Education: University

Subjects

You can normally do/study these subjects at university but not always at school:

Note: The underlined letters in some of the words above show the syllable with the main stress. Also note that the first syllable of psychology is pronounced /sai/ like ‘my’.

Studying at (a British) university

If you want to go to (= enter fml) university, you must first pass examinations that most students take at the age of eighteen (called ‘A’ levels). Most students take three ‘A’ levels (three examinations in three different subjects) and they must do well in order to get/obtain a place at university because the places are limited. At the moment, approximately 30% of young adults go to university in Britain.

If you get a place at university, the tuition (= the teaching) is free, and some students also get (= receive) a grant (= money to pay for living expenses, e.g. food and accommodation) as well. Students at university are called undergraduates while they are studying for their first degree.

Most university courses last (= go on for / continue for) three years, some courses last four years, and one or two courses, e.g. medicine, may be even longer. During this period students can say that they are doing/studying history, or doing / studying for a degree in history, for example. When they finish the course and pass their examinations, they receive a degree (the qualification when you complete a university course successfully). This can be a BA (= Bachelor of Arts) or a BSc (= Bachelor of Science), e.g. I have a friend who has a BA in history, and another who has a BSc in chemistry.

Postgraduate courses

When you complete your first degree, you are a graduate. (In the US, students also use this word as a verb and say, they ‘graduated in history’ or ‘graduated in chemistry’, for example.) Some students then go on to do a second course or degree (postgraduate course/ postgraduate degree). These students are then postgraduates. There are usually three possible degrees:
MA (Master of Arts) or MSc (Master of Science); usually one year MPhil (Master of Philosophy); usually two years PhD (Doctor of Philosophy); at least three years
When people study one subject in great detail (often to find new information), we say they are conducting / doing / carrying out research (U); e.g.
I’m doing some research into/on the languages of different African tribes.

School vs. university

At school, you have teachers and lessons, at university, you have lecturers and lectures. When a lecturer gives/does a lecture, the students listen and take/make notes (= write down the important information), but do not usually say much, except to ask occasional questions.