Cairo, Bologna and Paris have been offering it the longest. What am I talking about? A university education, of course. So who goes to university and what do they get out of their experience?

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercise.

Cairo, Bologna and Paris have been offering it the longest. What am I talking about? A university education, of course. So who goes to university and what do they get out of their experience? 


Most universities don't let just anyone in. Grades in the subjects you take in the final years of secondary education are what usually count and in many countries people also have to do an entry test. While most participants in higher education are in the 18–25 age group, some people choose to take a break from work later on in life and opt for the role of mature student, bringing experience of work and the real world to their studies.

Which one to go to

In many countries there is a pecking order to the universities, with a few high-status institutions at the top, turning out an intellectual elite and attracting the best minds in teaching and research. Take a quick name-check of the leading writers, politicians or scientists in the UK or the USA and you should find the majority chose to spend their student years sitting in the dining halls and libraries of Oxford and Cambridge or Harvard, Princeton and Yale. The training grounds for medicine, law or engineering in Britain tend to be the metropolitan ‘red brick’ universities slightly lower down the list.


When entrance was restricted to a lucky few in Britain, the state actually paid the sons and daughters of the middle classes not only their tuition fees but also a yearly grant towards living expenses as well. These days most European and North American students are given a loan which they have to pay back to the government once they are in full-time employment, or they finance themselves by working their way through college with part-time jobs in the evenings or at weekends.

Where to live

For the majority of students, attending a university in a town or city near to where they live is the only financially viable option, but in Britain for many years going to university meant leaving home, with all the freedom and independence that implied. Universities traditionally offer cheap and clean accommodation in halls of residence or student houses. After a year or so, many students opt to share private rented accommodation outside the university, which often pushes their culinary and hygiene skills to the limit.

Year out

These days if you haven’t taken time off between finishing school and embarking on higher education, you haven’t really lived. The gap year can be devoted to working for charities in different parts of the world or simply to travelling, but it can at least concentrate the mind and perhaps give you a few more ideas about what you should do with the rest of your life. If you want to study abroad, you can often get a year out as part of a language course or enter a scholarship programme such as Erasmus to support you while studying at a foreign university. Business or management students often devote time away from university in the form of a work placement, to help them gain practical experience in a professional environment.

Teaching and learning

A common feature of any university is attending lectures, which involves taking notes while a lecturer, a university teacher, is speaking to a large group of students. In Britain, you are also expected to present a subject perhaps once a term and comment on it in tutorials. These are small-group discussions led by a lecturer, at which closer analysis of a particular area is undertaken. Science-oriented courses also involve practical lessons and field trips which enable students to get to grips with their chosen course of study in the laboratory or beyond the university walls.

How you are doing

As at school, progress is measured by examinations, either divided into Parts I and II or taken at the end of the course and known as Finals. Alternatively, it can be based on continuous assessment and coursework. An important component of most systems is the extended dissertation, a piece of writing measured by the number of words a student has to produce, say 10,000. This must be based on some original research from primary as well as secondary sources and on some sort of gathering and interpretation of data.

Social life

There is an old saying that ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’, and prospective students expect a rich and varied social life. Friendships forged in the student union bar or in the many and varied clubs and societies that exist at most universities may last a lifetime. In the USA, fraternities and sororities encourage a similar bond.

Life after university

Well before the graduation ceremony, when students queue up to receive their degrees from the Chancellor of the university at a special ceremony, the careers office has been busy assessing future graduates for the kind of employment paths they should take by giving them an aptitude test and arranging interviews, company presentations and recruitment fairs. For those attracted by the academic life, there are further opportunities for study on Masters and Doctorate (PhD) programmes and on into further research and teaching.

And what does university education all add up to?

This was the opinion of Theodore Roosevelt, a former American president: 'A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education he may steal the whole railroad.'

Or is it as an American journalist, Sydney Harris, said? 'The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one's mind a pleasant place in which to spend one's time.'



Language level

Advanced: C1


This is an interesting subject! This sharing is from my view.
First, for a general background, education in our universities is a big trouble with us. The documents are outdated for decades with information dating back to years of 20th century. Besides, the learners do not have many practical chances to practice tons of theories scrammed on classes, which means they just learn to learn but don't know how to apply what they learn. Another reason which explains for bad quality of the universities is almost of the learners don't know what aims are for things they are going to learn. Eventually, when learn, they don't like to learn and when finish learning, they don't like to work with what they learnt.

Next, I want to share some similarities of our university system to the one in this article. In the first stage, if you want to join in to any universities, you have to do an entry test like an admission requirement. Before doing the entry test you are likely to sign up 2 - 3 prospective universities you like most. There is not a clear pecking order of universities for choosing without marks of the former entry testes. Next stage, when the students learn at university they can stay anywhere they want, accommodation in dormitories or privates houses outside of universities. About teaching, learning and assessment, I can see they are roughly similar with attending lectures, examinations at middle and final terms, and a extended dissertation at last term.

On other hand, there are some differences. First, there is no loan at all from government for the students, that means they have to pay tuition fees and living expenses all by themselves, and, of course, there's no debt after schools. Second, there's no gap year to go around or work somewhere for more experience before choosing how and where will learn for the rest of our lives. There're 2 reasons for this. First reason is we are poor, most students learn for jobs like robots in a boring routine: birth, students, workers, parents, grandparents and ancestors. The more important reason is it's not easy to join in to university if I don't want to say 'a really hard duty'. This duty needs all the effort of students and even their families, that you mostly can't win if you do a gap-year which could makes you forget most things. The third difference is the social life and the life after university. The universities don't care much about these issues because of a part of themselves as well as a part of our society mechanism which doesn't encourage people to make solid groups. The students have to swim by themselves most things: friends, jobs, lives or so on with mostly no supports.

With things above, I think we are hard to make good students after school for working at the workplace or facing their own social issues. Lacking freedom to self decide what way's for the best, controlled by idiotic mechanism and prevented by dump heads, there are not many chances the universities to take off their extremely neat clothes and develop. You should know that before this government mechanism occurred on my country, we used to have a very good French-Vietnamese education system with many high level people in Vietnam or even the world. I really hate it!

Could I ask a question, please?

some people choose to take a break from work later on in life and opt for the role of mature student, bringing experience of work and the real world to their studies.

It is a little vague for me, do the people here refer to the students? Could you, kindly, explain it more?

With many thanks for your patience and best regards.

Hello corflz

Yes, the idea is that although most university students are aged 18–25, there is a small group of students that are older. These are people who already have some work experience but choose to go back to school (university) for a time period to learn more.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everyone;
universities are quite different in my country as compare to others,for joining first you need to pass the entry test which is quite difficult,also at the end of the entry test you have three option to choose in which field you want to proceed your study, if your entry test score is enough to enroll you in one of those field you choose then congratulation you are enrolled to Government university and government will pay for your tuition fees. if not then you can visit private universities they also require entry test which is easy and you will have 98% chance to pass it in whatever field you choose,but their curriculum is much weaker then government universities,although government universities system is much weaker then the entire world. (and the country is Afghanistan).
kindly reply if there is any mistake.

Hi, everyone
I´m Maria Chiara, i´m from Italy. in my own country if you want take a course at the university, first of all you have to pass the entry exam. So you are not allow to do whatever you desire; you can not take the degree that you want to. i think that the government should make students in the position that they are able to choose what in the future they want to be: a doctor, a lawyer, a manager or whatever... i finished my high school, i have decided to spend one year in Denmark to improve my English, have an abroad experience and why not maybe i´ll take a degree in Denmark in English (i´m a optimist person).

How many you lived, all life it is necessary to study.
This quote has to be the motto for each student. In the 21st century everything very quickly develops. If not to study, to keep up to date, you won't be the successful person.

Thanks for article, I really enjoyed it!
I want to tell about admission in the Russian educational intitututes.
In the Russian education system same situation. It is impossible enter to a higher educational institution without entrance examinations. Usually these examinations are passed right after school. Sometimes examinations after school aren't enough, then some universities arrange the examinations. But it is rare. Such examinations take place usually in police universities, military or on art.
Age of the Russian students too from 18 to 25 years.But there are students who don't go to university after school, and go to work. But it isn't enough such people in Russia. Most of students seek to enter the prestigious university that in the future to find good work.

Learn,learn and learn once again. It is the famous words of Vladimir Lenin. In my point of view he wanted to say with this words, that every person should learn something new during all his life, and only when we learn something we are developing

I want to say a few words about the money. Precisely speaking i want to compare your money system with our Russian system. For example most of our universities do the same as yours. The government pays all our study process, and for us university becomes a free. But there are we have such institutes where students also take education for free, but if you loose your place in the university you have to pay all money that government paid for you back. Also students have to pay back the money that were given them as a salary to their work.

I would like to discuss about where to live,when you study at university. I am from Russia and here there are a lot of students coming from towns and cities to enter the university,leaving their home. University usually provides hostel nonresident students. Some people like to live in a hostel because here you can make new friends and have fun your free time. However, there are some disadvantages of living in halls, for example, many do not like the common bathroom and kitchen, which is constantly dirty. In addition, here is generally noisy and impossible to sleep.That's why, many students prefer to rent an apartment. So life away from home teaches students to be independent.