The Effect of Education: A Study of the Differences Between American and Scottish Universities
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This study focused on the differences between the university systems in the United States and Scotland in terms of students’ satisfaction with choice of course of study. There is a great deal of cross-cultural research on academics, but most of it focuses on the cultural differences between the countries, not the educational systems themselves. This study aimed to determine the effect of the systems on students’ satisfaction, by assessing students from academic systems in countries that are very similar, both culturally and linguistically. 158 students and recent graduates from both systems (79 from universities in the United States and 67 from universities in Scotland) were given an on-line questionnaire intended to measure the amount of choice they had when selecting their subject, and their satisfaction with their university. The study found that American students picked their main subject of study much later than their Scottish counterparts (in their second year of university study instead of before they applied). It also found that by their final year most students in a Scottish university were almost exclusively taking courses in their subjects (M=4.9 courses of which M=4.4 were within subject) while American students are still taking a wider variety of courses (M=7.9 courses of which M=5.7 were within subject). The Scottish students were also significantly more satisfied with their education than the American students (F(157,1)=12.4, p<.01, r=.27). This result was argued to be the result of choice overload effect, which makes it more difficult to make decisions when there are more options, as there are for students studying in the United States. These results were discussed with respect to past research on both choice and academics. Finally, ideas and directions for future research were proposed in light of these findings.