Oxford University is one of the most beautiful, charming and quintessential places I’ve studied and worked in. Its beauty and charm lie in the relevance of both the old and new. The old lies in its architecture, tutorial system, and social traditions. And the new (to me) lies in its exuberating social dialogue opportunities found in the dining hall, which reflects the tradition Socratic conversation of hundred of years past.
My daily routine as a fellow during the Summer Research Institute is simple but highly educational: I have 3 meals in the OLD Dinning Hall with other fellows, go to the library and attend some evening activities. My downtime was spent on going to the museums, taking a walk in different parts of the city and jogging in many colleges. The library system is impressive and the colleges are just beautiful with a rare combination of a perfect English garden and classic architecture style. However, the most educational experience comes about from a deeper understanding of the need for communication across disciplines and education of independent thinkers and agents.
Oxford uses a tutorial system. The critiques of a such a system are of anarchism, inefficiency and even to the extent of being anti-collaborative and anti-cooperative. However, if one takes the students’ dinning hall social life as part of the education system, one will have a different perspective of how the tutorial system works in the large picture. In the dinning hall routine, conversations are usually centered on serious topics expressing a project or a topic to someone from a different discipline. It is also not uncommon that one will sit next to an expert or a prestigious alumnus who joins the dinner on different occasions. So in my view, one cannot give a quick causal judgment that the tutorial system is old and not efficient. One has to take in how other events are going on in a student’s life to evaluate certain pedagogical effects. Conversation in the dinning hall is a very major part of the system. These social opportunities that are both life and academic in nature are engaging, and I personally believe the Oxford system is a gem for educating independent thinkers and socially and globally responsible agents.
Every fellow has a project to work on during this intense week. My