Keep an eye on London

The London School of Economics and Political Science and the School of Oriental and African Studies offer top-notch training in the social studies and humanities, while Imperial College provides excellent training in science and engineering subjects

education Updated: Aug 17, 2011 10:11 IST
Pooja Biraia
Pooja Biraia
Hindustan Times

Considering a career in humanities or the sciences? These colleges have been churning our brilliant minds in their specialised areas of study for years. Read on to find out more about what makes LSE, Imperial College and SOAS stand out, and why you should consider these institutions for further study.

Programme Pattern
At LSE, you can either combine your studies with more than one subject or you can choose one major subject and one minor. You are also allowed to choose at least one course from a range of courses taught within the school, thereby being able to learn something outside of your core subjects. However, in the first year, all students need to study a few basic subjects that help in developing logical and critical thinking skills, explains Sanjana Javeri, who studied BSc in management at LSE. “In the first year, we have to study six modules which are compulsory and then the second year onwards, we have a lot of options to choose from. We have two compulsory modules and we can choose the remaining four modules as per our interest. I chose to study modules relating to finance and accounting as that was my area of specialisation.”

“At Imperial”, says Arjun Jain, who chose biology and management as his two major subjects, “We can choose two liberal arts subjects in the second year, I had taken up politics and filmmaking.” At SOAS, all degree courses have modules pertaining to liberal arts. Along with formal lectures, small group tutorials are also held and importance is given to class discussions. Devina Sivagurunathan, International Officer, SOAS, adds, “SOAS is a small school with a total population of approximately 4,500.”

Packed schedules
Self-learning forms a major part of learning at these institutions and high importance is given to projects and research papers. “Our schedule is totally packed. We study about 6-8 modules per term and for each module we have experiments, case studies and weekly projects, which are a part of our final grades. So attending lectures and tutorials, and working on projects gets too hectic at times. And if you fail to submit your paper within the deadline, you are penalised,” says Jain. Also, unlike in India, authorities abroad are very strict about the use of plagiarism in project reports and assignments. “You can’t cut, copy, paste as there is a software with which plagiarism can be detected very easily,” he adds.

Tutorials and Lectures
Both lectures and tutorials form a part of the core learning structure at these institutions. The difference in the two lies in the size of the class. “Tutorials consist of a maximum of ten students in each class, and such small group teaching is a great way of studying at LSE,” says Javeri. A tutorial is held once every week, after lectures are held for the same module, twice a week. “Lectures, which are held by professors, have about 100 students in attendance at any given time,” says Arjun Jain. Tutorials are small classes held mostly by postgraduate students, who go over the modules once again after they have been taught by professors through lectures in the same week.

Influential guest speakers
Many influential guest speakers including politicians, business leaders and industrialists and some of the leading academicians from around the world give lectures and speeches at LSE, Imperial College and SOAS. “We have almost six to seven talks conducted everyday by world-famous people. For instance, while we had Noam Chomsky in the campus one day, the next day it was the president of a developing country talking to us. Also, officials from the UN and leading industrialists visit the campus regularly,” says Shonan Kothari, who studied development studies at SOAS.

Examination and Assessment
The examination system is similar across the three schools in that all three give high weightage not only to written or online examinations but also assignments, projects and research. However, each institution is different from the other in the pattern of examination and assessments.

At LSE, students are examined at the end of each year, and exams are paper-pencil based, while at Imperial College, examinations are conducted at the end of each module and are conducted online. “At Imperial we are taught term-wise so if a certain module gets over at the end of one term, we either give an exam at the end of that term or at the beginning of the next term,” says Jain. Students need to submit essays, assignments, projects and essays, as part of the examination, as these make for almost 20% of the marks. Moreover, competition is tough and it’s not easy to score well, says Jhaveri.

“All my papers were marked on 100, and a score of over 70 on 100 is considered first class, but hardly 10% of the students achieve it as it’s easy to pass but difficult to score,” she adds.

Campus Life
While there are hectic class schedules on one hand, there’s a lot of fun and enjoyment on the other, say students at LSE, Imperial and SOAS. “LSE is a multi-cultural school and we have a large number of societies, one for every interest. Some of the interesting ones are the Hindu society, the Greek society, the hip-hop dancing society, etc. Also, LSE has a high number of Asian students and they have societies exhibiting their cultures as well,” says Javeri. Besides societies, there are other interesting things such as a buddy system at Imperial College. “When you join the college, you are assigned a buddy, who is a senior student in the college. This student is your first friend and one who familiarises you with everything and everyone in the college,” says Jain. The parties at SOAS are particularly intriguing, says Shonan. “SOAS has many unique parties, based on interesting themes and people are always doing something quirky there.”

Prime Location
Being an undergraduate student from any of these three institutions, gives you a chance to study in the stimulating and cosmopolitan capital city of London, and this, say students is a huge advantage. “It’s a big advantage to be studying in London, especially for LSE students, who are in the field of banking and finance, as it gives them easy access to the headquarters of leading financial companies here,” says Jhaveri. Agrees Arjun Jain, “I was particularly keen on going to Imperial College so as to get a feel of studying in a city where most corporate bigwigs are located.”

Best Known for
LSE is best known for its political science and economics-related teaching and many of its students have gone on to become expert advisers to political parties, have joined the civil services and leading financial institutions.

Imperial College is reputed for its sciences and medical courses.

SOAS is acclaimed for studying developing countries and languages.

Devina Sivagurunathan, International Officer, SOAS , says, “We accept Indian students across various boards, such as CBSE, ICSE, 'A' levels and the IB. We require about 85% from a CBSE or ICSE student, 38 points for the IB student and 3 As for 'A' levels student for courses such as law, economics and politics. We expect applicants to be passionate about their chosen subject and we would also like applicants to be involved in a range of extra-curricular activities.”

Students speak
Arjun Rai Jain, Dual degree in biology and management, Imperial College

“The science curriculum at Imperial is very tough and challenging and you have to really have a passion for the subject. Examinations are grueling. There’s a lot of studies to do, and in the study break of ten days that we get at the end of the last term, we are mostly seen in the library for 14-15 hours everyday.”

Shonan Kothari, Development Studies, SOAS
“The institution is fantastic and is very well known for development studies. I met people from various backgrounds, and noticed that the institution was much more cosmopolitan than any other. Students get to travel to countries such as Africa, South America, etc. and most of the times it is adventure travel. The institution has a very free and open culture and one of the best thing about SOAS is that you can take any language class for free, as the institution is very well-known for languages.”

Sanajana Javeri, International Management, LSE
“LSE offers limited options as far as diversity in subjects is concerned. This is because the school mainly focuses on core areas such as finance, economics and politics. But, within these three areas, students get to learn the subjects in totality. Hence, a student who expects diversity in subjects would not be the right fit. Also, students and faculties here are very cooperative and amiable.

Statistics: In 2010/2011
Imperial College admitted 11 undergraduate students from India.
Four undergraduate students from India were accepted for research at Imperial College.
At SOAS, 17 undergraduate students from India were admitted.


First Published: Aug 16, 2011 16:49 IST