The study skills needed for Higher Education are ultimately only acquired through studying at that level. Study skills don’t hatch fully formed, any more than a grown hen pops from an egg. They evolve and mature through practice, trial and error, feedback from others, and reflection as students move through the different stages of their course. Many students are surprised at how their thinking and language skills develop simply through continued study.

However, there are some basic approaches which students can use to get off on a good footing, help cut corners and accelerate the learning process. Firstly, students need to be clear about what to expect in higher education.

Teaching Methods

Teaching methods differ but students can expect at least some of the following:

  1. Lectures: These vary according to course and subject but in general expect:
  2. Size: 20-150 people
  3. Length: 1-3 hours
  4. Weekly: 5-20 hours
  5. No individual attention
  6. Tutorials: These are usually used to give feedback on your work and discuss your general progress.
  7. Size: in small groups
  8. Length: usually an hour at most
  9. Frequency: possibly one or two per semester
  10. Seminars: These usually involve group discussion of material presented either in a lecture or in set reading.
  11. Size: 12-30 people
  12. Length: 1-3 hours
  13. Weekly: varies
  14. Groupwork: This could be for discussion or mutual support, or to undertake a joint project. Students are often expected to form their own support groups.
  15. Work-based learning and work placements: Some degrees require hands-on experience.
  16. Laboratory work, studio work and practicals: Science and engineering students may spend most of their time doing practical work in laboratories; architecture and arts students may work predominantly in studio space. The amount of practical work of this kind will depend on the course.
  17. Independent Study: This is most common and possibly most difficult feature of university study. Apart from timetabled elements such as lectures, almost all courses expect students to work on their own for the rest of the week.

The University Week

University academic programs are considered to be the equivalent of an average working week in employment. This means students are expected to study for 35-40 hours a week, in a mixture of independent study, at home or in a library, and scheduled classes on campus.

Independent Learning: Taking Control

In higher education, it is expected that students have sufficient maturity to work on their own for longer periods, without a tutor in the room to guide them. Students are given a great deal more responsibility for their own success than is typical of schools or colleges. To take advantage of this, students need a deeper understanding of their own learning so that they can study effectively. It is important for students to find out what their own personal learning style is.

Finding Resources and Support

Students will receive recommendations for books, equipment and sources of support. These recommendations however are only part of what students need to know. It is expected that students will seek additional reading and guidance by consulting their peers, faculty and online resources.

Time Management

Students will spend only a small amount of their own time in timetabled activity. They will be responsible for organizing their time around taught sessions and meeting assignment deadlines. This may seem hard to many new students- especially as excuses for missed deadlines are hardly acceptable. A missed deadline may require retake of part of all of the program.

Keep Going

When students work on their own, it is essential to stay focused and to maintain the motivation. It is quite natural for motivation to change over time. There is no need to worry about this, but it is good to give it some advance thought and planning.

Making use of skills opportunities

University offers more opportunities to develop responsibilities and to gain experience and knowledge in a wide range of areas than almost any other setting. It is the level of interest exhibited by students that enables them to make the most of these opportunities. When students apply for jobs, their employers will know that they have had these opportunities, and will be interested to see how well students used them.

Find out the skills and experience that employers really want – and create opportunities to gain them. In particular – find ways of developing:

–          People skills

–          Problem solving skills

–          Creative thinking skills

–          Personal management skills

Clubs and societies offer a great platform to do so.