The student of Biological Faculty of Zaporizhzhya National University Yurii Saroz was studying at the MSc level at University of Limerick (Ireland) for 2013-2014 academic year. It became possible due to the ELECTRA Erasmus Mundus Project, and because of cooperation between ZNU and University of Limerick. After returning from Ireland Yurii shared his impressions of the study and compared national and foreign systems of higher education.
Studying at the top university of Ireland on the Faculty of Science and Engineering was an amazing adventure, a chance to increase the knowledge and professional skill level, and to enrich the experience in experimental biology and thus contribute to Ukrainian science. Developed infrastructure of University of Limerick promoted mutual cultural enrichment of students from many European countries, provided the experience of communication with representatives of different cultures.
The system of Higher Education at University of Limerick significantly differs from ours, despite the fact that Irish universities as well as Ukrainian ones are practicing the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). However, the important feature of the Bologna Process in Western Europe is considerable freedom of universities in developing their own evaluation criteria and the curriculum of each module.
Assessments for each module are set as a percentage, and our grade 5 (90-100 points) corresponds to A1 (96-100%) and A2 (95-90%); 4, or level B, is 65-89%; 3 (C, D) - 35-64. Anything below 35% is unsatisfactory, and a student must take appropriate exams again, in the summer, and for these ‘additional’ session student pays 175-200 euros per subject!
Assessment of a laboratory component is quite similar to ours: marks earned during seminars are added to module test results, so that student already has 60-75% of the final grade before the exam. The principles for evaluating theoretical disciplines are quite different. For example, 100% of the final grade for the module "Environmental management" is assigned on the final examination, so there are no current controlling tests, and the student is given full freedom: lectures and seminars are optional.
Lectures are held in the form of presentations, and students have access to the lecture materials approximately a week before the class (as each student has a personal university sub-site and personal email address). Therefore, the need to write large notes disappears, and indeed, notes - as well as attendance at lectures – are not assessed.
The usual duration of a lecture, 40-50 minutes, is surprising, as well as the number of lectures per day - no more than 4. But laboratory work lasts at least 2 hours, and some (such as in biochemistry) - 3-4 hours, sometimes without a break. It is also interesting that students have no more than 5 modules per semester, and these modules are very specialised (i.e. no sociology or political science for biochemists). Also students have the freedom to make their own timetable, choosing the most appropriate time for each class from the list.
Obviously, university laboratories are equipped with everything you need, and students have access to modern equipment (under the supervision of the stuff member, of course). However, the cost of reagents included in the tuition fees; and given that tuition fee for one semester lies around 2 to 6 thousand euros, while budget (tuition-free) places are absent a priori, not everyone has an access to the higher education.
Still, no matter how wonderful were the impressions of studying in Ireland, the impressions of the country itself are even more amazing. Where else would smiling strangers invite you to the local pub for cultural exchange? Where else could the weather change from gloomy to sunny, then rainy, then sunny again, and all this within 10-15 minutes? Where else could a tourist centre be covered with lawn grass and be made like a hill, just so it wouldn’t spoil the view on the ocean? Only in Ireland!
And now, leaving wonderful emerald Ireland, receiving the Official Transcript of UL, I am carrying the most warm, bright impressions, and bringing them to my homeland, to make Ukraine evermore brighter, friendlier and memorable!
Yurii Saroz, MSc in Biology
Photos by the author