First visit from Brussels
I was pleasantly surprised at getting an invitation from Elke Ballon to an Oxford tea (for the non-EPRS followers: Elke is Head of Unit of the On-site and Online Library Services Unit in our European parliamentary Research Service). As Elke did part of her studies in Oxford, she could guide me around some of the university buildings and explain to me some of the typical Oxford University customs and rituals.
Who’s next? 😉
Public holidays in the UK?
Meanwhile, I’m beginning to understand why Belgium is often depicted as the ‘holiday paradise’. In November, in the European institutions the 1st and 2nd of November are public holidays. The Belgians have 1st and 11th November. None of these three exist in the UK!
The next public holidays, or ‘Bank Holidays’ as they are known here, that are coming up in the UK are Christmas Day (25th Dec) and Boxing Day (26th Dec).
And what’s more, the Christmas season here starts very early — at least in the shops. At the beginning of October some shop windows in Oxford were already displaying Christmas items!
Short but intensive terms for the students at this top university
The terms here for the students are very short (only eight weeks) but very intensive: high pressure due to short deadlines. Some of the individual College libraries are accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even during the weekends the reading rooms are quite well used.
At the EP, we have our jargon. Though this is also the case at Oxford: The academic year at Oxford is divided into three terms: Michaelmas (autumn), Hilary (spring), and Trinity (summer). Michaelmas Term derives its name from the Feast of St Michael and All Angels, which falls on 29 September. Hilary Term is named after the feast day of St Hilary, which falls on 14 January, while Trinity Term comes from Trinity Sunday, which falls eight weeks after Easter.
Personally, I think it is the Oxford system of small group and even individual tutorial learning, together with the high academic level of the tutors, which drives students to work harder. That could be the secret behind the high ranking in the Shanghai ranking (world number 7). Of course I am proud that my own Alma Mater (KULeuven) also appears in the Top 100.