Being a traditional American student, these last couple of years have been my first exposure to the format and style of the British system of research, specifically the nature of biblical studies and theology as a discipline. What I have discovered, with much delight, is that the British system seems to be much, much more conversational in its approach when compared to the work being conducted on our side of the pond. I had the blessing to experience a particularly good M.A. program with Craig Blomberg (Denver Seminary), but found that much of the atmosphere among other students was adversarial rather than accommodating. In other words, it seems that everyone constantly had something to prove - to the faculty, to other students, to themselves - which inevitably gave them a huge chip on their shoulders.
Now there were those of us who chose not to associate with such behavior, but I confess that I entered into my doctoral studies with the fear that this is the way such things go. Perhaps around universities (and seminaries!) in the United States this goes on much more . . . and also within conferences such as SBL, but not so much in the ongoing discussion happening around the tables of British schools. There seems to be more of a discussion-oriented atmosphere of mutual corroboration rather than a top down dictation. And perhaps this is coloring the face of biblical studies across the board?
There have been some significant exceptions among the American scholars, and I am grateful to be getting to know a few of them. But the guise of research is, for the most part, identifiable and distinct in this regard - who has time for you as a student and who walks around waiting for you to impress them? If I charted out my encounters here I think you could anticipate the results. Hopefully the movement of conversation will extend back to the American biblical research culture.