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Posted by Lewis on November 13, 2003

In Reply to: British universities posted by ESC on November 11, 2003

: : :
: : : What does

: : : "to read a subject at university"

: : : exactly mean?

: : : Does it mean: "to study" or "to teach a subject as a lecturer" or both?

: : : thanx very much for "reading"

: : : ciaoooo
: : : Milena

: : to study

: At most American universities, students are expected to come to class, take notes and then be tested. From movies, etc., I get the idea that at British universities students study independently, "read," under the guidance of a tutor and then are tested. Is that correct?

Many years ago, before the printing press, books were rare - so to learn about a subject, students would go to a college with access to a library for them to read about the subject as well as be taught orally. The English system is that students are expected to do much of their work in personal research, which for most subjects is reading. In addition, there are 'seminars' to attend - small-group discussions between say 4-8 students and a lecturer. So it is a tripartite system of lectures, reading and seminars.
Now, on some courses, (and traditionally widespread) the lectures are not compulsory and so to work towards ones qualifications is traditionally known as "reading" the subject.
I knew a student who missed almost the whole year of lectures and crammed other people's notes just before the exams. It was not a recipe for success in his case.

Incidentally, the town/city of Reading in Berkshire has an university! You can be reading in Reading, as a friend of mine was.