The Student Room Group

UCL or Durham?

I have offers from both UCL (AAA) and Durham (A*AA) and am going to pick one of them as my firm choice but I'm uncertain which to choose.
I want to work in research/academia or museums/historical places or teaching or the civil service (particularly Parliamentary policy) but given my lack of certainty in that regard I'd like to keep my options open.
I'm pretty sure that I will want to do an MA following my undergraduate (I really love history and I'm sure I'll want to keep doing it) and I want to give myself the opportunity to do so at a top university (within the UK or possibly overseas) so I want to get good results and produce good quality work which I can use to apply to masters courses.
In terms of course content I'm pretty flexible. I enjoy studying a variety of topics and don't like being confined to a particular time period or flavour of history (hence why I didn't apply to LSE). I am not so keen on the sort of 'great man' method of looking at history and prefer a less traditional approach and social history in particular. I also like looking at local history and being able to visit the places I'm learning about and see objects.
Outside of academics I enjoy long distance running/orienteering and live music. I have lived in Essex my entire life and so Durham has great appeal because I would love to live somewhere with more interesting running terrain (I do worry about the weather though).
I find charity fundraising very fulfilling and would love to go somewhere where lots of people are involved in societies and social activities.
Academically UCL feels like a better fit and I would be really excited to be so close to all the amazing museums/resources that are in London which I could make use of. However, I'm worried I would feel lost at UCL and struggle to make friends whilst Durham seems to have so much more a sense of community. Are my preconceptions right? Is everyone at university in London depressed? Is Durham as isolated and small town-y as it seems?

(ps. how did current Durham students pick their college? IS there a trick?)
What course did you apply to? It's not entirely clear (history?). This might be a factor!
Reply 2
Original post by artful_lounger
What course did you apply to? It's not entirely clear (history?). This might be a factor!

Yes I applied to BA History! Sorry!
Original post by ndwngrve
Yes I applied to BA History! Sorry!

Well UCL does have a very broad course - ranging from the Bronze Age up to modern history, and they seem to have a variety of approaches (intellectual history, social history, economic history, etc). Plus there's potentially relevant options in other departments in e.g. the history of science, Jewish history (from antiquity to present), Eastern European history etc. I'm not as familiar with the Durham course so not sure exactly what they offer (although I would imagine a fair range of courses - not sure if ancient history and similar are covered by the same course there or not though). The two are probably broadly similar academically speaking in general I think though.

The major differentiator probably is going to be the London vs Durham factor - your living experience in each is likely to be very different! Bear in mind at Durham you could still pursue internships etc based in London (and I think you would have in many cases limited ability to work in those kinds of areas during your degree due to academic demands anyway at UCL). I think UCL do have a few "local" oriented history (and history of art/architecture and archaeology) modules, although I believe these tend to be aimed at non-specialists or incoming year abroad students; there might be more local heritage opportunities in Durham and surrounding areas in the north generally perhaps though?

As far as community goes at UCL at least, I think this is somewhat dependent on the department. I'm in a very small department here so it does have a strong community feel, however I am aware that in bigger departments it's a lot more easy to feel alienated and less well supported. History does seem like a bigger department (I think c. 200 students per cohort), although many of the optional modules especially in upper years I think have far fewer students taking them as people split off to pursue different interests! Of course it is to some extent what you make of it anyway - if you make a point of putting yourself out there and engaging with people you will develop a community of your own no matter what. This is true at any uni as well.
If you’re also looking for an MA abroad, UCL will have much more traction in terms of academic reputation. Both are great still.

And I’ve lived in London for about 8 years and I can guarantee that student life is great and you always find your people. London haters are just clueless.

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