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2.2 Teaching


In Selwyn, as throughout Cambridge, your teaching is divided between the parts organised by the College (mainly supervisions and small classes) and lectures, practicals, seminars and other activities which are run by the University’s Faculties and Departments. The two aspects of your academic training combine to provide a unique, supportive and exciting academic environment. 

2.2.1 College Teaching – Supervisions

Supervisions are the distinctive feature of College teaching, a key element in teaching and learning at Cambridge. By matriculating you have undertaken to abide by certain expectations concerning your work and especially your supervisions. Attendance is required. Supervisions are not an optional part of your studies. You are expected to do the work which supervisors set for your supervisions, meet deadlines for handing it in, and participate actively rather than just listening passively. The more you put in to your supervisions, the more you will get out of them. They are designed to be interactive and will not provide the full benefit for you if you do not work at them. They will also help in making sense of lectures.  

You will typically have between one and three hours of supervision a week, in groups of between one and four students. Your supervisor will comment on the written work you have produced. The supervision is an opportunity for you to seek clarification on any aspect of the topic when, like all students, you have found something difficult. You should be open about any lack of understanding. The latter may well be due to your realising that there is more to the question than meets the eye. Even if it is not, you can be confident that others will also have found the question difficult.

Attendance at supervisions is compulsory. You must let your supervisor know beforehand if you are ill or, for other good reason, cannot attend a supervision. You will be charged for supervisions missed without good reason. It inconveniences both other students and those teaching you. Changes of supervision time without very good reason will not normally be permitted. Missing supervisions without good reason may cause your capability to study to be questioned.

Some of your supervisions may be with your Director of Studies. Otherwise, they will be with supervisors chosen by your DoS, either from within Selwyn or from the University at large. Generally speaking, as your course becomes more specialised, the more likely you are to find yourself being supervised outside the College.

2.2.2 Feedback

Supervisions are an occasion for discussion. You should be ready to contribute your own ideas and be prepared to think on your feet when new ways of looking at things are put to you. You can interact with experts in the field they teach, often scholars who are at the cutting edge of research in that discipline. Make the most of the opportunity and participate actively. The dialogue will stimulate the development of your own ideas and, crucially, is a good way of providing detailed feedback on your work beyond written comments and questions. Pay close attention to supervisors' feedback and integrate it with the knowledge and ideas that you receive through lectures, reading, classes and researching your supervision work. Take notes both of what your supervisor says in supervisions and of what you and other students say in response.

Your supervisors are asked to report termly on your progress and to tell the College sooner than that if there are serious problems emerging, including missed supervisions or a failure to complete the set work. These reports will be discussed with you at your regular individual beginning and end of term meetings. You can find details on how to access your reports in section 8.3.2. of this Guide.

Feedback on supervisions is a two-way process. Your evaluations of your learning and of those who teach you constitute important elements in your DoS’s evaluation of your progress. At your end of term interview, you should expect your DoS to take up with you any concerns you have raised on your form. It is, of course, entirely appropriate to raise any concerns you have about your supervisors with your DoS or your Tutor. During the year you will also be given a Student Questionnaire to complete to reflect on your learning and progress, and also to give you the chance to indicate whether you are satisfied with your various supervisors.  Since we strive to ensure that Selwyn students receive the very best supervision available, and since it is important to identify and address any problems at an early stage, we take such monitoring very seriously. 

2.2.3 Faculty Teaching

In all subjects, the University is responsible for providing lectures relating to the advertised syllabus and, where appropriate, practical classes or other forms of large-group learning. Timetables for lectures and classes are available from your Faculty or Department. You can also find them online at the University’s timetable web resource. Your DoS will advise you on the relevance of the various lecture courses to the papers you are taking, but it is worth noting that you are entitled to attend virtually any University lecture, not just those in your own subject.

    2.2.4 Your Vacations (Studying or Getting a Job)

    Teaching and exams are arranged on the assumption that you will do a considerable amount of academic work during the vacations, especially at Christmas and at Easter. You are strongly advised not to take paid work for more than is strictly necessary in these two vacations. Any student who is prevented by their financial circumstances from devoting a sufficient amount of time during the vacations to their academic work should discuss with their Tutor the possibility of an application being made on their behalf to the College’s student support funds. The College is committed to ensuring that no student’s academic progress is adversely affected by financial difficulties. We would much rather provide College financial support to help a student focus on study in the vacations than skimp on their academic activities for financial reasons. 

    ‘Publicly-funded’ home students who are required to undertake compulsory courses or fieldwork during vacations may qualify for financial support through their Department. In most cases this support will cover the full cost of the required travel or other costs. Where students may need financial support for course-related or other vacation travel and study, they may apply to the College for a grant. Please see ‘Grants and Funds‘ for more information.