Glasgow, Nottingham, or Durham for English?

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sierrarose
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Hello! I'm an American postgraduate student who, assuming I'd be lucky to get into just one or two UK universities, went crazy and decided to apply to nine. I've since been surprised to receive an overwhelming number of offers, with no rejections yet! I'm still waiting to hear back from two of the nine.

I guess it's a good problem to have, but I'm feeling a bit torn between some of the courses I've been accepted to. My top choices right now are Glasgow, Nottingham, and Durham--I've received unconditional offers from both Glasgow and Nottingham, but have yet to hear back from Durham, and it could be as late as mid-May before I receive a decision from them. I find all of the courses (MLitt in English Literature at Glasgow, MA in English Studies at Nottingham, and MA in English Literary Studies at Durham) just about equally appealing, although the modules offered by Nottingham beat the other two just slightly for me.

I suppose that means I should choose Nottingham, but the problem is the university's campus and location. I thought it was pleasant enough, but Durham had a more appealing atmosphere (to me) overall. And I unfortunately haven't been able to visit Glasgow, but from the photos I've seen it looks like the most beautiful of the bunch--is that true? I know I should choose the course I like best, but the environment I'm going to spend the next year of my life in matters too.

Although it's possible I won't receive an offer from Durham, if I do, I can't ignore the fact that Durham's English department seems to have the best reputation of the three. I don't particularly care about the college system, though, and I'm nervous that I won't have much in common with many of the students there--I am far from upper-class, went to a public school in the San Francisco Bay Area, and have lived in the city of San Francisco for the past six years, where I've worked to support myself since I started university. But I did get a really good feeling from the town when I visited it a couple of weeks ago.

For anybody on here who has studied English at one of these universities: what was your experience like? I'm more concerned with quality of teaching than with ranking, so even if Durham is the most highly ranked of the three, that doesn't necessarily mean it's where I'll get the best education. Also: what is each program's particular strengths/areas of focus? Is Glasgow's campus as breathtakingly beautiful as it appears to be? What's it like to be a student living in the city of Glasgow? How does Glasgow compare with San Francisco, if you've been? And for anybody that's spent time in/studied at Nottingham, am I missing something? The campus seemed nice enough, but nowhere near as impressive as the other two. Also, I'm going to be living in university accommodation, so any input on that would be helpful.

Thank you so much for reading this! Any of your thoughts about these universities, or about the cities in general, would be very greatly appreciated.

P.S. I'm aware of the weather difference between California and the UK already, and know that I'm in for a lot of rain and overcast days this upcoming year!
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artful_lounger
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I'd note that on the weather side, beyond the rain Durham and Glasgow will also be much colder than Nottingham (and consequently, the SF bay area). They're broadly similar in terms of general "prestige" with Durham a shade higher than the other two perhaps.

Teaching ability rarely corresponds with league table rankings (or perhaps has an inverse relationship...) so you probably will need to wait for others who have been on those specific courses to comment (which I cannot do). What do you plan to do after your masters degree? If you wanted to continue in academia, any will suffice, and it's best to choose the one strongest in the specific area you would like to research eventually. If you plan to go into some general business role or something roughly speaking Durham>=Glasgow>Nottingham, in terms of "brand name" quality on your CV, but they're pretty close as mentioned above overall.

Overall I'd say if you strongly prefer the course and don't have any real objection to the location Nottingham may be the best choice. If you have some issue with the city/uni location specifically then it's a bit closer but my impression from your post seems to be that you think it's fine, just maybe not as nice as the others - but that you're more keen on the course.
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Notoriety
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Durham is probably the most interesting location, especially for an international student. Truly unique relative to the two others.
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sierrarose
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
I'd note that on the weather side, beyond the rain Durham and Glasgow will also be much colder than Nottingham (and consequently, the SF bay area). They're broadly similar in terms of general "prestige" with Durham a shade higher than the other two perhaps.

Teaching ability rarely corresponds with league table rankings (or perhaps has an inverse relationship...) so you probably will need to wait for others who have been on those specific courses to comment (which I cannot do). What do you plan to do after your masters degree? If you wanted to continue in academia, any will suffice, and it's best to choose the one strongest in the specific area you would like to research eventually. If you plan to go into some general business role or something roughly speaking Durham>=Glasgow>Nottingham, in terms of "brand name" quality on your CV, but they're pretty close as mentioned above overall.

Overall I'd say if you strongly prefer the course and don't have any real objection to the location Nottingham may be the best choice. If you have some issue with the city/uni location specifically then it's a bit closer but my impression from your post seems to be that you think it's fine, just maybe not as nice as the others - but that you're more keen on the course.
Thanks for your response!

Upon looking at the courses more closely, I've decided that I prefer Glasgow to Nottingham after all, so I think I'm going to eliminate Nottingham as an option.

Nottingham's main advantage was that it offers classes in cognitive stylistics and narratology, but I'm realizing now that Glasgow does too, just in the linguistics department rather than the literature department (I was looking in the wrong place). Part of my problem is that I have too many things I'm equally interested in specializing in, and I'm hoping in a master's program to figure out a creative way to start integrating them all, in preparation (most likely) for a PhD program. I eventually want to teach at a university. Glasgow offers courses in fantasy literature and nineteenth-century fiction, along with some stylistics classes (all of which I'm interested in), while Durham seems to have the superior selection of poetry classes. Overall, though, I prefer the class list offered at Glasgow. But if the location and teaching quality of Durham is superior, I like the classes there well enough too--I've found that the teacher of a class matters more to me than my initial interest in the subject matter in the end, as I'd rather have a teacher who's enthusiastic about a subject get me excited about it too than be disappointed by a checked-out teacher.

I'm sure there's a mix of good teachers and bad teachers at both schools just like anywhere else, but I was wondering if one had a better reputation for teaching overall.

Your comment about the league table rankings having an inverse relationship with teaching quality is an interesting one...definitely something I'll keep in mind. I did not go to a highly-ranked school in the US for my undergraduate degree, but I had some wonderful teachers there nonetheless.

I almost hope that I get a rejection from Durham, just so I don't have to choose between the two!
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jpt4749
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Durham > Nottingham > Glasgow for English

Glasgow tends to be popular with Business School and Physical Science.

Nottingham is famous for Economics and Engineering

Durham does very well in Languages and Social Science

But 3 of them are still great in overall reputation as being part of Russell Group universities
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BridgeHouseGlasgow
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Hi there,

I studied English Literature at Glasgow University and although I went elsewhere for my MLitt, I have plenty of friends who studied on the various MLitt programmes there too.

In short, I had an amazing time at Glasgow University and this was mostly due to how much I enjoyed the course and the English Literature department. I know how different MLitt study is to undergraduate so I will try and raise points which will be relevant for your stage.

I know that Glasgow does have a very good reputation for English Literature overall. Throughout my four years the staff were extremely knowledgeable. Most, if not all, seem to be publishing regularly and highly regarded within their respective fields. Lectures and tutorials were almost always super informative, well structured and stimulating. I had essentially no bad experiences with staff ever and a number of staff were particularly helpful when it came to essays, dissertation and supporting me with decisions on postgraduate options. They were quick to reply to emails, happy to discuss things with you in office hours and were open about pointing you in the direction of resources, etc for essays. This view was widely shared by a lot of my peers too.

In terms of the focus thematically, in my experience there was quite a large focus on Victorian/Romantic period with a number of staff specialising in this and then another heavy focus on Modernities and Literary Theory with another branch of the staff. I am not sure what MLitt you are doing but in my memory the Victorian Literature one and the Modernities one were particularly popular for this reason. I have two friends who did Modernities and both had excellent experiences. I see above you mentioned the Fantasy course too, Rob Maslen, the convenor of this course, taught me at undergraduate level and he's amazing. I've never met such a committed, enthusiastic and knowledgeable teacher. I know he is active on Twitter and I am sure he'd chat to you about the course if it is one you were interested in. I honestly love the department.

In terms of the campus, Glasgow University really is as a beautiful as everyone says. The old building is probably the main feature you have seen. However, the English Literature building, on University Gardens, is also very cute - like two old houses - where most of the staff have their offices and tutorials will be held at Masters level. It's all very picturesque and feels much older and more 'old school' like. But then you have the beauty of being in a bustling part of the city and not far from the city centre, in fact.

Ultimately though, I would say, go where the course interests you the most and where your particular area of research matters. For example, my focus was on Scottish Literature so although I loved Glasgow and the English department there, I ended up doing my MLitt at Stirling because the Masters in Scottish Literature there is the only one of its kind. Although I liked the university less, I really wanted to do that course and so that determined my decision. I think this was ultimately the right option. For example, I know I wouldn't have had as good an experience if I had gone to do the Modernities MLitt just because it was at Glasgow because the subject matter wouldn't have been right for me.

I hope this helps and good luck with your decision!

Lilith
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DrSocSciences
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If you get an offer from Durham, seize it and run, particularly if you have aspirations towards a PhD. Just don't let them know that you regarded your situation as a dilemma
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Realitysreflexx
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For an American Nottingham would be the most similar to home......Durham does have the best reputation for english however.. Glasgow shouldnt be confused with Edinburgh, not the same!!!

Nottingham is likely the funnest and *still* most cost effective city however, dont know if your one to watch money..Your very close to London also, only 1.3 hrs...

Durham to London you'll need a hotel.
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lt096
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Wow! I'm also an American student who applied to a ridiculously unnecessary number of UK MA programmes in English! Among the offers, I reduced myself to deciding between Durham & St Andrews (after eliminating Glasgow), and ultimately decided upon Durham. I completely agree with one of the posters above; wait for Durham's decision, and if you get the offer, "seize it and run!"
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