The University of Birmingham is a major research intensive university (ranking fifth in the UK for research activity in the RAE 2001) located in Birmingham, at the heart of the UK. The origins of the University date back to 1825 with the foundation of the Birmingham Medical School, and the University was granted its charter in 1900, making it the first 'Red Brick' university to receive University Status (The Guardian). Indeed, there is a longstanding rumour that the term 'Red Brick' to describe the group was coined in response to Birmingham's beautiful Aston Webb buildings.
Birmingham is a member of the Russell Group, a group of 20 research intensive UK universities, in addition to participating in several European and International network groups, such as Universitas21. This entails that the university has a substantial international reputation.
The University has a green leafy campus within the suburb of Edgbaston, on the outskirts of the city of Birmingham. The campus at Edgbaston is the main campus and largest, where the majority of lecture theatres and classes are located. There are several smaller "Satellite Sites" associated with the university (of which the most prominent is the Selly Oak campus, a ten minute walk from the Edgbaston campus site). Collectively these satellite sites account for approximately 10% of the University's total student population.
Applying to Birmingham
Application for Undergraduate Courses for 2011 entry is via UCAS (Birmingham's institution code is B32). For Postgraduate entry, apply directly to the University - you can choose whether to apply online or request a printed application form.
The next university wide open day will occur on Thursday 30 June, Friday 1 July and Saturday 10 September 2011. (Open days). Families, individuals and school tours are all welcome, and the open day provides an opportunity to speak to staff and current students, in addition to touring the campus and accommodation and getting a feel for what studying at Birmingham is like! You can register for open days here.
The University can be contacted easily with any questions - the main switchboard number is +44 (0)121 414 3344, or check the website.
If you're thinking of applying to Birmingham, you can read some previous Personal Statements which were used for applying here.
The University's Main Library is the primary site for learning resources and is one of the largest academic libraries in the country. It houses over two and a half million books and over three million manuscripts, with extensive computing facilities, excellent study facilities (with most subject areas being accompanied by dedicated work spaces) and a lounge area with wireless connectivity.
In addition to this, most subjects have their own specific libraries, prominent amongst which are the Barber library collections (fine art and music), the Barnes Medical Library, Harding Law Library (containing over 55,000 books), European Resource Centre and the Shakespeare Institute, which houses 60,000 volumes, many rare.
In addition to the reference material housed at each library, most of the collections are borrowable. There is a large 'short loan' section in the main library for textbooks in heavy use, which are borrowable for 24 hours and are to be returned or renewed in person by 11am the following day (except where borrowed on Friday, in which case they are to be returned Monday). The fines on short loans are hefty - 50p per hour overdue - so don't be late returning them!
All other items are borrowable on either week- (fairly self-explanatory) or long-loan (four weeks). Both can be renewed either in person or online, assuming that they have not been requested by another borrower (in which case the initial borrower will be informed, and asked to return the item within a week). Undergraduates can borrow up to a maximum of 12 books, with no more than two short loan items at a time.
E-journal and E-Resource access primarily takes place online, although the libraries also have significant hard-copy journal holdings, containing much older material that has not yet been catalogued online. Access is via Athens and the E-Library.
IT and Computing
Computer facilities are available all over campus, most notably in the libraries, Mason Lounge, computer rooms in individual buildings and the new 24 hour Learning Centre (which can be accessed using your University ID swipe-card). All are connected to the University network and have internet access, and can be logged onto by using the first part of your University email - eg ABC123 - and password).
There is also a programme to roll-out wireless compatibility across campus. Sitting on the lawn outside the library with a wireless-connected laptop is a popular pursuit in summer. Most lecture halls have wireless access. The wireless also supports mobile devices, such as wi-fi capable mobile phones.
University Sport Birmingham is highly successful in the BUSA rankings and there are many opportunities to get involved in sport. Facilities are top of the range, with the Munrow Centre home to a gym, squash courts, swimming pool, sports halls and various other facilities. As well as playing in the BUSA league, students also have the opportunity to participate in the Active Lifestyles classes, with classes available including yoga, trampolining and many more. For people who enjoy sport but don't want to join the BUSA teams, there is the Intramural league, where departments and halls of residence enter teams and play hockey, netball and football.
The University Music Society runs a large number of auditioned and non-auditioned music groups. Information on these can be found at . -University Choir -Philharmonic Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra (Currently when you audition, you just audition once and they choose what orchestra to put you in, and it might only be for a semester depending on number of students). -Brass Band -Wind Band -Jazz Orchestra -Chamber Choir -Saxophone Ensemble There are also other music groups run separate from the UMS but still through the department of music. A number of music societies such as RockSoc, Jazz and Blues Society, Metal Soc, and various others exist.
Students have a strong support network. Academically, each student will have a personal tutor to contact if any academic or personal problems arise during the term, with the department also organising a Student rep system for each year group and allocating welfare tutors (who will hold office hours specifically for the purpose of providing confidential advice for students experiencing difficulties). Aside from this, there are mentors (students themselves, who are trained in providing support) allocated to residents of University halls. They are available 24 hours a day. Study support is also available for those with specific learning difficulties, as well as those needing help with disability support.
The Advice and Representation Centre the ARC is situated in the Guild of Students, and provides free, confidential advice on topics from housing, student rights and the law to finances, sexual health and course-related issues.
For psychological support, there is a team of professional counsellors to help those struggling at University, which is supplemented by Niteline, a Samaritans-esque student support system manned by volunteers.
There is a dedicated University GP (the UMP), and Dental Practice, located at 5 Pritchatts Road, five minutes' walk from the Edgbaston campus. Students can register and have access to an NHS dentist, doctors, nurse and womens' clinic.
Edgbaston and Selly Oak, Birmingham, UK
University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT
+44 (0)121 414 3344
Applicants per place:
Shops are mainly situated in the Guild and in University Centre. There is also a Costcutter in the Hub at Shackleton Hall and a UniSport shop in the Munrow Centre.
The Guild: Zest (University clothing), Print Shop, STA travel, Spar, Hairdressing salon, Joe's Bar, Subway
University Centre: Off the Wall (card and gift shop), Waterstone's, Endsleigh Insurance, Lloyds TSB, NatWest, Barclays, Opticians, Spar, 19 Gales Farm Shop.
Both of the Spar shops tend to be pretty expensive, it must be said. Half a loaf of bread is about £1.50 which is definitely more than in other places.
There are various cafes across campus and 'Raising the Bar' in the Munrow Centre sells Starbucks coffee. Avanti in University Centre is popular for hot food, and the Guild is the home of Joe's Bar and Subway. 'Go Cafe' is excellent for healthy options such as smoothies and protein salads and is right in the centre of campus (next to Avanti) so very convinient! There are also several little cafe/hot drinks points, for quick food dotted about campus.
The University hosts branches of the following banks:
Natwest, Lloyds TSB and Barclays in University Centre.
Santander in the Guild of Students.
In addition, there are ATMs located around the University (University Centre and the Guild of Students) and at Shackleton, the centre of the Vale Student Village.
The Edgbaston Campus has its own train station, "University", located on the Cross City Line that operates through Birmingham New Street. Up to six trains per hour operate on weekdays, four trains on Saturdays and two on Sundays, to destinations Redditch and Longbridge. Birmingham is at the hub of several networks, both rail and coach, and it is possible to get cheap, direct travel to most of the country if booked far enough in advance. Tickets to New Street station cost £2.50 for an anytime return ticket without a rail card, and £2.00 for an off peak return. With a 16 - 25 rail card that's £2.00 and £1.30 respectively.
University buses run from the Edgbaston campus to the Vale and to Hunter Court, and National Express West Midlands buses 61, 63, X62 and X62 run regularly (much more so than the trains on Sunday) down Bristol Rd between Selly Oak, the South Gate of the Edgbaston campus and the city centre. The number 1 bus goes from the top of the Vale (Church Rd) to the city centre (though much of the day terminates at Five Ways - at the top of Broad St - requiring a further bus or walk to the main shopping area). The bus services to the Vale and to the Selly Oak campus are free for the University's students.
There are also university shuttles that collect students from Queen's Hospital Close, The Beeches and the Vale for 50p single, and a dedicated shuttle to the students at Hunter Court too, which also costs 50p. Usually arrive at 8:00 and leaves Queen's at 8:25 then takes the route to the Beeches and then the Vale, and makes it to the university campus at around 8:45, and this continues till 6.
The Careers and Employability Centre runs many careers fairs on campus, which are attended by national and international companies, with firms such as KPMG, Deloitte and Touche and PriceWaterhouseCoopers frequent visitors. It also offers services such as CV checking and promoting volunteering work to enhance graduate CVs.
The Personal Skills Award is the University's award winning employability programme, targeted at undergraduate students to help improve their employment prospects.
The JobZone in the Guild advertises part time jobs across campus and in the local area. All of the jobs advertised tend to be less than 16 hours a week, which is the maximum recommended working time for full-time students. The Guild itself employs a large number of students, with students working in reception, Student Development, Joe's Bar, Zest, Print Shop and Student Mentors.
The University's multi-faith chaplaincy is situated next to the Guild
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Bars, Pubs and Clubs
On campus, there's the Guild, with Joe's Bar and the Underground the main focal points. The Underground hosts gigs and such, with Joe's responsible for Fab n' Fresh (Saturdays) - a fantastic night out for UOB students only.
In the immediate vicinity (primarily, Selly Oak) there are a number of good pubs. The main student-oriented pubs are the Bristol Pear, the Gunbarrels (Gunnies), the Soak and the Goose (particularly popular with final years). All have a good atmosphere and aren't especially expensive, several of them provide facilities for Guild societies to hold student nights. The Pear and Gunnies are both Scream pubs, so they hold pound-a-pint days on Monday and Tuesday respectively, and operates a discount drinks policy ('yellow card') - The Soak has a similar 'Green key' scheme.
In central Birmingham, there are numerous student nights, clubs and popular pubs, with student nights happening nearly every night of the week (Risa is particularly popular, and Oceana also attracts a lot of students). Broad street is a clubbing Mecca, with a huge number of clubs and bars to cater for all musical tastes. Monday night at Gatecrasher is Loaded, one of the largest student nights. Brindleyplace next to Broad Street has a number of more upmarket bars (Pitcher and Piano, Slug and Lettuce etc) if you feel to splash out a bit.
For the more alternative-inclined, there are numerous rock and indie nights - Subway City, the Sanctuary, Subculture, and Snobs being the most frequented. For those interested in electronic music, Birmingham has a thriving dance scene frequently attracting world famous DJ's including Tiesto, Erol Alkan, Pendulum, Annie Mac and many more. The most famous clubs of the genre being The Custard Factory, which has hosted Drop Beats not Bombs and the legendary Que Club which reopened in 2007.
O2 academy as well as HMV Institute feature club nights, but also numerous gigs. Propaganda on a friday night at O2 academy is an indie night, and wednesday at HMV Institute is a more mainstream Full Moon beach party night.
Gatecrasher - quite a mainstream club, queues usually big and on Mondays theres usually a massive student night - 'Loaded'.
Oceana - yet another big mainstream club, with specific student nights.
Bambu - a smaller yet very appealing bar/club with various nice booths and its a more different feel than the usual Oceana etc.
Risa - very crowded as its quite a small club but runs a night called 'I Love Risa Wednesdays'
Generally if you go to Broad Street on any night of the week there will be numerous bars/lounges and clubs you could go to.
Clubs and societies
The Guild of Students supports a diverse range of student groups which consists of student societies, volunteering projects and Residents Associations. They cover every topic you could think of, from sports to media to debating and many, many more.
There are around 200 student groups at any one time, with new ones being set up every few weeks. Although they all work in the same way, we subdivide them into different categories to reflect their aims.
Societies – with around 160 at any time, the biggest category of groups, focused on having fun and meeting people and covering pretty much anything you can think of, from art and astronomy through to walking or wine appreciation.
Volunteering Projects – there are around 20 student-led volunteering projects, which generally aim to help members of the local community; being involved in one of these groups is a great way to volunteer with like-minded students.
Liberation and Welfare associations – nine groups that exist to support particular groups of people, ensuring that their needs are met and campaigning for improvements, as well as having a social aspect.
Residents Associations –ensuring that students living in halls or at home are represented.
In addition to the groups above, the Guild also supports around 40 sports clubs, although these are primarily based at the Munrow Sports Centre with the Club Development team, who have the specific knowledge required for competitive sport participation.
The University guarantees a place in University accommodation to all first year Undergraduates providing they:
- Have applied to Birmingham through UCAS (not clearing)
- Have accepted their course offer firmly by 1 September 2010
- Have submitted an accommodation application by 31 May 2010 (home and EU students) and 31 July 2010 (International students)
- Are coming to University alone (not with family or partner)
- The University guarantees a place in University accommodation to all first year international students providing they:
- Have accepted their course offer firmly by 1 September 2010
- Have submitted an accommodation application by 31 July 2010
- Are coming to University alone (not with family or partner)
There is a large range of University campus accommodation which are offered to all first year students who meet these requirements. There is also a Returner scheme in place to help existing students return back in to University accommodation.
For a detailed article on University run and Private halls at the university of Birmingham have a look at the Accommodation article.
Birmingham's Student Union is known as the Guild of Students. It was formed in 1909, and was a founding member of the NUS. The Guild has near complete autonomy from the university itself, allowing it to enter into contracts independently and raise funds external to the block grant it receives from the university. There is a lot of scope for student activism and involvement, and many students become active in the Guild - either through politics or simply joining societies and using the facilities.
The Guild is housed within the Guild building, next to the East Gate. The building itself is huge (10,000 square feet, one of the largest in the UK) and rammed with social areas, shops and eateries, and more general facilities such as the main debating chamber. It is also the home of Joe's bar and the Underground, two of the main social facilities of the University.
Whilst Birmingham doesn't have the best architectural reputation, it has undergone something of a renaissance of late. In the city centre, new buildings are going up seemingly every day, and the regeneration has extended to breathing new life into some of the city's finest Victorian buildings - the Custard Factory being an excellent example, which is now crammed with art galleries, vintage shops and local artisans. At its best, the city really is beautiful - undeniably it has dodgy parts, but these can be fairly easily avoided. Key architectural highlights are the Town Hall, Birmingham Cathedral, pretty much all of the Jewellery Quarter, and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
The suburbs of Birmingham, where the university is located, are generally unspoilt Victorian enclaves, full of sprawling red-brick terraces spotted with green spaces. The University itself is quite an architectural hodge-podge, with the central Chancellor's Court in Red-Brick style, but subsequent major building works in the 1930s and 1960s (and quite a few in the 1990s) have left the campus with an eclectic mix of architectural styles. However, the university is currently spending a lot of money sprucing up the less attractive bits, including the much-mocked Muirhead tower. A lot of the architecture is pretty lovely though (the Barber Institute, located to the East of the campus, is a particular highlight and well worth a visit), particularly if you're lucky enough to be located at the centre of the University - the 1960s expansion seems to mainly located on the outskirts.
The main campus is situated adjacent to Selly Oak, which is a generally fairly nice, heavily student dominated area. Most of the second and final years, and postgraduates, who choose not to live in halls tend to move out into private accommodation in Selly Oak. As a student area, rates of burglary can be higher than average (lock your windows!) but on the whole Selly Oak is a safe and really rather pleasant area. It is however worth noting that you do ocassionally find groups or gangs from neighbouring (rather less salubrious) areas hanging around the high street after dark – some may find this a bit intimidating, so as with most areas it's a good idea to stay in pairs if you're out late (the University night bus from Broad street to Selly Oak helps with this). As you might expect, the amenities are student-oriented with pubs and cheap eateries (most residents quickly discover that you can survive for a full 24-hours on a single Subway sandwich) in abundance, along with some more eclectic entertainments like shisha bars.
The campus itself is located in Edgbaston, with Selly Oak to the South. Edgbaston - and Harborne next to it - are both highly affluent suburbs with many families and young professionals, and consequently amenities (Waitrose, M&S etc) tend to be a bit beyond most students' budgets, although there are some fantastic shops for when the loan comes in. Slightly further afield lies Bournville (yes, with the Cadbury factory) and Moseley, which has a nice collection of gastro pubs and slightly more left-field shops.
Birmingham itself as a city is lively and busy, with lots to do. As the UK's second city in population terms - with over a million people in Birmingham alone - there is plenty going on, but without the expense or commuting distances of London. However, if you get bored of the city, Birmingham occupies a fantastic central location with lots of places on your doorstep - you can travel quickly and cheaply by train to Stratford, Worcester, Warwick, and Leamington if you fancy a bit of historic culture or simply a change of scene. A bit further afield are the big cities of Manchester, London, Bristol, Sheffield and so on, which are under an hour and a half away on the train and for which a return ticket will cost you less than £25.
If you have access to a car, the Midlands countryside is beautiful and surprisingly bustling. If you like your outdoor pursuits, there's lots of places to pursue them, but if you prefer to go sightseeing for its own sake, why not pay the Lickey Hills, Sutton Park, or the Dales or Cotswolds a visit? If you get bored of climbing hills, traditional pubs are plentiful.
The various league tables that rank Birmingham's performance are all quoted below, but try not to take them too seriously as an indicator of teaching quality. In addition to the (2001) RAE scores, spend indicators, job prospects, staff student ratios &c. &c., most league tables use either the Teaching Quality Assessment (TQA) surveys or the National Student Survey (NSS) as an indicator of teaching quality.
Both are a bit problematic, as the TQA is now mostly horribly out of date (you can find a summary of Birmingham's results here, which found - albeit a while ago - that 23 of Birmingham's 36 subject areas were 'excellent', with a score of 22/24 or more). The NSS results are very up-to-date, provided each year from the universities' completion data. The full results can be found at unistats.com, and there is a plethora of information on individual degree courses. However, the individual satisfaction scores are extracted from finalists who volunteer to be surveyed, and as such there can be a participation bias.
Across the university, degrees are operated on a credit structure (with 120 to be taken each year), which ordinarily translates as 60 in each of the two teaching terms. Most degrees are taught through a mixture of lectures, seminars, and - for the scientists - labs and practicals. First year lectures tend to be large (up to 200 people) and hectic, with teaching become more personalised and specialised as you progress through the degee. In any year, seminars will have no more than 20 students, and by the final year are very unlikely to contain more than 5-10. Lectures are always taken by members of the senior academic staff (lecturers, readers and Professors), although first-year seminars may be taught by graduate students sitting for their PhDs. If students experience any problems with course content, there are plenty of opportunities to speak to staff one-to-one about difficult aspects of the course during their office hours, or by appointment.
If you're interested in a particular course, it is always advisable to contact the department you're interested in and find out directly about how the course is taught, and whether it would suit you. Open days are also a fantastic source of information on the course and teaching methods.
In terms of overall academic standing, Birmingham varies quite considerably across different league tables, and in the last few years has experienced a bit of an uncharacteristic rankings blip. Currently, Birmingham is at:
25th (Times Good University Guide)
18th (Guardian University Guide)
13th (The Telegraph)
A Sutton Trust report concluded that Birmingham was one of only 13 UK 'elite' universities, based on its league-table ranking over the last ten years.