Thinking about going on a year abroad? Perhaps going to study at a German university is already in your plans, but you aren’t too sure what to expect when you get there. If that is the case, then I have put together some of the main differences that I have found between University of Essex and University of Konstanz.
To begin with, courses and modules vary a lot between these two universities.
At Essex, you may be familiar with having every course being worth 15 Essex credits or 7.5 ECTS. Or, in some cases, if the module runs over both the spring and the autumn term then the credits number is doubled.
However in Konstanz, courses can have vary from as little as 0 ECTS up to 10 ECTS, or even more. This means that you are expected to do different amounts of work depending on the number of credits that the course in question has. The lecturer or professor in charge of the course will typically point out at the beginning of the first lecture/class what is the exact number of expected work hours.
Another main difference that I have found is that in Konstanz there are quite a few different types of courses available for students. For instance, there are seminars, block seminars, projects, lectures/exercises and lecture courses.
Throughout my Computer Science degree at University of Essex, I have noticed that normally a course encompasses both practical learning as part of laboratory or class and also theoretical learning as part of a lecture.
At the University of Konstanz, this is still true, but mainly for the courses labelled as lecture/exercise. The other types of courses tend to put more emphasis on one type of learning, either practical or theoretical. For example, during a seminar students are very likely to work in teams of various sizes for a specific project. The theoretical knowledge required for the project should have been taught in a corresponding lecture course or lecture/exercise and hence it is highly advisable that students take or have taken this before enrolling in the seminar. Most seminars end with an oral presentation of the team results or even individual work. In some cases students are expected to write a report or a paper to conclude their overall work. Block seminars differ from regular seminars with the fact that they only run for a shorter period (e.g. 3 days in a row). Students can also choose to do a bit more research into a specific area by taking a course called project. For a project course, you are expected to write a final report and to meet regularly with a project supervisor.
In terms of the systems that the University of Konstanz has in place for students, I have found that they are quite similar to the ones that we use at the University of Essex. More specifically during my year abroad, I have mainly used 3 different platforms: ILIAS, LSF (Lehre, Studium, Forschung ~ Teaching, Studies, Research) and StudIS/Prüfungen (~ Exams).
On ILIAS, students can enroll on different courses and once the course administrator approves their request then access is provided to the course contents. ILIAS is also used to upload assignment/exercises and deadlines can also be seen on there too. Overall, I think of ILIAS as a combination of our Moodle and FASER platform.
The second system that I have used for looking up the courses that I wanted to take was LSF and on there students observe when/where the course is running and find out more information about courses running in various departments. It is somewhat similar to our Module Directory but on LSF students can enrol on courses and also create their own timetable.
The last system that I have used at the University of Konstanz was StudIS/Prüfungen and it was perhaps the most important one. The reason why I say that is because on the platform students can log in and register for exams. In order to receive course credits and be allowed to take exams students must register for the examination of each one of the courses; this also includes signing up for the seminars even though there typically are no written exams. On this platform, you can see when/where the exams take place and also look up the obtained marks afterwards.
I hope this breakdown of course types and systems that the University of Konstanz uses and the comparison to the University of Essex has helped to get an idea of what to expect at either one of these two universities. Best of luck to those that are heading off next year for their year abroad!