I'm a third year Physics and Mathematics student, and over the years, I've done lots of self-studies, and what I've realised is that, compared to what I learn & experience in my self-studies, the I barely learn anything from the lectures that I'm attending my departments (at least this is true for %95 of them).

However, the thing is, during the semester, there are lots of midterms, homeworks, and lectures to attend etc.. Hence, for most of the time, even though I've time, I cannot find any motivation to continue to study to the subjects that I'm self-studying. Which is not the case in the summer and in the winter breaks; at those times, I generally do not have any problem about the motivation, and I study with quite normally & happily.

Seeing that professors also do most of their research during the holiday seasons as I do (since during the semester, there are lots of teaching to be done, exams to be grade etc.), is such a lack of motivation general in the academia ?

I think if there was no courses, during a whole semester, I would learn more things & deal with more complicated problems, which would require me to think more; however, right now, the things that I have learn are quite boring things (which honestly if you just attend the lecture and listen, you can do it), but these requirements are kinda of pushing me away from studying, as if I'm doing this just because I have to, and not because I think this is interesting.

  • 1
    Then it is just a yes-no question and so not useful here. Think a bit more about what you really want.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 12:36

2 Answers 2


I do think that your perception is shared by many students, especially when they are passionate about their field of study. I can think of several undergraduate students (former colleagues or under my supervision) who fit your description, across several countries. I would not be surprised to learn that this perception is much less frequent among graduate students, because curricula and self-interests tend to align with each other over time.

At the undergraduate level, self-motivation is wholesome and certainly improves your chances for academic success. Nevertheless, curricula are designed by professors who do know best. Even when a class seems dull or irrelevant, the decision to include it in the academic requirements for your degree is the result of a consensus selection made by your professors. They are in a better position than you are to weight-in certain factors, such as the difficulty of the material or its usefulness as a foundation for more advanced and exciting stuff. TL;DR: Not many people enjoy studying pendulum problems. Thankfully, some trust their instructor at this stage and access broader horizons as a reward.

Not finding the time or peace of mind necessary for self-studying is a sign that the expectations of your curriculum are catching up with your work capacity. Then you are making the right choice of prioritizing the mandatory coursework.


The University has had multiple competing social functions during its history. Let us consider three functions: the regulation of undergraduates, the regulation of scholars, and the community of scholarship. I will suggest that the regulatory type functions are at odds with the community functions.

Universities regulate undergraduates. Whether fractious potential clerics, or aristocratic and bourgeois children being “finished,” on incipient wage slaves being burdened with massive debt the lecture system chastises students with irrelevancies. In the current era many of the tools of pedagogical reform have been turned into chains. Progressive assessment is actually merely periodic summary assessment. Aims and methods statements duplicate the bland argument from authority of outdated longhand written lecture notes. Tutorials are lecture sized. This is make work, and labour discipline. For the scholars as much as the students. Only the rule of dons has been replaced with the rule of management mentality. For student and scholar coursework soaks up the year with things known to be useless. Think of all that unread feedback on essays submitted in week 3 to meet a “progressive assessment prior to course drop date” requirement?

In contrast the community of scholars has some problems. It is undisciplined and unruly. You might get a Luther whose theology is magisterial, the implications of which are 200 years of war. Disciplining this community is pretty important. Consider how output and quality metrics are used as labour discipline, effectively widget counting, rather than informing meta-analysis of research programme success or failure? Maybe review articles are now quoting impact factors, but I doubt it for my field. Impact is used to regulate who gets to be/remain a scholar. This is reasonably new, because you could always count student enrolment and use it to demand money from the outside world, but now that paper volume and cites are counted for money, the regulation of scholars intrudes more deeply into the non-teaching periods.

So while it was true in the past that the real work was done outside of teaching, it is less true now, as peer and disciplinary regulation of communities of scholars has commodified research and brought managerial and close scrutiny to this area of work.

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