Erasmus-sponsored stay at Queen Mary and Westfield College, London,
in the winter term 1994/1995
My time at QMW College London
Participating in the Erasmus program, I have spent half a year at
Queen Mary and Westfield College which is part of the University of
London and lies in the east of the capital.
At the beginning of the winter term (october-december) there was a
two-day "Associate Student Induction Programme", at the end of which
the enrolment procedure took place. The latter was connected with
choosing courses. Different from the procedure at the University of
Technology, Aachen, students choose their courses for both terms at
the beginning of the academic year; but this choice can be altered
Choice of courses
There was a personal supervisor (Dr S Bullett) who helped me to find
the right courses. Also I was supported by Prof. Neubüser (Aachen),
whom I sent a list of available courses.
An interesting point is that there is a limit of eight courses per
year (and a minimum of six per year). Nevertheless I could take the
following twelve courses, as that restriction only affects
participation in final examinations.
The courses were:
- Rings & Modules (Prof B A F Wehrfritz)
- Algebraic Computing (Prof M A H MacCullum)
- Compilers & Interpreters (Dr K Clarke)
- Artificial Intelligence (Dr M Huntbach)
- Relativity (Dr R K Tavakol)
The last course was offered by King's College which, like Queen Mary
and Westfield College, is part of the federal University of London.
Students of one of the UL's Colleges are enabled to attend lectures
in any of the other colleges.
- Classical Groups (Prof P J Cameron)
- Commutative Algebra & Algebraic Geometry (Dr S Donkin)
- Pro-p-groups (Dr S McKay)
- Graph Theory (Prof W Hodges)
- Number Theory (Dr C Leedham-Green)
- Galois Theory (Dr S Donkin)
- Fourier Analysis (Dr Y Safarov, King's College, Univ. of London)
Concerning the complexity and level of the courses I might state
that to me the MSc courses seemed very similar to our post-Vordiplom
courses, whereas the undergraduate courses are simpler than our
beginners' courses. I could never understand how students cope with
the gap between undergraduate and MSc courses - the standard answer
to my question always was: "There is hardly anyone doing the MSc."
Status as Erasmus student
Though being an Erasmus student (I did not have to pay any fees
towards the College) there was only one restriction: I could not
gain the MSc by participating in the final examinations. Apart from
that I had full access to all the College's means, including
- the library which supplied a library program, allowing title and
author search and also access to personal data, i.e. names of books
got from the library,
- the computing services, offering full Internet access via Mail,
FTP, Telnet and Mosaic. There were several computer rooms on the
College ground, and there was a special computer room in the maths
department that can only be opened by a key (which I got). Every
student has this Internet access, so e-Mail is a widespread
communitcations tool, as private telephones are rare.
- the student union, dealing with the leisure facilities/societies:
sports, political and religious societies, pub, disco, etc.
Flats or rooms in London are very expensive. The College offers
single and double rooms in a variety of accommodation halls of
different sizes. The rooms in the halls on the campus ground were
completely booked out, and I was offered a place 20 minutes away by
tube, for which the price would have been about 60,- Pounds per week
(including breakfast). Luckily, with the help of Dr L Soicher from
the maths department, I could find a privately rent room which was
39,- Pounds a week. The two landladies were very nice to me, and
they helped be a lot to improve my English.
As my stay in London terminated in March, but the examinations
period started in May, I could not attend the exams. But
participation would not have made too much sense, as I would not
have been able to receive the MSc degree (as mentioned above).
Social life, culture
I found the atmosphere at the College to be very open, and besides
many other foreigners I have also met a lot of English students.
(I'm only mentioning that, because I was told that usually the
English and foreign students don't mix, which fortunately was not
From the cultural point of view, London certainly is an excellent
place of study. With all its theatres, museums, Jazz clubs etc.
there is no place for boredom.
My stay in London, which I decided very spontaneously, more than
surpassed my expectations. The experience of "surviving" half a year
in a foreign country with different structures and completely on
one's own, cannot be replaced by anything. I have met so many
friendly and helpful people at the College - both students and
lecturers - that I am already looking forward to my next visit to
The lectures at the College were very interesting, and I dealt with
some topics which are not offered at my university in Aachen.
Hans-Georg Eßer, April 1995
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