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Bristol or Durham for law?

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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 have got offers from Durham Bristol and Exeter - while I shall probably put Exeter as my insurance, I need to decide between the former two as to which to put as my firm choice. This is how I see it:

    Bristol:

    Pros: Location and surroundings are very nice, facilities seem very good, the Wills Memorial building where Law department is housed seems very nice. The grades are AAA. Accommodation seems nice, especially catered halls (much like Durham's colleges), albeit slightly far out.

    Cons: Bristol seems to be moving down league tables and there seems to be a general consensus that departments such as law are not how they once were. Not sure how much truth there is in this? Compared to Durham and Exeter, both of which have been recently added to the Russell Group and appear to be on the up. Then again, whenever I tell anyone I've got an offer from Bristol, they seem very impressed, and it seems Bristol are quite snooty when giving out offers.

    Durham:

    Pros: Collegiate system seems to be very good and supportive, easy to get to know people. Accommodation sorted in college, as is food - all catered. Brand new law school department building opening by science area. Academic wise, Durham seems very good and on the up in league tables and general performance.

    Cons: Grades are A*AA which might/will be hard to achieve. Location! Very far north and perhaps a culture shock having lived always in the south east? But then again, I am told there are quite a few posh types and a lot of the student body comes from down south, so probably not an issue. But the surrounding area is no where near as nice as Bristol. Then again, Durham itself is small and compact and whilst areas outside of Durham itself are horrible, its compactness as a city makes up for its northern location.

    Basically, for me, Durham wins on academic position/perception and the fact it is a collegiate university but not keen on it being so far north and how I would adapt to that/whether culture is very different. Bristol trumps on location and buildings, but my only concern is whether academically it is declining..as opposed to Durham and Exeter, both of which seem to be improving in recent years.

    Has Bristol had its time at the top and will decline now? If I had Durham's academics and college system in Bristol's location and buildings, it would be perfect. Suppose I shall have to sacrifice on something. Ultimately though, I think the type of people who attend both are very similar, which probably matters more than all the other element.

    Hopefully this is useful for others considering and any help/advice or other opinions would be much appreciated.
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    I'm in a horribly similar situation- I've received offers from both Bristol and Durham to study History but I too live in the South East and am not sure how I would feel about living in Durham.

    Like you said, the location of Bristol and the opportunities/jobs that come with a big city make me inclined to put it as my first choice, yet I feel like I am throwing away prestige by not putting Durham and it's traditions first- it's annoying as hell.

    The advice I seem to be getting from everyone is to go with the place that you like the most- at the end of the day you will be spending 3/4 years there, and the differences in league table positions will not hinder job prospects too much.

    It just comes down to what you prefer in the end of the day- Despite it's worst club reputation, I hardly think people would find Durham boring- wherever students go, a social life will follow and there are 17,000 students there.

    However if you feel a bit more anti social to the whole community vibe and want to live in a bigger city then obviously Bristol is a better choice to make- in the end of the day though, no one can tell you
    Hope it goes well
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    If it helps my, Northern, friend who goes to Durham describes it eloquently as 'full of f***ing Southerners' so I don't think you need to worry about turning up to the Billy Elliott set with the cast of Geordie Shore all around.

    Also, the areas of Northumberland and, to the South, the Dales near Durham are some of the most beautiful countryside in the country, there's a reason 5 national parks are so close to each other up North

    At the uni at least the culture will not be very different, if you venture into the former mining villages around it you might notice a difference, but there is no need for you to do so. Unis have their own culture which are more similar to each other, from Exeter to Durham, than they are to the surrounding areas.

    Don't worry too much about a slight decline in league table positions of Bristol, in terms of law firms at least it seems perceptions turn at roughly the same speed as an oil tanker.

    Just go for where you think you'll feel more comfortable and enjoy yourself.
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    (Original post by georget1)
    I have got offers from Durham Bristol and Exeter - while I shall probably put Exeter as my insurance, I need to decide between the former two as to which to put as my firm choice. This is how I see it:

    Bristol:

    Pros: Location and surroundings are very nice, facilities seem very good, the Wills Memorial building where Law department is housed seems very nice. The grades are AAA. Accommodation seems nice, especially catered halls (much like Durham's colleges), albeit slightly far out.

    Cons: Bristol seems to be moving down league tables and there seems to be a general consensus that departments such as law are not how they once were. Not sure how much truth there is in this? Compared to Durham and Exeter, both of which have been recently added to the Russell Group and appear to be on the up. Then again, whenever I tell anyone I've got an offer from Bristol, they seem very impressed, and it seems Bristol are quite snooty when giving out offers.

    Durham:

    Pros: Collegiate system seems to be very good and supportive, easy to get to know people. Accommodation sorted in college, as is food - all catered. Brand new law school department building opening by science area. Academic wise, Durham seems very good and on the up in league tables and general performance.

    Cons: Grades are A*AA which might/will be hard to achieve. Location! Very far north and perhaps a culture shock having lived always in the south east? But then again, I am told there are quite a few posh types and a lot of the student body comes from down south, so probably not an issue. But the surrounding area is no where near as nice as Bristol. Then again, Durham itself is small and compact and whilst areas outside of Durham itself are horrible, its compactness as a city makes up for its northern location.

    Basically, for me, Durham wins on academic position/perception and the fact it is a collegiate university but not keen on it being so far north and how I would adapt to that/whether culture is very different. Bristol trumps on location and buildings, but my only concern is whether academically it is declining..as opposed to Durham and Exeter, both of which seem to be improving in recent years.

    Has Bristol had its time at the top and will decline now? If I had Durham's academics and college system in Bristol's location and buildings, it would be perfect. Suppose I shall have to sacrifice on something. Ultimately though, I think the type of people who attend both are very similar, which probably matters more than all the other element.

    Hopefully this is useful for others considering and any help/advice or other opinions would be much appreciated.
    Do you want to live in a (relatively) bustling city in the south or a small, quiet one up north? I think that's the biggest difference.

    As for academics, you need to ask why it matters to you. If it's for employment's sake, firms don't differentiate between Durham and Bristol. If it's for some intangible sense of pride, different matter entirely.
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    (Original post by georget1)
    I have got offers from Durham Bristol and Exeter - while I shall probably put Exeter as my insurance, I need to decide between the former two as to which to put as my firm choice. This is how I see it:

    Bristol:

    Pros: Location and surroundings are very nice, facilities seem very good, the Wills Memorial building where Law department is housed seems very nice. The grades are AAA. Accommodation seems nice, especially catered halls (much like Durham's colleges), albeit slightly far out.

    Cons: Bristol seems to be moving down league tables and there seems to be a general consensus that departments such as law are not how they once were. Not sure how much truth there is in this? Compared to Durham and Exeter, both of which have been recently added to the Russell Group and appear to be on the up. Then again, whenever I tell anyone I've got an offer from Bristol, they seem very impressed, and it seems Bristol are quite snooty when giving out offers.

    Durham:

    Pros: Collegiate system seems to be very good and supportive, easy to get to know people. Accommodation sorted in college, as is food - all catered. Brand new law school department building opening by science area. Academic wise, Durham seems very good and on the up in league tables and general performance.

    Cons: Grades are A*AA which might/will be hard to achieve. Location! Very far north and perhaps a culture shock having lived always in the south east? But then again, I am told there are quite a few posh types and a lot of the student body comes from down south, so probably not an issue. But the surrounding area is no where near as nice as Bristol. Then again, Durham itself is small and compact and whilst areas outside of Durham itself are horrible, its compactness as a city makes up for its northern location.

    Basically, for me, Durham wins on academic position/perception and the fact it is a collegiate university but not keen on it being so far north and how I would adapt to that/whether culture is very different. Bristol trumps on location and buildings, but my only concern is whether academically it is declining..as opposed to Durham and Exeter, both of which seem to be improving in recent years.

    Has Bristol had its time at the top and will decline now? If I had Durham's academics and college system in Bristol's location and buildings, it would be perfect. Suppose I shall have to sacrifice on something. Ultimately though, I think the type of people who attend both are very similar, which probably matters more than all the other element.

    Hopefully this is useful for others considering and any help/advice or other opinions would be much appreciated.
    Personally I would go to Durham. Nice collegiate system, nice student town. The "culture" will be pretty much the same as at most Russell Group universities - rather middle class. I believe nulli tertius was recently talking about Bristol in some kind of negative light with regard to academic facilities or something. Perhaps he has something to say on the issue?

    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    ...
    All that said, there isn't much in it IMO. Visit both and go to the one you prefer.
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    (Original post by michael321)
    I believe nulli tertius was recently talking about Bristol in some kind of negative light with regard to academic facilities or something. Perhaps he has something to say on the issue?


    Bristol is the one that always gets it in the neck for low contact hours. I have no reason to believe that those hours are lower than elsewhere, but Bristol's students seem to moan the most.

    Bristol itself says its law library is inadequate and has been fundraising for it for several years.

    Applications to Bristol for law have been falling for several years.

    In many ways Bristol may now represent the best "value" at the top end of the legal market as being the least challenging to get in.
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    Durham's bloody beautiful... Dunno what horrible areas you're talking about tbh.
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    Congratulations on getting offers for both

    In terms of academics and prestige for law firms, tbh, I really don't think there's that much difference between the two.

    Yes, Durham is more traditional (and I'm assuming you've gotten into one of the more traditional colleges), and for that reason alone, I'm the sort of person who might be tempted to firm it. However, I think that for me, Durham seems like it's just much too small a city, and I've been led to believe there is far less going on than in Bristol, which I believe is sort of famous for it's cultural opportunities. Also, if it's tradition you're looking for, Bristol does have a number of rather traditional halls, notably Wills Hall.

    Personally, although the university is pretty great, I didn't apply for Durham because I don't believe I would have enjoyed it as much as other places due to the types of people I'm told go there (too many 'rah' types than I think I could handle) and particularly things I've heard about the limitations of things going on in the city. However, that will be totally dependent on you as an individual.

    It might interest you to know (if you're concerned about league tables) that Bristol is apparently ranked 30th in the world league table, whilst Durham is only 95th. Source: http://www.topuniversities.com/unive...gs/2011?page=1 You get to be in a special top 30 group if it's in the top 30 .

    Another thing you might like to consider is that there will be more, bigger law firms in Bristol than there will be in Durham, simply because it's a bigger city, which apparently really like to snap up Bristol law students, though probably a rather insignificant issue.

    I also read somewhere that some scientists did research involving smiling at people in the street and seeing what percentage smiled back, and it apparently showed that Bristolians are the happiest people in the world :L

    I have firmed Bristol for law, and so may be presenting a rather biased viewpoint, but I would say go Bristol. We have a facebook page! :L
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    First post :-)

    I’m graduating from Bristol this summer. I’ve been a long time reader of TSR and thought I’d join and add my opinions as from reading these forums for a while you sometimes get the impression some are less than critical of their own departments! I’ll try and be as honest as I can. I’ve kept my head down this year (It is pretty embarrassing how little I have been out tbh…) and should hopefully get a 2.1 now after a fairly mediocre second year.

    PROS:

    1) If you are going down the TC route Bristol is a good name for the CV. The law firms recruit heavily and there is a load of extracurricular stuff to do (mooting...debating) in the law dept. The Law department has a pretty decent reputation within the legal sphere.

    2) Bristol as a city is great in terms of nightlife. Perhaps something you won’t get at Durham?

    3) I liked the strong hall culture which might have had something to do with most halls being in Stoke Bishop which is quite a distance from Wills Memorial. The walk belongs in the pro column though as it keeps you fit :-)

    CONS:

    1) Despite a good attendance record and trying to make use of office hours I didn’t really feel anyone in the department knew me by name. I’ve generally felt quite anonymous at times during the past three years especially during deadlines periods.

    2) Some of the “teaching” has left a little to be desired ( EU! Jurisprudence! ). General point here is don’t expect much in the way of help from the department in return for your (soon to be) 9k fees. In contrast to other posts here I have found the library at least fairly well stocked.

    3) I've found the department and the uni more generally a little – I’m struggling for the right word – stuffy? Even as a pretty small c conservative, former grammar school boy there are times I’ve felt a little out of place socially.


    All in all I've made some great friends here and should get my 2.1 (hope this isn't hubris!) but I wouldn't take too much notice of those who talk of Bristol law's department with an almost hushed reverence.

    I can answer anything specific if you quote me.
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    (Original post by Spectre1039)
    In contrast to other posts here I have found the library at least fairly well stocked.
    I should say my comments about the library are not based on any personal experience. Although I have been in many law libraries, Bristol's is not one of them. My comments are based on this:-

    http://www.bris.ac.uk/centenarycampa...w-library.html
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    (Original post by Spectre1039)
    First post :-)

    I’m graduating from Bristol this summer. I’ve been a long time reader of TSR and thought I’d join and add my opinions as from reading these forums for a while you sometimes get the impression some are less than critical of their own departments! I’ll try and be as honest as I can. I’ve kept my head down this year (It is pretty embarrassing how little I have been out tbh…) and should hopefully get a 2.1 now after a fairly mediocre second year.

    PROS:

    1) If you are going down the TC route Bristol is a good name for the CV. The law firms recruit heavily and there is a load of extracurricular stuff to do (mooting...debating) in the law dept. The Law department has a pretty decent reputation within the legal sphere.

    2) Bristol as a city is great in terms of nightlife. Perhaps something you won’t get at Durham?

    3) I liked the strong hall culture which might have had something to do with most halls being in Stoke Bishop which is quite a distance from Wills Memorial. The walk belongs in the pro column though as it keeps you fit :-)

    CONS:

    1) Despite a good attendance record and trying to make use of office hours I didn’t really feel anyone in the department knew me by name. I’ve generally felt quite anonymous at times during the past three years especially during deadlines periods.

    2) Some of the “teaching” has left a little to be desired ( EU! Jurisprudence! ). General point here is don’t expect much in the way of help from the department in return for your (soon to be) 9k fees. In contrast to other posts here I have found the library at least fairly well stocked.

    3) I've found the department and the uni more generally a little – I’m struggling for the right word – stuffy? Even as a pretty small c conservative, former grammar school boy there are times I’ve felt a little out of place socially.


    All in all I've made some great friends here and should get my 2.1 (hope this isn't hubris!) but I wouldn't take too much notice of those who talk of Bristol law's department with an almost hushed reverence.

    I can answer anything specific if you quote me.
    What sets first class law students apart from 2:1s at Bristol?
    I'm aware that Bristol does not use a bell-curve system so the first class is really hard to get?
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    Bristol is the one that always gets it in the neck for low contact hours. I have no reason to believe that those hours are lower than elsewhere, but Bristol's students seem to moan the most.

    Bristol itself says its law library is inadequate and has been fundraising for it for several years.

    Applications to Bristol for law have been falling for several years.

    In many ways Bristol may now represent the best "value" at the top end of the legal market as being the least challenging to get in.
    FYI, fundraising is now complete. They've amassed just under a million quid for it and work begins in about a month's time.
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    (Original post by volante)
    What sets first class law students apart from 2:1s at Bristol?
    I'm aware that Bristol does not use a bell-curve system so the first class is really hard to get?
    Your ability to bring in the finer details of cases into your arguments (obiter comments/discrepancies between the reasoning of different judges) as well as an ability to critically evaluate the law.
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    (Original post by TurboCretin)
    FYI, fundraising is now complete. They've amassed just under a million quid for it and work begins in about a month's time.
    Noted

    (Presumably the fact that it is £1M rather than £2.5M means no gold taps in the loos)
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    Noted

    (Presumably the fact that it is £1M rather than £2.5M means no gold taps in the loos)
    The plans relating to the library are separate from those for developing the mooting court. Nothing was mentioned in the library refurb meeting about the mock court. Presumably this means that £1m was the target for the library part and they chose to start work on that as soon as they had the requisite funds.
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    (Original post by TurboCretin)
    The plans relating to the library are separate from those for developing the mooting court. Nothing was mentioned in the library refurb meeting about the mock court. Presumably this means that £1m was the target for the library part and they chose to start work on that as soon as they had the requisite funds.
    I suspect build costs have also fallen since the appeal was announced due to the recession and the gold taps are probably only half a joke. It is usually possible to to take a blue pencil to most projects and trim out the fat from the original wish list.

    I do wonder about building all these moot courts when there are so many real court rooms going out of use and becoming available.

    Nottingham is currently raising money to build a moot court when the Galleries of Justice Museum has the old County Assize Courts available for hire and the City Council is looking for a new use for the old Nottingham Quarter Sessions and Magistrates Courts at the Guildhall.
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    (Original post by georget1)
    Durham:

    Pros: Collegiate system seems to be very good and supportive, easy to get to know people. Accommodation sorted in college, as is food - all catered. Brand new law school department building opening by science area. Academic wise, Durham seems very good and on the up in league tables and general performance.

    Cons: Grades are A*AA which might/will be hard to achieve. Location! Very far north and perhaps a culture shock having lived always in the south east? But then again, I am told there are quite a few posh types and a lot of the student body comes from down south, so probably not an issue. But the surrounding area is no where near as nice as Bristol. Then again, Durham itself is small and compact and whilst areas outside of Durham itself are horrible, its compactness as a city makes up for its northern location.
    Erm, why is the area surrounding Durham horrible?! :confused: It is very rural, with lots of open fields, small sections of forests [protected to stop them from being destroyed], lots of little villages with their own history and character etc. My placements have been in two beautiful little villages, with great views and lots of greenery. How can that be bad? If you are thinking of places like Sunderland etc - well, they are quite a way out and you probably will not go there unless you actually want to. I've been over to Newcastle a few times, down to the coast at Seaham and up to the seafront at South Shields. It is quite industrial but that doesn't stop it having some beautiful natural areas...

    I also don't really understand why a northern location is a problem, but then again, I am northern. As you said, a lot - the vast majority - of Durham students come from the south. I was a little surprised - the city centre itself, during term time, might as well be in the south! My course is different though, thankfully lol, as the majority of the students are local and we are obviously on placement in the surrounding areas.

    If you have those views about Durham though, it might be best if you go to Bristol. I'll never understand the mentality of people who seem to hate 'the north' and yet still come up here for university. It isn't a foreign country you know.
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    (Original post by nulli tertius)
    I suspect build costs have also fallen since the appeal was announced due to the recession and the gold taps are probably only half a joke. It is usually possible to to take a blue pencil to most projects and trim out the fat from the original wish list.

    I do wonder about building all these moot courts when there are so many real court rooms going out of use and becoming available.

    Nottingham is currently raising money to build a moot court when the Galleries of Justice Museum has the old County Assize Courts available for hire and the City Council is looking for a new use for the old Nottingham Quarter Sessions and Magistrates Courts at the Guildhall.
    Who knows about the moot court: like I say, I've heard nothing about it. Then again, I heard nothing about the library refurb until about a month ago, and even then they made it sound like a casual lick of paint. I had no idea it was 'the' refurb until I went along to the meeting! Who knows whether or not the idea will materialise, but regardless of the actual superfluousness of a fake court inside the building when a real one outside it is available, the law school has to be seen to keep up with the competition I suppose. A-level students are fickle creatures.
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    (Original post by TurboCretin)
    Your ability to bring in the finer details of cases into your arguments (obiter comments/discrepancies between the reasoning of different judges) as well as an ability to critically evaluate the law.
    Wow that really sounds like an uphill struggle. Oh well, nobody said getting a first was easy.
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    (Original post by TurboCretin)
    The plans relating to the library are separate from those for developing the mooting court. Nothing was mentioned in the library refurb meeting about the mock court. Presumably this means that £1m was the target for the library part and they chose to start work on that as soon as they had the requisite funds.
    Does the refurbishment of the library means the wills memorial building library will be closed this/next year?!

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