University teaching and learning

Whether you have just finished school, are studying with a UK university for the first time, or are returning to studies after some time out, it is likely that you will find studying at the University of Birmingham Dubai different to what you have experienced before.

University level study expects you to be independent and take ownership of your studies. You will take what you have been taught and apply your own perspectives, thought and research to create original work. There are many areas where there is no 'correct' answer and you will be encouraged to develop your own ideas and opinions on a topic.

Starting university is a time of transition for all students. It may be your first time studying in higher education, you may be studying a new subject, and it may be the first time you have lived independently. Naturally, it will take some time for you to settle into your studies, and we will support you through this transition.

Methods of teaching

University courses are taught in different ways, and you will likely experience a mixture of methods during your degree, depending on the discipline, the number of students involved, and how it is assessed.

You may have less face-to-face contact time with lecturers or tutors than you may have had at school or in previous studies. You will have time for independent study which you should use to prepare for your classes, review material and readings from your previous classes, prepare for assignments, or simply take time to extend your reading around your subject.

We maintain an average student to academic staff ratio of 20:1 or better across all programmes.

Your induction sessions during Welcome Week will introduce you to your programme, and you will find out more about the ways in which you will learn and how you will be assessed.


Lectures are likely to be one of the main forms of teaching that you will have. Lectures will usually be led by an academic member of staff and will focus on a particular topic. They may give a presentation during which you will take notes.

Many lectures will involve opportunities for you to discuss ideas with other students and the lecturer, or to ask questions. You may also have some activities to complete. The lecturer may ask you to complete some reading or an activity before the lecture, and ask you to share your thoughts.

Tutorials or seminars

Tutorials or seminars are usually for a smaller group of students than lectures. They are usually led by an academic member of staff, but offer an opportunity for a more informal discussion. You may be asked to complete an activity or undertake some reading, and present your ideas to the rest of the group. You will generally be expected to share your own thoughts and findings, and discuss or debate these with other students.

Laboratory or practical sessions

Many engineering courses will involve practical sessions, which may be based in a laboratory. These allow you to practice techniques and methods you have learnt about, and put your knowledge into practice in a more real-life situation. You may work in groups, pairs, or individually and your work in the laboratory may form part of your assessment.

Courses such as Education may involve a placement, where you are able to gain experience and practice what you have learnt in real life. As you progress, you may take on more responsibility in your placement, and may have chance to practice particular skills or experience particular situations. You may be asked to reflect on your experiences as part of your studies.

Virtual learning environment (Canvas)

Canvas is the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) here at the University of Birmingham, and you will use it throughout your studies to access learning resources, academic information, and more.

Canvas is similar to other VLEs that you may have used before, such as Moodle or Blackboard. It will be your main source of academic information throughout your time as a student here. You will use it throughout your time with us, on almost every module. You can use Canvas to:

  • Access your course materials online 24/7
  • Submit your assignments
  • Access grades and feedback
  • Find lecture recordings and notes
  • Access Zoom meetings for live teaching sessions and online weekly group tutorials
  • Access multimedia content and resources for learning outside of your lectures
  • To discuss and share ideas with coursemates and tutors

You will also use Canvas to access a range of other courses, such as the Digital Skills courses from the Academic Skills Centre, and English Language support from the Birmingham International Academy.

Need help with Canvas?

You can view our Canvas tutorial to help you understand how to use it, or access 24/7 Canvas support if you have any problems.

If you have any problems with your username or password, you will need to contact the IT Service Desk.

Find out more about your student username and password, and logging into University services.

Academic English

Take your Academic English to the next level with our new online learning resources.

Strong academic English skills are the key to success at university. As a student on our Dubai campus, you can access a range of innovative online learning resources on Canvas. You just need to self-enrol with your University username and password.

Assess Your Academic English (AYAE)!

Identify your strengths and weaknesses in English grammar and vocabulary and do some focused practice in academic writing with our Canvas module, 'Assess Your Academic English!'.

The module covers academic style, effective paraphrasing and summarising, synthesising from sources, understanding citation, language accuracy (sentence structure, verb agreement, tense etc), understanding lectures and seminars as well as understanding feedback from your tutors.

You can self-enrol onto 'Assess Your Academic English!'.

Access the AYAE! module

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) toolkit

For focused self-study materials, access the EAP toolkit. It contains 80+ hours of activity-based learning, including online exercises to test your language and study skills.

The EAP toolkit covers:

  • Learning skills
  • Academic writing
  • Reading and critical thinking
  • Listening and note-taking
  • Communications skills
  • Grammar for academic purposes
  • Vocabulary for academic purposes

Access the EAP toolkit

From Reading into Writing

Good writing starts with good reading. Whether you are a social scientist or a STEM scientist studying Computer Science, Economics or Mechanical Engineering, From Reading into Writing is an online course developed to help you understand what’s expected of you when you write your assignments.

The courses take you through the process of assignment writing, including topics such as understanding essay questions, reading to increase your knowledge, paraphrasing, argumentation and avoiding plagiarism.

You’ll have access to 50+ academic language and skills quizzes, discussion boards, videos, study tips and reflective tasks.

Self-enrol on one of the courses and choose how much to do and when best to do it.

Access From Reading into Writing for STEM

Access From Reading into Writing for Social Sciences

Understanding British academic culture e-guides

Explore the context and culture of university life with our specially-produced e-guides.

Working together with students and staff from many cultures is exciting, but at times it can be challenging. Learn how to analyse the influence of culture and develop strong intercultural skills for effective study.

Working together across cultures

Being a student at the University of Birmingham

Beyond your programme

Whilst at University, you will have opportunities to work with students studying on other programmes and disciplines on challenges to develop solutions to global issues. 

You will also be able to access careers support to help you explore your next steps and develop the skills you need to get there. You can access study skills support to help you do the best that you can.