British PhDs (was:postdocs to faculty)

Catherine Sarisky sarisky at
Wed Aug 27 16:43:37 EST 1997

Bart Janssen <bjanssen at> wrote:
>I did say that I had limited experience.  But I have been in the US
>close to 3 years and been at 3 different Universities (Texas A&M, UC
>Davis, and now U of A) and I too have seen the tired stressed faces of
>the undergrads in our lab during exam time and when assignments are
>due.  So I talked to them.  And to my amazment (seriously, I was
>stunned) I found these students (some of whom were very good) had a
>course load of around 20 hours/week.  This was including all lectures
>tutorials discussion groups and labs.  And this was considered a heavy
>work load.  Yes they had assignments etc.  Now I'll freely admit that my
>experience was limited, but I did try to ask all the undergrads I came
>in contact with what their work load was and 20 hours was normal (at the
>Universities I was at). {snip}
>By comparison in my first year of University (in NZ) I had 36 hours/week
>of either lecture or labwork (and I had three part time jobs).  That
>wasn't typical most students averaged around 30 hours/week.

There's more to consider there than just the number of hours in classes and
labs, if you want to compare work loads.  How many hours were spent outside of
class on homework and reading?  I've seen classes in which the student was
expected to put in as much as 10 hours a week outside of the class (homework,
studying for exams, etc), and others where almost no time was required outside
of class.  Are these two classes equivalent since they have the same number of
in class (and lab) hours?

I don't disagree that there are some serious problems with the US educational
system.  I used to TA a first year chemistry course in an honors college, and I
spent a lot of time teaching math --basic algebra, logs, general
problem-solving skills, etc.  But these studetns weren't working any fewer
hours.. if anything, they had to put more time in to make up for a lousy high
school background.  THAT, imho, is where the problem is.  I saw a lot of people
who decided not do science because general chemistry was too hard.  But their
problem was the MATH, not the science.

Not quite related to the subject line.. I'm off on yet another tangent!


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