Academic Differences – UK to HK

By Alexandra Ure (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)

    Despite choosing and finalising subjects before arriving in Hong Kong by utilising the online subject choice information for PolyU, which was both informative and useful, I still ended up changing a few modules in the Add/Drop period. Unlike Manchester, you can choose any subjects from an inbound exchange list and change your subjects in the Add/Drop period, which is the first two weeks of the semester. I attended my scheduled classes and additional subjects that I thought I might be interested in, in case I did not like or find the modules I had already chosen to be suitable. I would recommend doing so because I rearranged as I ended up changing some modules because they turned out to be quite different to what I was expecting, so I selected more appropriate classes. I also rearranged my timetable so that I had Friday as my day off so I have the freedom to take weekend trips away. At PolyU I take five subjects as opposed to three in Manchester. Five subjects is the recommended credit weighting for PolyU, which means a more packed weekly schedule than Manchester.
    PolyU use Blackboard like Manchester, so you can access lecture slides and view grades and so on. PolyU connect is a separate website, similar to MyManchester, which is home to other resources like library information, exam timetables etc. Unlike Manchester, some lecturers print out handouts of the lecture slides for students.
    Before arriving, I was advised to address lecturers by their formal name i.e. Dr. or Professor, however all of my lecturers prefer to be addressed by their first name. I suggest to address the lecturers by how they introduce themselves.
    Assessment weighting varies with subject choices: most are 100% coursework based or 50% exam, 50% coursework for Fashion subjects. The Textiles co-ordinator here advised the exchange students to take 100% coursework modules so we can make the most of travelling whilst here once the semester ends, however I have two modules that have end of semester exams which finish early on in the exam period so I still have time to travel, so don’t let the fact that a module has an exam weighting deter you from choosing it.
    In addition to this, most exchange students are graded on a Pass/Fail basis, but for Materials students our year abroad is graded and counts towards our final grade.
    Due to the fact that I take five modules here, I find that I have a larger workload compared to at Manchester. Although there are many more assignments, they are smaller projects, with less weighting towards your final grade compared to Manchesters’ usual few but weighty essays and end of semester exam in the Materials department. Most of my group presentations, reports and midterms count for only 10-20% of my final grade. Therefore, to keep on top of my work I quite often utilise my time in between classes to keep on top of assignments.
    Unlike what I am used to in the Textiles department at Manchester, there are midterm exams and a big focus on group assignments here. For each assignment you need to submit a hard copy and a CD copy, I have not yet handed in assignments through Blackboard so assume this is not utilised at PolyU. The majority of my assessments so far at PolyU have been group presentations and reports which I am not used to as I find there is a heightened focus on individual work at Manchester. It is not difficult to communicate and work with the local students at all, I find the group work enjoyable and worthwhile, however, often groups are large and are sometimes impossible to co-ordinate.
    Similarly to Manchester, there are field trip opportunities and careers talks that you can attend to which you sign up for online or in person. Factory visits to China are also usually organised here, however, the University have been denied this year as the factories haven’t the time which is disappointing, but there are many other great resources here in Hong Kong to learn from first hand.
    I have chosen to study Mandarin as one of my modules whilst here which I would really recommend as I’m thoroughly enjoying it and it is acknowledged on your academic transcript when you graduate.
    You can find PolyU’s grading system on their Inbound Exchange FAQ page here, but they only grade in terms of A, B, C etc. and on an unfamiliar scale of 0 to 4.5.  I am not entirely sure how to translate these marks into percentages, however one of my local friends has told me that 80% or above is roughly a B to A grade, so this would equate to a first or high 2:1 at Manchester. It is difficult to say specifically how the grades translate to the UK, especially as for each assignment results are usually curved/changed in comparison to the standard of work produced. A C grade is a pass here, which I think is roughly 60%, so overall the percentages you should expect to get are roughly 20% higher than what you would receive in Manchester.

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