How to get the best out of University

The arrival of September heralds the beginning of the new academic year for students embarking upon the higher education train. Many students will be thrilled at the prospect of entering a new phase of their lives and will either be attending a higher education institution away from home which entails an entirely new experience altogether or some will opt for home comforts and enrol on a degree programme closer to home.

The world of higher education it has to be said is a challenging and inspiring one for all those connected with it. For many years, the UK was at the pinnacle of the world’s higher education system and students from all across the world came and even today come to these shores to receive the finest education one can obtain. The new academic year will see students being taught subjects containing innovative world class research taught by many of the finest and leading professors in the world of higher education. Recently, the coalition government has put its weight behind the ‘excellence in teaching’ agenda in the HE sector in order to raise standards and deliver a world class education that is beneficial to the student of today.

However, today’s student has to understand the dynamic of independent learning quickly in order to survive in the world of higher education. Independent learning is an essential pre-requisite for studies at undergraduate level as it entails students having to learn with minimal supervision from the tutor. This type of learning is radically different to that of school or further education (FE) college where the student’s progress is closely monitored and where more support is readily available.

One was always reminded during my studies many years ago that students are at university to read for their degree. Initially, one was rather bemused by such a statement but looking back in time one appreciates that reading academic works broadens the mind and exposes it to fresh ideas and opinions. It is important that students do as much reading as possible rather than turn up to lectures and expect the tutor to do their work for them! Remember that today’s student is required to pay 9k fees a year in order to receive a world class education which is a far cry to the days where students paid no fees and received a generous maintenance grant!

Employers are increasingly looking at personal transferrable skills (PTS) when it comes to the business of recruiting fresh graduates during annual job fairs and recruitment events. Therefore, it is important that students embarking on their studies develop skills such as time management, meeting deadlines and planning and organising their research. The student that can master these skills will put themselves in a far superior position when applying for jobs at the end of their studies.

It is imperative that students enhance their CV’s further during their studies by engaging in a variety of activities, such as volunteering for third sector and voluntary groups, joining university societies and getting all too valuable work experience by obtaining a part-time job. After all, the student that has developed an outstanding CV is giving themselves a far better chance at landing a job, especially in light of intense competition in an age of ever shrinking opportunities that is undoubtedly the consequence of globalisation. 

Finally, the advice to all students is to enjoy this new experience and get stuck into university life as the years will go by very quickly. Remember, this is a once in a lifetime unique experience that will stay with you for the rest of your lives.

By Dr Abdul Basit Sheikh
Lecturer at Leeds University
Deputy Editor of PI Magazine