08 December 2006

Essays, Exam Entries and Course Evaluation

If it is not a language course, you usually have to turn in one essay per term, around 2000-3000 words about an agreed topic. The essays count 20 % towards your final grade and if you turn it in late, you will be penalised 2 % for each working day. Means, after some time it will be useless to turn it in. Compared to Austria, things here are more formal. You have to bring two copies of your essay (in case one gets lost) to the Faculty Office (not the teacher), fill out a form and get a receipt that you have submitted it. If you have reasonable grounds that prevent you from turning in the essay in time, you can attach medical evidence etc.
In Austria, there are very few classes for which you have to write essays, at least in my course, and these were mainly descriptive essays and there are also no workshops, tutorials etc. offered on how to do these properly. Over here, you usually have to come up with a thesis and find evidence to support it, quite a challenge, believe me!

Exam Entries:
A few days ago I received an e-mail saying, "URGENT NOTICE!!! Can you imagine going to an exam and finding out that you haven't been entered for it? Please go to your Faculty Office and make sure you are registered for the right exams until [date]!" Now, being from Austria, this is actually rather funny, considering that in Vienna, you can decide up to the last minute whether you want to participate in the exam or not, as it is an event that takes place at a certain time and place and for which there is no formal registration. This of course fosters some students who never go to the lectures but pick their exams by the level of difficulty, just to collect the credits.

Course Evaluation:
In classes, you are handed out a four-page course evaluation sheet, basically, a questionnaire that is processed by computer but where you can also add a personal comment. This is something that is unnecessary in Austria where there 90 % of the universities don't require application, after the motto "Die Wissenschaft und ihre Lehre ist frei" (engraved in a wall at my college building in Austria, the quote means science and its teaching is free and has given continual questions whether the sentence is grammatically correct). But I find it a good means to give feedback to the teachers, tutors and the school that will be read seriously (well, we also pay them).

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