Harsh Sodhi ’10 kindly sent in this background information on Oxford and the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford University (WEPO). (See also yesterday’s post from Arjun Ravi Narayan ‘10.)

The average Oxford student takes 1.5 tutorials every semester. WEPO people have to take a minimum of 4.5 tutorials which get counted twice over – 4 grades for the fall, one for winter study and the remaining 4 for spring. Most departments count one tutorial as one credit though some, such as Religion and English, count them twice over.

The biggest difference between WEPO and Oxford is that for the Oxford kids their essay grades don’t matter. Tutors here like Williams kids because we put in a lot more effort since the grades do count.

The second difference is that we take final exams at the end of each term, while Oxford students take them at the beginning of the next term. I’m not sure how they do this in the third sem (Oxford follows a trimester system) considering the summer break and all. Williams wants us to make the most of our time here – it wouldn’t be particularly enjoyable if we had exams just after winter break. So we’re currently in finals week and then we get 5 weeks off to do whatever we like.

The current system where our essay grades matter is a good one. If we did what Oxford students do the program would not be academically sound enough and it would be hard to justify the fact that this is the only study away program besides WNY where grades add to one’s GPA. On the other hand, I think finals are a waste of time – if you don’t know your stuff after writing 8 2000 word essays there’s no point going to school. A 3 hour exam at the end doesn’t measure anything. At present WEPO leaves it up to the tutor but “strongly recommends” some sort of final exam / assignment / paper.

Oxford kids are straight jacketed into particular subjects or streams though there is some flexibility within each stream. When the kids here apply for college they apply for a specific subject / stream. PPE for example stands for Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Thus kids in the PPE program take a certain number of classes in each subject (similar to our Div requirements I guess but they we are much more flexible) and then specialize in one of the three. We WEPO students aren’t subject to any such constraints.

Thanks for the details.

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