How Long (typically) Are University Lectures?

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University lectures are a big part of university life. They usually take up the most time in a student’s week, and are helpful for university classes and essays. However, you might notice that you may have more or less lectures than your friends, and your lectures might be longer or shorter than other students’. With all these variables, it’s difficult to know how long the average university lecture is!

The duration of your university lectures will depend on which university you attend and which course you study. However, generally, university lectures will be between 1 to 2 hours long. They can be shorter, or longer, but will generally be in this window. The number of hours you spend in lectures per week will also depend on your university and your course. For instance, STEM students typically have longer lectures than humanities students as the degree is more content heavy.

In this article, we’ll be discussing how long the average lecture is at university, how lectures work, and what you should do in a lecture. Keep reading to find out more!

What is a university lecture?

A university lecture is a time slot in which a lecturer (a tutor in the same subject at the university) will give a talk about a particular topic.

These are like lessons in secondary education, but for higher education, and are the main source of information for your course outside of independent study.

Lectures go on for a set amount of time and will be held by a set topic. Some universities will also sometimes host what are called lecture “carousels”, which are lectures in the same subject directly after one another.

As mentioned in the introduction, lectures are often the most prominent part of university life and constitute the most of a student’s learning at university.

If you’d like some more information about what university lectures are, I’d recommend checking out this helpful Think Student article.

How long is a university lecture?

For most universities and courses, lectures are around 1 hour long. You’ll typically have 3 to 4 hours of lectures available to you each day, but you don’t have to go to all of them.

An actual lecture, if it’s scheduled for 1 hour, is around 50 minutes long, since lecturers have to allow time for people to both arrive and leave (to change over for the next lecturer).

However, lectures can be longer, and STEM subjects are more likely to have lectures that are around 2 hours long, since STEM lectures are very content-heavy.

Lectures can also be shorter, and some may only be 45 minutes long! You should be able to find out the length of a lecture on your timetable or a lecture timetable.

Are university lectures the same length for all universities?

University lectures are not the same length for all UK universities. The length of a university lecture is based on the policy of that university and how they decide to teach the course.

Whilst they are also dependent on the course that you take, universities all teach their courses differently! For example, someone who studies History at one university may not have lectures that are the same length as someone studying History at another university.

When you receive your timetable or a lecture timetable, you should be able to see how long the lecture slots are.

Do university lectures vary between courses?

Yes, university lectures can vary a lot between courses.

Firstly, whether or not university lectures are mandatory attendance will depend on your course as well as your university. Lectures for STEM subjects are almost always mandatory because there are lots of theories and practical information you need to know.

However, for Humanities courses, if your university does not have course-wide mandatory lectures, lectures will probably be non-mandatory, since they are only designed to supplement information, not teach it to you for the first time.

Of course, for non-mandatory lectures, it’s still very much recommended that you attend them. My lectures are non-mandatory, but I still try to attend at least one a day, usually 2 or 3.

Secondly, this doesn’t need explaining, but lectures obviously vary by content. I’ll discuss later in the article about who can attend university lectures, so keep reading to find out more information about that.

Thirdly, lectures also vary in size! I’ve personally had lectures that have had to have been moved to a different lecture theatre because there have been so many students. You can read more about this on this page of the University of Exeter’s website.

How many university lectures should you attend a day?

How many lectures you should attend is all dependent on how hard you want to study.

If you have mandatory scheduled lectures, you shouldn’t have more than 3 a day at an absolute maximum, and they will be scheduled so that you can easily schedule work around them.

You will have a different number of lectures available each day, so it won’t be 3 lectures a day for all 5 days of the week. Sometimes it may be 2 lectures, 1 lecture, or even no lectures if you have more on a particular day.

For non-mandatory lectures, I’d recommend trying to go to at least 1 a day, but 2 is better. However, if none of the lecture topics genuinely interest you, then there’s no point going to them.

Should you take notes in a university lecture?

You should definitely take notes in a university lecture!

As explained earlier in the article and in this Think Student article, lectures are the university equivalent of lessons, so they’ll be your main source of information outside of independent research.

When you attend a university lecture, you will notice that most students will be taking notes.

You can take notes with a standard pen and paper, but many students now use laptops or tablets. I personally use a tablet and write with a tablet pen! It means I can access and send notes to my laptop and phone.

For students who require disability support, your university might provide you with a tablet or a laptop. I’d definitely recommend taking these to lectures for your notes.

Are university lectures recorded?

Yes, most of the time university lectures are recorded by your university.

Universities will usually have a page on their university portal (only accessible to students with an ID for that university), about lecture recordings and where you can access them.

At most universities, you will probably only be able to access a lecture recording 2 weeks after the lecture took place. However, for students who require disability support, they will be able to access lecture recordings so long as they have a university email!

Generally, you will not be allowed to record lectures yourself. This is because the lecturer needs to consent to being recorded.

Rest assured, most universities record their lectures, so if you miss one but really need to see it, you can contact the relevant department at your university.

Can anyone attend a university lecture?

If you are a student within the university you want to attend a lecture for, but the lecture is not in your subject, you may be able to still attend the lecture.

If your university lectures have attendance sheets, which many universities do, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to sit in on a lecture that isn’t yours. However, if there is no attendance sheet, then as long as you know where the lecture is being held, you’re good to go!

From my personal experience, lecturers don’t mind who sits in on their lectures so long as you are respectful and are a member of the university.

I’ve sat in lectures with friends from different subjects (because I had a personal interest in the topic of the lecture), and haven’t had a problem! You can read some advice on this topic in this article by The Guardian.

If you are not a member of the university, universities will often offer public lectures outside of course time for members of the public to attend.

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