The Road to Graduation in University of Birmingham; A Personal Account

“Having aspirations is nice, fulfilling them is exhilarating.” While we all have certain ambitions in our mind, I am sure most of us agree that it can be quite a hassle trying to figure out which direction to head towards and which institutions can offer us the best platform to achieve our goals. Local Universities? Private Universities? What about studying overseas?

In this New Media Age, we can easily obtain the basic essentials of the vast choices of Universities around the world; courses available, module listings, co-curriculum activities, etc. However, to truly get to the core of what a University can offer is to hear what the students in it have to say. University does not simply comprise of the academic aspect. I truly believe that the environment, teaching style and the people in it shape your university experience.

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University of Birmingham (UoB) in a Nutshell…

The Singapore Institute of Management Global Education (SIMGE) offers a variety of courses from a wide range of overseas Universities and the University of Birmingham (UoB) is one of them. UoB offers 4 different full-time courses – BSc (Hons) Business Management, BSc (Hons) Business Management with Communications, BSc (Hons) Business Management with Industry Placement and BSc (Hons) International Business.

Minimum admission criteria required
  • Diploma

UoB only accepts students who have obtained a diploma certification, with a GPA of 3.00/4.00 and above (2014 admission). Students with a GPA less than 3.00 are still able to apply for UoB, but results will be based on their interview performance.

SIM Diploma or local Polytechnic students with business related diplomas are able to obtain a direct admission to UOB.

Non-business related diploma students would need to undergo and pass a 3 months preparatory course.

Junior College students will need to take a 15 months diploma programme in SIM before being able to apply for UoB.

Course and Teaching Structure

UoB’s course structure differs significantly as compared to the majority of universities in Singapore; local and private. Students will take and concentrate on one module every 2 weeks. For example, from 1st August to 12th August, students will take Managerial Finance module, and then from 15th August to 26th August, students will take Leadership module, and so on and so forth. (Module timetable is not actual. Students will receive the timetable at the start of the school term.)

Lectures are conducted 3 hours daily from Monday to Friday. (Communication students may have 2 modules overlapping at the same time.) Trust me, you would not want to skip a lecture because in this fast paced environment, it will be a challenge to catch up from where you have left behind. Besides, all students in UoB have to fulfil a minimum of 75% attendance in order to graduate from the course. There are no tutorials in UoB but the professors are open to after-class questions. For some modules, tutorial questions are given to students to practice.

Why are lectures conducted in this way? That is because all UoB lecturers are not local, and are the same professors that conduct the modules back in the home institute in Birmingham. The professors will fly over from UK and stay in Singapore for approximately 2-3 weeks to conduct lessons in SIM, which explains why the one module per 2 weeks course structure.

Rest assure, all the professors in UoB have many years of experience in their own profession and provides incredible insights of the different industries. Dr. Hazel Westwood, who have taught me Events Management as well as Public Relations and Advertising has over 25 years of experience in broadcasting, including as a reporter for BBC and SKY News, and is also the founder of Westwood Media Ltd.

You are able to experience an overseas teaching style without having the need to actually go overseas!

Degree Recognition

UoB is ranked 82nd according to the QS World University Ranking 2017, which is actually much higher than Singapore Management University. Upon graduation, the certificate that you will receive is not bound with SIM and is solely from the University of Birmingham. As the professors and the modules are the same as the home institute, your certification is not any different than those awarded in UK. Against all stereotypes about students in private institutions, you really do not need to feel inferior because you earned your Bachelor through hard work. Many organisations in the private sector no longer disfavour private degrees.

My Experience in University of Birmingham…

I studied Bachelor (Honours) in Business Management with Communications and we had certain periods where we need to juggle two modules at the same time within the two-week period. On top of that, I was also working part-time to support myself. It was definitely no easy feat, but when you put your mind to what you want to achieve, you will reach there eventually.

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Additionally, as Business Management with Communication students, part of our academic requirement is to conduct a communication project (i.e. social media plan) for a real life organisation during our term break. However, I opted for a 3-months internship instead and managed to secure a position in Sport Singapore as part of the media team for the 28th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

I am thankful for the many opportunities and events during my 2 years in university and if I could sum it up, here are the main things that I have learnt and would like to tell potential students of UoB.

Hard Work and Time Management

I really wished that I knew how the course structure was at UoB beforehand so that it would not have come to me as a shock. I think many a time, students underestimate the amount of workload in university and I am in no denial that I was one of them.

At the end of the two weeks, students will be tasked to work on an assignment, which usually is a 3,000-word research essay. There are also modules that have examinations and some modules are project and presentation-based assignment. All students of UoB are also required to write a 7,000-word dissertation paper in their final year. It is mostly one assignment per module; an all-in, do or die situation. In UoB, students do not have the luxury to slack off, in hopes of being able to pull up your grades at a later stage. There is really no time to rest in university because as soon as you think you are done with one module, you have to start on another one almost right away. Every two weeks you are learning a new module, being tasked with a new assignment. Whoa, that sounds pretty intimidating right?

I am not going to lie that it can be quite overwhelming and I think it is important to know the type of environment that you are going to be in before diving right into it. It is through this journey that I learnt how to cope with stress better and manage my time wiser. It is important to allocate sufficient time to work on all your assignments and last minute work is definitely not advisable.

Although as stress as it sounds, do not fret! It is not that hard to score a decent grade in UoB. There are no bell-curve grading system therefore your grades will not fluctuate based on your batch’s performance. There are no definite answers to most of the assignments as we are encouraged to take on the subject at multiple angles; to evaluate the different perspectives and approaches within the field of research. Therefore, you will not be marked down for giving a different viewpoint from your professors and peers.

I really enjoyed this learning approach as it is more than just memorising and regurgitating whatever that is being taught. It helps broaden my knowledge and encourages me to develop my own stand and ideas rather than forcing me to adopt to one. That being said, you will have to do a lot of readings and comparisons; finding evidences to support your arguments. While you don’t necessarily need to be of scholar material to survive UoB, hard work is definitely needed.

Be Courageous

University is probably the last time you can ever get to be a student. So be young, be wild, be bold!

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Ask your professors all the questions that you are curious about the industry. They are there for you and they are also the best people to “interview”. Do not be afraid to clear your doubts regarding your assignments. University is the last chance to ask questions as stupid as it sounds. Make full use of your “student” status.

The one thing that I regretted not doing in university is not joining a co-curriculum activity, as I was too busy juggling with work and studies as well as a little fearful of being socially awkward and alone. Do not feel shy to join co-curriculum activities alone in university. Go out there and make new friends! As cliché as it sounds, university is really the best place to network. It is good to have a group of supportive friends and an out-of-school hobby to keep your sanity in university. Besides, it is always nice to have some good memories of your uni-life other than only studying. Break through your shell, and as the saying goes, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

If given a chance again, I would probably still choose UoB despite all the rants and complains that I have made over the past 2 years. While UoB may not have been the best school, with the best facilities, etc, but no doubt, UoB have made me grown and learn so much as a person, academically and personally. I would not trade my experience in UoB for anything else. My advice to all potential students out there, whether you are planning to come to UoB or not, is to make the most of your university life and enjoy it to the fullest. “It’s better to look back on life and say, “I can’t believe I did that” than to look back and say, “I wish did that.”