparable with say, Sussex, but on the whole, the gap isn't all that big: it's one thing to say entry is higher and one has a higher minimum workload, but it's quite another to suggest that those coming out with the best grades in one wouldn't still be good enough for the best grades in the other.