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For instance, I majored in Mathematics. This means (in my ... it means that my diploma is marked "A.B. in Mathematics".

The confusion is coming about because UK university degrees tend to be more focussed on one subject. The standard pattern ... to take at least three quarters of your units in Mathematics to get a degree entitled just "BSc in Mathematics".

There's a number of factors contributing to this, I suppose. One is that in the U.S. a bachelor's degree is a four-year program, and in the U.K. - or so I gather - it's a three-year program. So in order to do roughly the same amount of work in a field, a U.K. student can afford to take fewer courses outside the field in the time available.

Also, U.S. students aren't expected to choose a field to focus in until at least the end of the first year, if not the second - this means that the first year or so will probably be filled with courses from a number of different fields as students experiment with different subjects to see which interests them most as a major.

Furthermore, U.S. universities often have a "core" or "distribution" requirement to ensure that no student graduates without at least some familiarity in a variety of different fields. For instance, I majored in mathematics, but Harvard, a so-called liberal arts college, wouldn't have given me a degree had I not taken at least two courses in literature, one in a life science, one in a social science, and so on. MIT is an engineering college, and they require students - of whatever major - to take at least one class in chemistry, one in physics, and so on.

-Aaron J. Dinkin

Dr. Whom

The confusion is coming about because UK university degrees tend ... Mathematics to get a degree entitled just "BSc in Mathematics".

There's a number of factors contributing to this, I suppose. One is that in the U.S. a bachelor's degree is ... work in a field, a U.K. student can afford to take fewer courses outside the field in the time available.

In the English system (it's slightly different in Scotland) specialisation starts at school at the age of 16 when students choose three subjects to study at A-level. Then they narrow down further to one subject at university at the age of 18. The result of this is that they are able to proceed further with their specialised subject than would be the case in the USA, but at the expense of having a less general education. In general, the first year of a university degree in the USA is considered equivalent to the last year at school (taking A-levels) in England.

Matthew Huntbach

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That's usually the case here, for physics majors anyway.

Um. It's not the case that physics majors here take classes only in physics and math.

My quoting was possibly too generous; I was speaking about the fact that physics majors in the US generally take calculus (and possibly some other advanced math courses) from physics professors instead of math professors. I didn't mean to indicate that the entire courseload was the same, just the math portion.

I can't speak to any other university's practice on this point, but I know that at Harvard, the math courses that physics majors take are taught the Mathematics and the Applied Mathematics departments (two separate departments at Harvard), not the Physics department.

It's a bit confusing at Colorado State; the courses are all listed under "Math", but the specific titles are "Calculus - Physical Scientists (I-III)". I did not take that course, but a friend of mine who had a B.S. in Physics from that institution told me that those courses were taught by professors (let's be realistic, probably grad students) from the Physics department, on the grounds that they didn't think the Math department would teach it properly. It's quite possible that he was wrong, I suppose; it never occurred to me to verify it, and unfortunately, the course listings online don't list the instructor.

-=Eric

Come to think of it, there are already a million monkeys on a million typewriters, and Usenet is NOTHING like Shakespeare. Blair Houghton.

I was more familiar with "read Classics" than it sounded. ... university here uses the term "classics" for the degree designation.

Are you suggesting that American universities don't offer majors in Classics? If so, you are mistaken; here is the URL of the Classics Department at Yale: http://www.yale.edu/classics /

No, I was suggesting that American universities don't offer degrees with "Classics" in the name as in "I have a B.A. in Classics". Evidently, I was wrong. I don't know if Yale is the exception or if other universities have similar named degrees. I don't suspect many universities here offer a B.A. in Classics, but many might offer a similar program of study. It's the term, not the program, that I was referring to. One doesn't hear "I did Classics at Wyoming A&M".

Currently, most universities require all students to take the same general course load the first year or two.

They do what now?

Rephrase the question. I'll stick with "most" unless you shed some new light on the statement.

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Matthew Huntbach typed thus:

It's changed a bit in the last few years. Pupils now study four subjects leading to AS-level exams in the first-year sixth form and normally reduce this to three for the second-year sixth form at A2- level. AS and A2 results are combined to produce an A-level grade. Some take three subjects across the two years, and two different subjects to AS-level, one in each year.

David

==

In the English system (it's slightly different in Scotland) specialisation starts at school at the age of 16 when students ... of a university degree in the USA is considered equivalent to the last year at school (taking A-levels) in England.

It's changed a bit in the last few years. Pupils now study four subjects leading to AS-level exams in the first-year sixth form and normally reduce this to three for the second-year sixth form at A2- level. AS and A2 results are combined to produce an A-level grade. Some take three subjects across the two years, and two different subjects to AS-level, one in each year.

David

==

All that stuff about "freshman" and "sophomore" and junior and ... head without any real meaning attached to any of it.

"Freshman year" = 'first year in a four-year academic program'. "Sophomore year" = 'second year...'. "Junior year" = 'third..."; "senior year" = 'fourth and final...'.

Note that "freshman" and (less often) "sophomore" generalize by analogy to to other situations in which someone is in their first or second year. So someone might be a "freshman senator" or a "sophomore congressman". In sports (and, by analogy elsewhere), the first year is called the "rookie" year, but you'll hear of an athlete going through a "sophomore slump" when their performance in their second season isn't up to the standard set by their first.

Somewhat confusingly, "junior" and "senior" don't generalize in this way. A state's "junior senator" is simply the one (of the two each state gets) that has been in office the least amount of time. (California, unusually, doesn't have one, since our two senators were elected at the same time, one of them initially serving the last two years of a senator who resigned.)

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They do what now?

Rephrase the question. I'll stick with "most" unless you shed some new light on the statement.

I mean, I only have direct experience of one university and indirect experience of two more (being a grad student at one and having a brother who's an undergrad at the other), but what you describe sounds pretty foreign to me. Depending on what you mean by "general course load". I guess Columbia has a set of about six classes that students have to take in their first two years - does having about a third of the total course load in common constitute "the same general course load"? At Harvard there's only one class required for all students, which they take freshman year; and if anything, freshmen have somewhat more flexibility in their course load than upperclassmen do.

-Aaron J. Dinkin

Dr. Whom

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That's one of those questions that no one ever asks,

Quite the contrary: it's asked rhetorically by any number of uninspired commencement orators across the country, who go on to make the point that graduation marks the end of university life and the commencement of real life. Or something.

The speaker continues: "Webster's defines 'commence' as blah blah blah blah" (by this time I've fallen asleep).

SML

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