Latest information: Apply with confidence | Study with confidence | Live with confidence | UK FAQs | US FAQs

What to expect from classes at university in the UK

10 Nov 2015 - Dr. Ishan Cader

Please note that this article was written before the outbreak of COVID-19, which means that some of the information may not accurately reflect what it is like to be a current university student in the UK.

The time has come for you to start your course at university. Feelings of excitement, nervousness, awe and doubt are common for all students to experience during this period.

The important thing is to settle in to university life at your own pace and seek guidance and advice when you need it. Your university will provide you this support. So, what should you expect from classes at university in the UK?


In most UK universities you can expect to attend both lectures and seminars for your subject. Lectures are usually one or two hours long, and generally take place in large halls with often more than 50 students. The purpose of a lecture is to introduce you to the broad theories and debates about a topic that you are studying.

Students should focus on the lecturer, taking notes of all the things they are saying! Unfortunately, this means that there is no opportunity for group discussion, however, seminars allow you and your classmates to discuss the lectures that you’ve been to – so make sure not to miss any lectures.

Student in Kaplan class


Seminars tend to be more interactive than lectures and provide a more focused opportunity for students to ask questions, to contribute ideas and opinions, and to engage with other students in group work and presentations.

Seminar groups will typically have up to 20 students, which allow more time for direct interaction between you and your tutors, as well as more time to get to know your fellow students. Having been a seminar tutor for over ten years, I can say that it is a real pleasure knowing that many enduring friendships will first begin in those seminars!

It is important to remember that students all have different capabilities and different levels of confidence. You may find that a few voices dominate classroom discussions; you may find some students are more confident and outspoken than others. You shouldn’t let those students affect your enjoyment of and participation in seminars. You should not hesitate to express your opinion and share your ideas with the rest of the class!

Participating in seminar discussions will not only improve your English, they will also aid your understanding of the topic you are studying. Just like the lectures, make sure you attend seminars with all your work completed, because you will be able to understand and engage with the class so much more – which could potentially get you some great marks.

UK university class

When you start university in the UK

My advice on approaching your first class at university in the UK is this: if you are a confident or opinionated student, don’t hold back on what you want to say- but be aware that others need a chance to speak, and try to be sensitive to other students’ feelings. On the other hand, if you find yourself reluctant to contribute to seminar discussions, or losing track of lectures, keep calm and take your time.

Build your confidence- study hard, prepare for seminars by doing the required readings, ask questions from the seminar tutor, and most of all, engage and have an open attitude to other students. Good luck!

Find out more about studying a university preparation course with Kaplan.

More news from Kaplan International Pathways


Other posts in this category