Exeter or Bristol?Watch
I have an unconditional offer from both universities for Geography BSc.
I am wondering what the following are like?:
teaching quality from lecturers and tutors, explaining things clearly,
seminars/workshops and one-to-one help,
how interesting the physical and human geography topics are,
feedback from assignments,
study space and quality of department's rooms/facilities,
academic level and discussion/cooperation with fellow students.
I've heard Bristol's degree has a lot of maths and stats involved, is it very heavy?
Exeter uni seems a better academic uni overall but Bristol's geography course is ranked slightly higher.
Study space is questionable. They've announced plans for like 400 new seats or something around campus recently, but around exam times the Forum Library gets pretty packed, plus they're always trying to expand international student intakes. I think the Old Library remains something of a secret to most newer students, as I went there during peak exam time once to find a book that wasn't in the main collection, and there were about half a dozen individual desks in the room I was in (empty). However, this was technically a basement so maybe people are just claustrophobic...
Computer availability has always been a problem. In Engineering we have 4 dedicated computer labs (2 large, 2 small one of which is linux) and it's still something of a nightmare getting a spot. Less of an issue for me as I don't do CFD but for the people taking the computer heavy modules it can be bummer, as a lot of the more specialized software isn't on the library computers.
The CareerZone at Exeter is, in my experience, garbage. My tutor recommended I go there at the end of second year since I was pretty undecided on careers (I don't like engineering ) and they basically said "look at the website". Totally useless. The website itself is decent enough, and it posts a ton of job opportunities ranging from temp work around the city, to grad schemes and jobs, to (in the humanities) academic summer placements for undergrads etc.
On the subject of term time work, there's a call centre in town which hires just about anyone and pays reasonably well, which is nice for summer work if you can stomach it. Just don't work on the John Lewis campaign...Additionally they're expanding the Guildhall shopping centre so there will probably be a few new stores looking for part time sales assistants and the like. There are periodically uni based positions as "helpers" in the Forum who walk around with iPads and direct people to places (mainly in the first few weeks of each term when admin stuff is being done) and for data entry for the Guild at the start of each year.
Exeter is moderately expensive to live in however; while it varies widely, I found halls were not particularly cheap, and I got lucky with both my houses post 1st year in terms of rent (even though the first landlord tried to illegally evict us...Exeter council are pretty helpful :P ). Food etc is more expensive than it was when I lived in Southampton, but I have a pretty limited scope of experience on this front. I saw a comparison however that put beer, coffee (from coffee shops) and public transit as more expensive than London, while meals out are cheaper.
Public transportation is a major question mark, given the choice between the bus that arrives 5 mins before your lecture and the one that arrives 20 mins before you want the latter since it may end up being 10 minutes late...(or early, sometimes >.> ). Also you can't buy return tickets, you can only get dayriders. For £3.60 you get basically free travel on all the buses in Exeter (handy if you're chaining from a more frequent A bus or something in Heavitree and swapping to the D in town), but if you're just going to and from vaguely town areas and the uni it's a tad more expensive than you'd want.
Also a side note, Exeter is pretty hilly, and the uni is basically at the highest point in the city, so if you're a cyclist prepare for some gruelling uphill battles!
I'm Vicky and am just finishing my first year at Bristol doing Geography MSci, so hopefully I can be of some help! Bristol was my first choice uni from the start of the application process, and has definitely been the right decision for me!
The teaching is really strong at Bristol, the lecturers are engaging and generally really good at explaining the concepts in the lectures - they are also accessible by email at all times, and are always more than happy to go over anything you don't understand. The system this year is mainly lectures and then tutorials, although the majority of the teaching is done within the lectures themselves. The tutorials are used to cover referencing, essay writing etc, and are mainly lead by Post-Grad students in the Geography department.
In terms of contact hours, it varies from term to term, but as a general rule in Year 1, we had the following per week:
2 x 1 hour Physical Geography lectures
2 x 1 hour Human Geography lectures
1 x 1 hour Statistics/Methods lecture
1 x 1.5 hour Statistics lab (computer based practical)
1 x 1 hour Geographical practices lecture (mainly covering the history of Geography)
2 x 1 hour Open Unit lecture (this can be anything that you choose, and the number of hours vary for different modules)
1 or 2 x 1 hour tutorial (either with a Post-Grad or your personal tutor)
So overall, a reasonable amount of contact (bear in mind there are also practical sessions and labs (2 hours long) which are every couple of weeks, and are followed up with an assignment), but not too much that you don't have time to do the extra work needed etc. Note that the course requires lots of extra reading, so although it might seem like you have a lot of free time, there is a lot of work to do if you want to get the top grades at the end of the year.
There is a specific library just for Geography (although that is changing next year and being put into the Earth Sciences Library I think!), but there are also lots of other study spaces available around the uni. The online library resources are brilliant (probably the same for most universities), and lots of the required reading is available online, which is a bonus!
There aren't specific one-to-one sessions for student, although the staff have office hours each week, which you can always drop into and go over any bits you are unsure of.
The physical topics covered this year were:
Geosphere, Biogeochemistry, Hydrosphere, Atmosphere, Cryosphere and Oceans
The human topics covered were:
Social Geography, Economic Geography, Historical Geography, Cultural Geography and Population and Development
The topics were really good, but would say that you need to have an open mind as to what Geography is able to cover (particularly within the first year human course), as it is nothing like A-Level.
Assignment feedback is really good, the work is handed back a couple of weeks after submission, and has detailed specific comments and general feedback. This can be discussed at any point with the marker or your tutor.
I haven't really got any careers advice experience here, although the Geography department seem really good at emailing everyone about potential internships etc.
The course is really close-knit, which is something I wasn't really expecting! It is almost like being at school in a way, lots of people know each other, and everyone is really friendly and people seem to get along really well.
In regard to the maths content of the course, I don't think it is too bad to be honest. I didn't do A-Level maths, so was a little nervous that I would be left behind on the course, but they take you through everything step-by-step, and are always there to help if you are confused. There is a lot of spatial modelling on the course, but again, wouldn't say it is a problem or a defining point of the course.
I love it at Bristol, the uni and the city are both great! I have friends who do Geography at Exeter, and absolutely love it, so to be honest, wherever you go you'll like it!
I hope this has been some help, and don't hesitate to message me if you have any other questions or anything! Good luck!