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So what is Durham really like?

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Applying to Uni? Let Universities come to you. Click here to get your perfect place 20-10-2014
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    I'm a student who's hoping to get into oxbridge but realise that the odds are really against me. Many people have told me to consider Durham as an alternative. I had a quick read about it and really it did not appeal to me. It was an excellent academic institution but after doing a bit of reading it also came off as a very high work intensity uni (not that I'm looking to slack off) but also that the uni is a GCSE Nazi (apparently I'd have a better shot at Warwick), the nightlife isn't great and the people there are very uptight and stuck up.

    So I didn't give it any consideration when considering universities, which I recently realised, what completely stupid. So, from people who study there, could you please tell me what it's really like and what your experiences of it is.
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    (Original post by bob247)
    I'm a student who's hoping to get into oxbridge but realise that the odds are really against me. Many people have told me to consider Durham as an alternative. I had a quick read about it and really it did not appeal to me. It was an excellent academic institution but after doing a bit of reading it also came off as a very high work intensity uni (not that I'm looking to slack off)
    I don't believe the work intensity is significantly different to that of similar universities.

    but also that the uni is a GCSE Nazi (apparently I'd have a better shot at Warwick),
    I'm not sure what the current official position is, but Durham does have that reputation. What are your GCSEs? Even if they are picky about your subject, not every successful applicant has the best possible grades.

    the nightlife isn't great
    Durham's nightlife is undoubtedly poor compared with similar unis, though you can go to Newcastle pretty easily if you want to. Some people find this a problem, most don't.

    and the people there are very uptight and stuck up.
    If you honestly think you can generalise 14000 students in that way, I suggest reevaluating your opinions.

    All universities have some people who are uptight and stuck up. Maybe Durham has more than the average, I don't know - it isn't like anyone has ever measured it. Luckily, it also has in common with other universities plenty of people who don't have those qualities.


    So I didn't give it any consideration when considering universities, which I recently realised, what completely stupid. So, from people who study there, could you please tell me what it's really like and what your experiences of it is.
    Durham as a city is fantastic. It's very picturesque.

    The college system is very good, for all the reasons usually stated that are easy to find.

    The nightlife isn't particularly good. That is to say, there aren't many clubs, but there are a lot of nice pubs and the city isn't completely devoid of bars/clubs etc. Somehow, we survive.

    Other than that, read the information that is readily available all over the place. You aren't the first person to ask this question
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    (Original post by bob247)
    I'm a student who's hoping to get into oxbridge but realise that the odds are really against me. Many people have told me to consider Durham as an alternative. I had a quick read about it and really it did not appeal to me. It was an excellent academic institution but after doing a bit of reading it also came off as a very high work intensity uni (not that I'm looking to slack off) but also that the uni is a GCSE Nazi (apparently I'd have a better shot at Warwick), the nightlife isn't great and the people there are very uptight and stuck up.

    So I didn't give it any consideration when considering universities, which I recently realised, what completely stupid. So, from people who study there, could you please tell me what it's really like and what your experiences of it is.
    The work intensity... meh. Not really. At least in first year (and first term), I've found the workload to be really small. What with first term mostly being formative things that don't count toward your mark in a year that doesn't count toward your degree. Sure, some people do do a lot of work and get stressed out about it, but I'm a massive procrastinator and I get by just fine. :P You'll find people at Durham who spend all day, every day at the library and people who never open a book - and the healthy folk in between.

    Don't know about the GCSE thing, but I quite like the nightlife. The thing is, Durham isn't a city. It may officially be defined as one but that's just because of the cathedral. And because it isn't really a city, it doesn't have very many clubs and things - but people still find a way to have fun. A lot goes on in colleges, and I for one like going to the clubs that we do have. People who don't go here keep saying that Durham is boring, but I'm never bored. But Newcastle isn't very far away - there's a 10 minute train there and a night bus back (or the first train is at 4:30 if you stay out late). So if you want more of a nightlife, it really isn't difficult to go there.

    And I haven't really met many people who are uptight and stuck up... at least not more than you'd meet anywhere else. Sure, there'll be some of them, but not disproportionately many to anywhere else, I don't think. Durham is, however, predominantly white, southern and middle class - though you can find exceptions.

    I love Durham. I love the place, I love the college system, I love the people I've met here. It might not be the best for everyone - if you prefer big cities or want a lot of diversity, it won't be. But for me, at least, it's absolutely perfect.
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    (Original post by Heranje)
    The work intensity... meh. Not really. At least in first year (and first term), I've found the workload to be really small. What with first term mostly being formative things that don't count toward your mark in a year that doesn't count toward your degree. Sure, some people do do a lot of work and get stressed out about it, but I'm a massive procrastinator and I get by just fine. :P You'll find people at Durham who spend all day, every day at the library and people who never open a book - and the healthy folk in between.

    Don't know about the GCSE thing, but I quite like the nightlife. The thing is, Durham isn't a city. It may officially be defined as one but that's just because of the cathedral. And because it isn't really a city, it doesn't have very many clubs and things - but people still find a way to have fun. A lot goes on in colleges, and I for one like going to the clubs that we do have. People who don't go here keep saying that Durham is boring, but I'm never bored. But Newcastle isn't very far away - there's a 10 minute train there and a night bus back (or the first train is at 4:30 if you stay out late). So if you want more of a nightlife, it really isn't difficult to go there.

    And I haven't really met many people who are uptight and stuck up... at least not more than you'd meet anywhere else. Sure, there'll be some of them, but not disproportionately many to anywhere else, I don't think. Durham is, however, predominantly white, southern and middle class - though you can find exceptions.

    I love Durham. I love the place, I love the college system, I love the people I've met here. It might not be the best for everyone - if you prefer big cities or want a lot of diversity, it won't be. But for me, at least, it's absolutely perfect.
    Pretty much everywhere in England is South of Durham :P
    Definitely agree with your post though. Terms are only 9 weeks long, and there are 4 clubs + 2 nights a week in the student union + bi-weekly nights like Fishtank, Full Collapse, etc... it's very easy to go out 5 nights a week to a different place (you could probably go out to a different club/night 7 days a week if you wanted to).
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    (Original post by Heranje)
    The work intensity... meh. Not really. At least in first year (and first term), I've found the workload to be really small. What with first term mostly being formative things that don't count toward your mark in a year that doesn't count toward your degree. Sure, some people do do a lot of work and get stressed out about it, but I'm a massive procrastinator and I get by just fine. :P You'll find people at Durham who spend all day, every day at the library and people who never open a book - and the healthy folk in between.

    Don't know about the GCSE thing, but I quite like the nightlife. The thing is, Durham isn't a city. It may officially be defined as one but that's just because of the cathedral. And because it isn't really a city, it doesn't have very many clubs and things - but people still find a way to have fun. A lot goes on in colleges, and I for one like going to the clubs that we do have. People who don't go here keep saying that Durham is boring, but I'm never bored. But Newcastle isn't very far away - there's a 10 minute train there and a night bus back (or the first train is at 4:30 if you stay out late). So if you want more of a nightlife, it really isn't difficult to go there.

    And I haven't really met many people who are uptight and stuck up... at least not more than you'd meet anywhere else. Sure, there'll be some of them, but not disproportionately many to anywhere else, I don't think. Durham is, however, predominantly white, southern and middle class - though you can find exceptions.

    I love Durham. I love the place, I love the college system, I love the people I've met here. It might not be the best for everyone - if you prefer big cities or want a lot of diversity, it won't be. But for me, at least, it's absolutely perfect.
    Is it not very diverse then? :/ I mean a 15k student body isn't small...
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    (Original post by bob247)
    Is it not very diverse then? :/ I mean a 15k student body isn't small...
    Not particularly. I'm not from the UK so I can't really judge, but I hear from English friends that they feel there's a disproportionate number of middle class people compared to other places, and it certainly is very white. But there is variation if you look for it. As an international student, I've got friends from pretty much every continent, with loads of different ethnicities and religious backgrounds. And among English students, I've got friends from state schools, public schools and boarding schools - people who clearly come from well-off families and people who don't, people who are of "British" ethnicity and people who aren't. The state school students do seem to feel like they're in the minority, though I don't get the sense that the others exclude or look down on them, so much as - they just don't have the same way of looking at everything (such as spending, politics, experiences in school). And really, the homogenous nature of the place isn't really a problem, at least not to me. It's something you might notice and go "hey, that's funny, everyone in this room is x." but in other aspects it's not as noticeable.
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    (Original post by bob247)
    Is it not very diverse then? :/ I mean a 15k student body isn't small...
    Not particularly. I'm not from the UK so I can't really judge, but I hear from English friends that they feel there's a disproportionate number of middle class people compared to other places, and it certainly is very white. But there is variation if you look for it. As an international student, I've got friends from pretty much every continent, with loads of different ethnicities and religious backgrounds. And among English students, I've got friends from state schools, public schools and boarding schools - people who clearly come from well-off families and people who don't, people who are of "British" ethnicity and people who aren't. The state school students do seem to feel like they're in the minority, though I don't get the sense that the others exclude or look down on them, so much as - they just don't have the same way of looking at everything (such as spending, politics, experiences in school). And really, the homogenous nature of the place isn't really a problem, at least not to me. It's something you might notice and go "hey, that's funny, everyone in this room is x." but in other aspects it's not as noticeable.
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    I agree durham are GCSE nazi's. They very quickly gave me a rejection (probably because of a quick look at my average GCSE's). That said it all worked out fine because I prefered st andrews anyway.
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    (Original post by limetang)
    I agree durham are GCSE nazi's. They very quickly gave me a rejection (probably because of a quick look at my average GCSE's). That said it all worked out fine because I prefered st andrews anyway.
    So you're just assuming your rejection was down to your gcses because you've heard Durham use GCSEs to make their decisions more than other unis? :confused:

    If you email them you'll get proper feedback so you won't have to guess why you were rejected!

    The only departments which had gcse requirements are history (who now don't), and economics (who also now don't).

    Obviously all the courses are very competitive - any course asking for AAA will have 100s or 1000s of applicants applying, all with As and A*s predicted at A level, great personal statements, and very good gcses. So someone with lower gcse grades may not match up to the rest of the competition. However, having a brilliant PS/A-level grades/etc can definitely make up for that - there are a lot of people on this forum who have offers without having anywhere near straight A*s, or even straight As, at gcse. If they like you, they're not going to reject you just because you haven't got a certain gcse score!
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    (Original post by angelmxxx)
    So you're just assuming your rejection was down to your gcses because you've heard Durham use GCSEs to make their decisions more than other unis? :confused:

    If you email them you'll get proper feedback so you won't have to guess why you were rejected!

    The only departments which had gcse requirements are history (who now don't), and economics (who also now don't).

    Obviously all the courses are very competitive - any course asking for AAA will have 100s or 1000s of applicants applying, all with As and A*s predicted at A level, great personal statements, and very good gcses. So someone with lower gcse grades may not match up to the rest of the competition. However, having a brilliant PS/A-level grades/etc can definitely make up for that - there are a lot of people on this forum who have offers without having anywhere near straight A*s, or even straight As, at gcse. If they like you, they're not going to reject you just because you haven't got a certain gcse score!
    I'd barely sent off my application and they rejected me. And I know it wasnt a bad application (I got an offer from st andrews it's hardly a bad university) it was clear they had a screening system in place saw my average GCSE grades and gave me a rejection on the spot.
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    (Original post by limetang)
    I'd barely sent off my application and they rejected me. And I know it wasnt a bad application (I got an offer from st andrews it's hardly a bad university) it was clear they had a screening system in place saw my average GCSE grades and gave me a rejection on the spot.
    Do your predicted A levels comply with "Offers for 2011 entry will be AAA in Chemistry, Mathematics and a third A level."?
    Because if not I imagine that'll be why you were rejected.

    Chemistry is not a subject that has ever taken notice of GCSEs, but it is a subject that's quite popular, so they clearly decided there was something about your application that they didn't like.

    The great Durham GCSE myth is something that has only ever applied to certain subjects.
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    (Original post by limetang)
    I'd barely sent off my application and they rejected me. And I know it wasnt a bad application (I got an offer from st andrews it's hardly a bad university) it was clear they had a screening system in place saw my average GCSE grades and gave me a rejection on the spot.

    If St Andrews are offering AAB then it's probably less competitive. You shouldn't just assume it's because of your gcses! Maybe they knew from the applications they'd had so far that enough people were predicted A*s that they'd cut AAA people initially, or people who only had 2 science A levels. You really can't tell!

    What were your predictions and gcse grades? I know people who got in last year with nowhere near straight As/A*s so unless you have Bs and Cs then I really don't see how you can assume stuff.
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    (Original post by angelmxxx)
    If St Andrews are offering AAB then it's probably less competitive. You shouldn't just assume it's because of your gcses! Maybe they knew from the applications they'd had so far that enough people were predicted A*s that they'd cut AAA people initially, or people who only had 2 science A levels. You really can't tell!

    What were your predictions and gcse grades? I know people who got in last year with nowhere near straight As/A*s so unless you have Bs and Cs then I really don't see how you can assume stuff.
    AAAA AS and A*AA A2 prediction in Chem Maths and Physics.
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    (Original post by angelmxxx)
    If St Andrews are offering AAB then it's probably less competitive. You shouldn't just assume it's because of your gcses! Maybe they knew from the applications they'd had so far that enough people were predicted A*s that they'd cut AAA people initially, or people who only had 2 science A levels. You really can't tell!

    What were your predictions and gcse grades? I know people who got in last year with nowhere near straight As/A*s so unless you have Bs and Cs then I really don't see how you can assume stuff.
    AAB for First year entry (of 5 years) AAA for second year entry, so they are strictly speaking on a par as if you get AAB you will have to do an extra year.

    GCSE's were A*A*ABBBBBB
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    (Original post by bob247)
    I'm a student who's hoping to get into oxbridge but realise that the odds are really against me. Many people have told me to consider Durham as an alternative. I had a quick read about it and really it did not appeal to me. It was an excellent academic institution but after doing a bit of reading it also came off as a very high work intensity uni (not that I'm looking to slack off) but also that the uni is a GCSE Nazi (apparently I'd have a better shot at Warwick), the nightlife isn't great and the people there are very uptight and stuck up.

    So I didn't give it any consideration when considering universities, which I recently realised, what completely stupid. So, from people who study there, could you please tell me what it's really like and what your experiences of it is.
    High work rate - probably. The terms aren't much longer than Oxbridge's.

    Excellent academic institution - yes

    GCSE Nazi - don't think it is as bad as it used to be, but they still like them lots

    Nightlife - Admittedly, Durham is a rather small city (it's basically a town with a cathedral) so the nightlife isn't great.

    People - Town/gown relationship isn't great. Durham uni students have a bit of a bad rep at times. Plenty of lovely, nice people there though. It is rather posh, mind...
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    (Original post by limetang)
    AAB for First year entry (of 5 years) AAA for second year entry, so they are strictly speaking on a par as if you get AAB you will have to do an extra year.

    GCSE's were A*A*ABBBBBB
    That's definitely not enough for them to auto-reject you (unless they had a freak year and everyone who applied had 10 A*s....and I'd bet money that that didn't happen!)

    It was probably something in your PS or reference... they'll definitely be able to tell you if you email them. Unless none of your gcses is English or something but if they're the standard maths, english, science and others then I definitely suggest you ask for feedback if you want to know why you were rejected.
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    (Original post by ilickbatteries)
    High work rate - probably. The terms aren't much longer than Oxbridge's.

    Excellent academic institution - yes

    GCSE Nazi - don't think it is as bad as it used to be, but they still like them lots

    Nightlife - Admittedly, Durham is a rather small city (it's basically a town with a cathedral) so the nightlife isn't great.

    People - Town/gown relationship isn't great. Durham uni students have a bit of a bad rep at times. Plenty of lovely, nice people there though. It is rather posh, mind...
    There are some "posh" people everywhere. If you're defining posh as people who pronounce the letters t and h in them then yes, you'd probably say Durham students are posh. But if you're meaning posh as holiday on a yacht every year, then you're definitely wrong! Yes there are more middle class students than the average uni - but that's the same for all top 30 unis. People whose parents don't have loads of money are hardly going to wear t shirts advertising that fact - how can you tell who's posh and who isn't when someone with a very low household income would receive £7500 a year grants/loans and therefore have more money than the majority of other students?
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    (Original post by angelmxxx)
    That's definitely not enough for them to auto-reject you (unless they had a freak year and everyone who applied had 10 A*s....and I'd bet money that that didn't happen!)

    It was probably something in your PS or reference... they'll definitely be able to tell you if you email them. Unless none of your gcses is English or something but if they're the standard maths, english, science and others then I definitely suggest you ask for feedback if you want to know why you were rejected.
    I might do that. That said though I dont think there was anything wrong with my PS or references, as other universities were very quick to accept me.
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    (Original post by limetang)
    I'd barely sent off my application and they rejected me. And I know it wasnt a bad application (I got an offer from st andrews it's hardly a bad university) it was clear they had a screening system in place saw my average GCSE grades and gave me a rejection on the spot.
    I have awful GCSEs compared to you, and they accpeted me with A*AAAAAABBC.


    And OP, you want to apply to Oxbridge yet you worry about Durham being high workload intensity and snobby? Maybe you should rethink Oxbridge, because they don't exactly let you slack off there...
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    (Original post by limetang)
    I might do that. That said though I dont think there was anything wrong with my PS or references, as other universities were very quick to accept me.
    Different unis want different things - eg Oxbridge don't care about extra-curriculars, but Durham do want you to do some sort of activity outside lessons.

    It may have been your gcses, they obviously do use them to judge candidates by, but not in an 'auto-reject with less than 5 A*s' way. Perhaps the rest of your application was borderline and you just didn't have any element which tipped the balance?

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