Studying at UQ

by Karl Vikat (University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

You got to know a little bit about my travels and enough time has passed now to cast some light on the academic side of university life.

As in Manchester, I have been able to organise my week in a way so that I got lectures and tutorials Monday to Wednesday, with the rest of the week off for independent study. Therefore, Monday is especially packed, as tutorials here are generally planned to follow the lectures immediately. This makes it more convenient, in the way that you’ll necessarily be doing your readings for the lectures already, come more prepared, and won’t be able to wait for the ‘tuts’ to come around. Yet, this also entails that days with two blocks of lectures can get pretty tiresome towards the end of the 6 hours.

The lectures tend to be more interactive at UQ, as lecturers encourage discussions and allow them to go on for a substantial amount of time, with the lecture essentially turning into a seminar. However, the more ‘classical’ IR, security lectures follow less this discursive approach.

Some lecture recordings are made available only after all lectures have been completed. Since the powerpoint slides are seldom packed with information, the course convenors that apply this tactic obviously encourage more people to come. Although this can be annoying if it clashes with other obligations, I have found it to be a better solution than simply creating an audio/visual companion that incentivises absenteeism and renders a lecture theatre virtually redundant. For that purpose, some courses at UQ have the option of ‘external’ courses, where the lecture material becomes available immediately and tutorials are replaced by short analyses of key texts. A number of my courses have also had guest lecturers come in from either Griffith University (another uni in Brisbane), or have had politically engaged academics present specific issues.

Immensely more convenient than in Manchester is the submission of assignments, as no hard copy submission is required, and Turnitin alone does the trick already. Also, taking a nap outside on the greenery is a much more realistic option than in Manchester. Whereas late autumn brings cold winds, mud and freezing temperatures in the Northwest, Brisbane’s mild climate allows you to leisurely lay on one of the many green pitches, still now in May.

When it comes to the workload, then Manchester has the advantage over UQ, as every course has an additional assignment, beyond the essay, tutorial and exam mark. This means that, although I did not have mid-terms, I was writing on the extra assignments, instead of preparing for the major essays. Managing that with the extra assignment I still had from Manchester made for quite an intense week and a half. Next up are essays, every week from the end of April to the first week of June.

Worth mentioning is also the weekly movie screenings put on by the POLSIS (Politics&InternationalStudies) department, where a faculty member presents a certain movie, followed by a little discussion/analysis session later on. Compared to Manchester, these events are more regular and enjoy a greater attendance and arguably more enthused viewership. In one case, we even had the opportunity to skype with the director afterwards. On other occasions, researchers have been able to share their expertise on the context of the issues treated in the films.

Getting to class is easy, just a 5 minute bus ride away, and the campus is very well connected with two main bus stops catering to the Western, and Eastern suburbs respectively. The spaciousness of Australia also allows for more breathing room in the city, as houses are larger and less squeezed than in the UK. Well after all, Australia ranks 235th compared to the UK’s 53rd place in population density.

The University campus houses a plethora of coffee shops, a smoothie bar, Pizza café, bar, food court and even a cinema. On another note, what squirrels are to Manchester campus, big yellow lizards, i.e. Eastern Water Dragons are to UQ. Doves are replaced by large ibises and Noisy miners, who sneak up whenever you’re putting on your best cookie monster impersonation, also apparently another campus even hosts a wild koala.

So there’s a little something about the working-part of uni,

You’ll hear from me again soon,

Karl

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