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What does the undergraduate gain from attending a 'research-intensive' university? Watch

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    (Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
    In my undergrad experience, it meant getting a glimpse into the minds and then-unpublished research of some of the world leaders in various academic circles. This came about in various ways and was no doubt helped by the fact that my degree had a whole option category (of which you had to do a minimum of one paper but could do up to three, which was what I did) devoted to specialist, sometimes quite niche, topics that focus on our lecturers' research and give them an opportunity to test out, discuss and build upon their ideas before they wrote/published/spoke at conferences.

    Some of the stuff I had personal experience of:

    - Lectures on extremely niche topics that other Music departments don't seem to do, on then-unpublished research/books. Some of them were compulsory things that I certainly wouldn't have gone to had I not had to, but I'm glad that I did have to. They were very interesting, enlightening and in some cases, highly entertaining It really broadened my horizons, created new musical interests and informed my own academic interests despite being ostensibly polar opposites (you wouldn't necessarily think that music from 600AD would have any bearing on 21st century pop music phenomenons )

    - Contributing directly to someone else's research (in a subject I didn't even study) and being closely involved in the process. One of the English fellows at my college is a dramaturge as well with her own informal theatre group, and "[her] research into medieval and Tudor drama is informed by [her] staging of it". She directed two play cycles in my third year and I acted in the first and stage managed/co-produced the second. I also helped out with a journal article she wrote about both cycles and got mentioned :awesome: I feel incredibly priviliged to have had this experience - especially to have had an insight into this tutor's extraordinary mind - and it was no doubt the best thing I did whilst at Oxford and my greatest achievement :yes:

    - Dissertation supervision and very close, caring and personal mentorship from a world-leading academic. I had no idea quite how famous he is when I approached him as a supervisor, since he's the most gentle, unassuming man and often looks quite scruffy I didn't initially see how he could supervise my dissertation and wasn't entirely sure why he was being recommended to me. Due to his intensive research and having read and written forewords for so many books and prize-winning journal articles, he saw my potential and realised my research interests despite me telling him only fragments of my ideas and in the most incomprehensible, haphazard manner :rofl: His sharp mind meant he could cut through all the crap very quickly The moment he realised what I could do and what I wanted to say, he began steering me in the direction I actually wanted to go in. He did this very subtly and gently and never told me what to do: only suggested and guided. It was only when I was halfway through writing my dissertation (not that I remember much about that at all) that I realised what an incredible academic journey I'd taken and how all his teaching had fallen into place and enabled me to see my own potential and worth and to write about what I really wanted to write about, rather than trying to fit into some kind of academic box.

    He was incredibly supportive about my postgrad applications and introduced me to his US equivalent (I was so starstruck :rofl: ) as one of his students at a seminar at the Open University. He hadn't realised I was coming and upon learning I'd come on the X5 coach (notoriously awful), he insisted on driving me back to Oxford and dropping me home. One of the OU students there was amazed that someone so influential was going around introducing an undergrad student to famous academics: she had assumed I was doing a PhD :o:
    I've no idea what my postgrad references said but they were detailed and lengthy (from what I've heard). When my Goldsmiths one went missing, I phoned him to ask about it. He was abroad with no laptop and no Internet and was in the midst of writing his latest book, but insisted that he would find an Internet café and go about sorting my application out :love:

    He was so sweet when I was ill and when I was at my very worst, he happened to be hosting an important UK society conference in Oxford, which some huge names attended. Despite being so busy, terribly sleep-deprived and having far more important things to worry about, he went out of his way to make it possible for me to attend and work at the conference. He was always very concerned for me: that I felt safe and happy and that I was not just working, but going to talks and learning

    - Informing academics' research by shedding 21st century light on their academic interests. My dissertation supervisor was very interested in my ideas and highly amused by my dissertation (ABBA fans :yeah: ) but had never seen Mamma Mia! :facepalm: So I promptly insisted on a swap: I'd do the reading if he watched the film. He loved the film and became very excited by it and asked if I wanted to do my whole dissertation on the film :awesome: (I declined) I'm also pretty sure the aforementioned English tutor gained new insight into her research interests through dealing with me pastorally and in the context of those plays :yes:

    So yeah, there can be quite a lot to be gained if you're proactive and lucky. That's not to say I didn't have my fair share of bad lecturers, appalling and inexperienced tutors. Certainly some people at Oxford see teaching as a chore or secondary and it shows. There are very dedicated tutors though who take their teaching extremely seriously and benefit from it. What I've written is incredibly long but I hope it comes across that research-intensive unis can provide extremely good and wonderful tutors as well as bad ones
    Oxford is different


    Regards,

    nulli tertius MA (Oxon)
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    Oxford is different


    Regards,

    nulli tertius MA (Oxon)
    I know you're MA (Oxon) Or are you writing that for everyone else's benefit?
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    (Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
    I know you're MA (Oxon) Or are you writing that for everyone else's benefit?
    The latter.

    Obviously there are people on TSR who consider God created Oxford on the Second Day. I wanted to make clear that in this case Oxford exceptionalism was grounded on some experience.
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    The latter.

    Obviously there are people on TSR who consider God created Oxford on the Second Day. I wanted to make clear that in this case Oxford exceptionalism was grounded on some experience.
    I can't think who you're talking about :p:
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    If you're planning to go on to postgraduate study after your degree it may help (slightly) to be at a research intensive university. Otherwise research is almost entirely disconnected from undergraduate life (I've seen this from both sides since I became a postgrad).

    Might be a bit different for different subjects, but at least in the sciences an undergrad is really not going to contribute anything to research. Even for courses with a built in research project there's barely enough time to train them, never mind them coming up with anything original. A really good student might just about balance out the distraction. Most won't even repay the time taken out to help them.

    That's where you hit the other side of the problem - academics prioritising research over teaching. You can see why - to survive in academia you need research publications. No matter how good your undergrad feedback, it doesn't actually count for much.
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    I studying Civil Engineering at Queens, and it's meant to signify that the content you learn are always the newest (best available) for the field. Can be a bit of a pain, since it means that there are new codes/amendments whilst learning the subject (luckily it takes a while for it to be approved by the BSI).

    It could also mean that the lecturers know what they are talking about, and not simply regurgitating from a textbook. However, I do not know if this is true as I only attended this university.
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    It's nice to know that your lecturer 'knows their stuff', so to speak, but it helps if they're good at lecturing too!
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    Very much depends on the university. For example QMUL is research intensive (13th or 11th in RAE depending on what table you use) however it also has a policy that it's academics should be involed in the teaching of it's undergrads. So for example I did a module on WW1 where I had seminars (not just lectures) taught by Dan Todman, who is considered one of the foremost modern WW1 academics and has published a number of books on the subject.

    You're never going to see any academics teaching generic overview courses the type you see in first year. That's the point of Phd Students (in the eyes of the uni) but as you progress at a research intensive uni you may very well come into contact with very well known academics in 2nd and 3rd years.

    I should also note that it's very helpful for your dissertation if you have top class academics who can supervise you in the writing of it. Even at undergrad level that student/supervisor relationship is very important for the quality of your dissertation.
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    (Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
    I've no idea what my postgrad references said but they were detailed and lengthy (from what I've heard). When my Goldsmiths one went missing, I phoned him to ask about it. He was abroad with no laptop and no Internet and was in the midst of writing his latest book, but insisted that he would find an Internet café and go about sorting my application out :love:
    Aww... I take it that wouldn't happen at other universities. :hmmm:
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    (Original post by im so academic)
    Aww... I take it that wouldn't happen at other universities. :hmmm:
    It could happen at any uni theoretically: just needs a nice tutor. Due to the lack of supervisions and tutorials at most other unis, I think that makes for a slightly different dynamic between tutor/DoS-student at Oxbridge, which might help.

    It was incredibly sweet of him though. I'm def his groupie for life. He also sent me to an institution and supervisors he knew would look after me pastorally as well as academically, for which I also love him :love:
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    (Original post by The_Lonely_Goatherd)
    It could happen at any uni theoretically: just needs a nice tutor. Due to the lack of supervisions and tutorials at most other unis, I think that makes for a slightly different dynamic between tutor/DoS-student at Oxbridge, which might help.
    But it's always "these kind of stories" I hear at Oxbridge, predominantly at Oxford. I presume there is a higher pastoral care at these institutions compared to other places.

    It was incredibly sweet of him though. I'm def his groupie for life. He also sent me to an institution and supervisors he knew would look after me pastorally as well as academically, for which I also love him :love:
    That's really nice.

    What's a groupie?
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    (Original post by im so academic)
    But it's always "these kind of stories" I hear at Oxbridge, predominantly at Oxford. I presume there is a higher pastoral care at these institutions compared to other places.


    In part it is a numbers game.

    If you look at the postgrad forum, there are always people posting about not being able to find referees because no-one knows anything about them.

    That is simply inconceivable at Oxford (and for that matter Cambridge).

    Although I left a quarter of a century ago, I could certainly still get half a dozen people to write about my time at Oxford.
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    (Original post by im so academic)
    But it's always "these kind of stories" I hear at Oxbridge, predominantly at Oxford. I presume there is a higher pastoral care at these institutions compared to other places.



    That's really nice.

    What's a groupie?
    I think the pastoral care would be better but that's again due to the collegiate nature and the general environment: it's conducive towards a level of care that might not be so easy to match in non-collegiate unis.

    That's not to say that other unis can't do a great job. Goldsmiths is taking extremely good care of me. It's very different care but good and helpful nonetheless :yes:

    A groupie is basically a fan. Usually a bit more extreme, with hints of stalking :ninja: I wouldn't really stalk him though: just turn up to events where he's speaking. There's a whole study day devoted to him in Sept at which he will receive a prestigious academic prize and I'm determined to go and be like "ZOMG, I studied with him" :woo: :yeah: :getmecoat:
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    I wish we could gain the advantage of being able to rely on our lecturers... ignoring one of my lecturers the rest are unhelpful, snobbish and seemingly unavailable.
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    In my academic world, what is researched informs what is taught. You'll find many universities boasting about "research-led teaching", meaning that the students are being taught the most cutting edge of ideas and knowledge obtained through research. If you are being taught by academics not interested in research, then you are being taught out of books and papers that the academics have read. However, if you are taught by academics keen on research, you'll be learning from those that write the books and papers. Further, research intensive departments can offer a lot of specialist modules that non-research intensive departments cannot offer so your degree changes as a result.

    However, this is not universally the case and some degrees appear to have standardised content (particularly those which lead to accreditation of some description - psychology, nursing etc). Also, what is classed as "research" and "knowledge" varies greatly.





    *how the hell did I end up back here?*
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    Hmmm... Well, I want to do research, so ultimately the people I see lecturing me pretty much every day are where I want to be. That's inspiration, if nothing else. I love it.
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    If you're on a science degree I'd say the benefits of studying as a research-intensive university are very significant.

    Access to cutting edge experimental equipment, techniques & laboratories - maybe not such a big deal in 1st and 2nd years, but in 3rd year you can really get your hands dirty down in the lab.

    3rd year projects. As a third year student at UCL I get the chance to work at the Institute of Healthy Ageing or carry out cancer research at the medical research council laboratory with leading scientists in the field. Could the same be said if I attended Thames Valley or Leeds Met? Probably not.

    I guess the benefits aren't quite so significant if you're studying English or History though.
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    I have had one or two lecturers that know a heck of a lot on their subject but are rubbish at communicating it, a few who don't know quite as much on the subject but are much better communicators, plus some that manage to combine both.

    This year in France has made me appreciate how helpful it is to just be able to knock on a tutor's office door to ask a question or send them an email and know I'll get a reply, though
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    (Original post by whatsername2009)
    And if you're an undergraduate studying an Arts subject, I imagine you gain even less.
    I disagree, I study dance and in regards to the comments about the lecturers not having enough time for the undergrads, I have found my tutors to be very supportive with plenty of time to help us. I have gained just as many, and more skills, than any other person on a history or English degree for example.
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    (Original post by JohnnytheFox)
    I guess the benefits aren't quite so significant if you're studying English or History though.
    Not sure about English but History is constantly being challenged and refined and new theories coming forth. So being at a research intensive university pays off in that regard.

    Random example: Up until the late 1980s the British view of the Western Front in WW1 was of needless slaughter lead by incompetant upper class generals a la Blackadder. This was largely because of a book called 'The Donkeys' by Alan Clarke and the ones that followed in it's footsteps.

    Since the 90s this has been challenged and surpassed by a view that the British Army on the Western Front experienced a 'learning curve' which explains the hideous losses of the early part of the war and also explains the victories at the end of the war, without using cliched old ideas like incompetent upper class twits sending brave working class men to their death.

    This largely came about as a result of a new generation of historians going back into the archives, looking at the material available and coming to a quite different conclusion to Clarke.

    Thus History is always being challenged and if you're at a research intensive uni you'll probably be taught much more up to date theories and research than if you went to the likes of an ex-poly or even established unis who are outside of Russell/1994.
 
 
 
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