What is the most common dialogue a college student encounters before heading to university? "There is no real stress of study in university"- is perhaps the most common fairy tale every student grows up hearing. Such an ambiguous phrase acts as a sedative for the students amid HSC/A level examinations or university admission tests. It raises the aspiration among students and provokes them to deliver endeavours till its peak. However, any university going student knows that the common saying is not true. So, how has such a fairy tale spread?
Reasons behind the perception
The entire university graduation programme is divided into several semesters of around three to six months on an average in a year. Students can select an average of five courses during each semester and they need to appear for the final examinations at the end of each semester and the courses are non-recurring. Hence, it allows university students to focus on a limited number of subjects per semester.
Since these courses are not repeated in the next semesters, it puts little stress among university going students, unlike college pupils who comparatively need to select a wider range of subjects and appear for the final examinations, which is designed upon the entire syllabus that has been taught to the students over the two-year period of their college course.
In college, the complete education policy is highly based upon theory which does not encourage students to explore further. Their knowledge strictly remains confined within pen and paper only. However, universities allow students to go beyond textbooks and encourage active participation among peers by providing group assignments and presentations. Moreover, year-end viva-voce conducted by faculty members allows students to identify their oral communication skills apart from writing abilities. Each of these tasks carry individual marks for students which contribute a certain percentage of the total assessment marks. This grading distribution makes university education less pressurising.
Again, at university, a minimum percentage of attendance is a crucial requirement which can greatly affect the CGPA. Therefore, a university student is less likely to miss classes not only for the sake of CGPA, but also for the sake of sitting for the exam. Hence, regular class attendance helps a student avoid the 'cyclone of unknown chapters' before exams approach. On the other hand, college authorities tend to be somewhat relaxed in terms of student attendance rates since it is not directly connected with HSC/A Level final grades. In some cases, this makes students irregular during class hours and they end up building a "mountain of unfinished topics" before them while exams knock on their doors.
In both public and private universities, there are several different student-run organisations referred to as 'clubs' where students engage with many activities such as organising competitions, seminars, workshops, promoting events, collecting sponsorships from corporates, participating in contests, writing articles for magazines and much more. All these activities help students bring out their inner innovator, leader and manager. Involvement in such tasks along with academics connect students with new people who share similar interests. It also helps in improving one's social skills which ultimately expand their networks.
However, engagement into extracurricular activities is barely encouraged and such kinds of clubs do not even exist in most of the colleges which ultimately make university life appear more interesting due to the number of creative opportunities available to explore further.
Another good thing about university days is that since there is enough leisure for recreation, personal development and extracurricular activities, some of the students also choose to build their career from an early stage by doing part-time jobs or internships. There are different types of internships available for students of different levels at university, some of which are paid work.
Paid internships or any kind of part-time jobs enable students to earn while continuing their education. This can be motivating since students can now be somewhat financially independent. Nevertheless, such opportunities to generate 'side income' is limited to any college student. Also, it is not easy for a college student to work part-time along with a heavy academic syllabus. In Bangladesh, college education does not promote practical learning or work in the first place.
A myth or truth?
Well, university life is indeed more interesting, open and engaging. Studying at university is said to be more interesting due to the number of opportunities available compared with education at college. Things are interesting at university because this place encourages students to discover their potential beyond the classroom. There is no valid evidence which proves education at university as a mere tagline borne by the students because if one wishes to prosper in career, one needs to remember that 'CGPA matters!'
The writer studies International Business at University of Dhaka.