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Bristol or Exeter for Philosophy?

(34 Posts)
Socy Wed 09-Jul-14 11:04:27

DS1, as a 'mature' student (he's 21) has just applied to uni to start in September. Amazingly he's had 5 offers, all unconditional as he completed FE 2 years ago. He has narrowed the choice to Bristol or Exeter. He prefers the look of the course at Exeter but loves Bristol as a place, and has never visited Exeter. Obviously Bristol has the better reputation, but I'm concerned that the course will not be what he is looking for (having discussed with a philosophy lecturer I know). What would you recommend?

Booboostoo Wed 09-Jul-14 12:01:03

He should visit both go with his gut feeling.

Bristol is a great city, the philosophy department is very well regarded and generally students have a great time. I am sure the same can be said for Exeter as well though!

As for the curriculum the main focus in philosophy is to teach students how to reason, the content is secondary. There are plenty of optional courses in both unis so he can pick and choose according to his interests. Exeter has a special interest in continental philosophy so if your DS knows this is something he loves or hates it might make a difference to his decision.

Socy Wed 09-Jul-14 12:48:51

Thanks Booboostoo. He has been to Bristol, but not the uni, and likes it a lot. Never been to Exeter. It is a long way but I think he should visit - has to make a decision by 27th, I think so not much time.

HercShipwright Thu 10-Jul-14 08:20:51

The most recent university rankings in the Guardian rank exeter considerably higher than Bristol in general, and slightly higher for philosophy. This matches the prevailing views of recruiters too, not surprisingly.

Socy Thu 10-Jul-14 09:47:59

On the rankings I've seen Bristol and Exeter are pretty close but Exeter is on the way up over the past few years. I'm inclined to Bristol because of the reputation overall. HercShipwright when you say recruiters value Exeter more highly is this from the employment rates on the university rankings lists?

callamia Thu 10-Jul-14 09:53:03

What sort if philosophy is he interested in? do any of the lecturers' interests really appeal to him? I think that's what should help make his mind up - ratings and league tables aren't so interesting when you're thinking about two good universities. Perhaps he should take a trip to Exeter to help make a final decision? It would seem odd to make such a decision without knowing what the place is like to live in. He could also meet a couple of members of staff in the department to talk through his interests?

HercShipwright Thu 10-Jul-14 10:00:50

No, from my experience as someone peripherally involved in recruiting. The most recent league tables show exeter in 12th (no change) and Bristol at 34 (down from 23). I have many problems with the tables, but the headline issue is Exeter is perceived as solid top rank (perhaps no longer continuing upward trajectory, but solid) whereas Bristol is perceived as on the wane.

HercShipwright Thu 10-Jul-14 10:02:56

For philosophy the most recent rankings have Exeter at 10 and Bristol at 12.

Both very good, no doubt, but the OP seemed under the impression that Bristol is much better regarded and that is not currently true. In 3 or 4 years though, of course, who knows?

WhatUsain Thu 10-Jul-14 10:20:32

I recently graduated from Exeter and absolutely loved it. It's a lovely town, big enough to have fun but not so big that you feel swamped. It's near the beach which is a big draw too.

The campus has had a lot of money invested in it so it's really modern and the facilities are really good.

The area itself is safe and friendly although an absolute trek to get to if you don't live nearby, so if he's thinking of going home a lot it might not be a great idea. The halls are also really expensive (probably as Exeter tends to attract wealthy students!) so if he's planning on staying in halls for all three years it might not be the best choice.

I'm biased but I had an absolute blast there. I also had a lot of friends who did philosophy there and they seemed to enjoy the course. He should definitely try to get down to have a look around, it might sway him either way.

Booboostoo Thu 10-Jul-14 18:55:29

Most UG curricula will cover the same sort of things e.g. A bit of epistemology, a bit of metaphysics, a bit of moral philosophy, a bit of political philosophy The optional courses will vary from department to department but you can't know in advance what optional courses may be on offer on any given year as it will depend on research leave, work loads, changing staff interests, etc.

From a lecturer's perspective the rankings are a load of useless crap but I have no idea if any employers actually give them any weight.

HercShipwright Thu 10-Jul-14 19:12:22

Boohoo I've been a lecturer and am married to one! I know that to a certain extent the rankings are - shall we say meaningless. But the OP stated that 'obviously bristol has the better reputation' and it really doesn't. The rankings are just one way that this is reflected.

Recruiters look at them up to a point. They have their own criteria too. But they notice things like universities on the up, and universities dropping like a stone.

Socy Fri 11-Jul-14 10:45:21

thanks for these comments. I think the perception of the general public is that Bristol is the better university - certainly that is the way his friends seem to be pushing him. He won't be coming home outside of holidays or staying in halls the full time, but I think the bursaries might be slightly better at Bristol as they are a wealthier institution, not much in it though. I have suggested he visit but not much time as he is working.

Booboostoo Fri 11-Jul-14 12:14:33

Herc I wasn't challenging your post or the specific rankings you linked to, just giving my view on rankings in general. A lot of factors can be manipulated like student surveys and statistics and a lot of factors may be irrelevant, e.g. a couple of good temporary lecturers who are gone by the time you want to study there. I was a philosophy lecturer. In general it is a subject that has high student satisfaction rates as it encourages free thinking, debate, challenging everyone including your lecturer and deals with a lot of contemporary fun topics. Having said that, the student experience is heavily influenced by who teaches you which, at the end of the day, is a matter of luck. Most lecturers are conscientious, engaged and energetic, but they also have a lot of their time taken up by admin tasks, they are under a lot of pressure to publish and are forced to accept decreased contact hours which has the most detrimental effect on the student experience. That is affecting the whole of the HE sector though so there is no way round it.

HercShipwright Fri 11-Jul-14 12:23:14

Booboo I was agreeing with your view on rankings in general, mainly for the reasons you state - but pointing out that recruiters do notice things like universities plummeting down (which has happened to Bristol). Had the OP not mentioned (and then repeated) an out of date perception of the reputation of the two universities in question, I wouldn't have bothered to comment. Reputation != quality, rankings != quality but there is a link between ranking and reputation. It's not isomorphic, but it does exist.

MillyMollyMama Tue 15-Jul-14 15:47:46

What employers do not like Bristol graduates? This is absolute tosh! Getting a job with a Philosophy degree is the bigger challenge, not whether you choose Bristol or Exeter. Bristol has a huge public school cohort and plenty are wealthy. The university is in the city and many students live in the Clifton area which is not cheap.

Employers, and DH is an employer, look for far more than just the university attended so the choice should come down to what the course content looks like (although if a lecturer leaves, options get deleted), the quality of the course, what city you want to live in and where you think you will fit in. The educational merits and league tables of these two universities are besides the point because there is "nowt but a fag paper" between them! I know Bristol/Exeter graduates with fabulous jobs and I know people from both these universities who have struggled to get a graduate level job. I would look to see if the courses are likely to meet his employment aims as well as content.

HercShipwright Tue 15-Jul-14 16:28:32

It's always so nice when someone says 'I do something' and then someone else says 'my DH does something and you are wrong'. Real personal experience there...

The OP suggested that Bristol is better reputed than Exeter. This is no longer true (it was in the past). I know this from personal first hand experience, not because my DH does a particular job, but because I, myself, do a particular job. Debunking a claim that one university is better reputed than another is not the same thing as saying that 'employers 'hate'' the first university. Employers regard both highly. The only issue I had with the OP's first post was the claim that 'obviously Bristol has the better reputation'. Because, obviously, it doesn't. That's all.

Booboostoo Tue 15-Jul-14 16:48:10

milly philosophy graduates are very employable as they are valued for their analytic skills which have diverse applications. An MA and PhD in philosophy would seriously limit one's options to an academic career, but the BA makes philosophy graduates amongst the most employable inthe humanities.

See for e.g.

Persipan Tue 15-Jul-14 21:13:48

If he does decide on Exeter, I'd advise him to get an accommodation application in before 31st July to be guaranteed accommodation (assuming he wants it).

MillyMollyMama Sat 19-Jul-14 01:08:49

The Complete University Guide now ranks Bristol above Exeter for Philosophy for 2015. Therefore league tables should really be dismissed when you get past the top three and into the next 15 or so. They change a lot too from year to year. Philosophy graduates are not overly employable if you read these tables, but it is better than sociology.

MillyMollyMama Sat 19-Jul-14 01:14:34

Why, HercShipwright is it wrong for me to say that my DH recruits graduates but it is ok for you to say that you do it personally? Why is your experience more valid than his? Why am I derided for mentioning that my DH recruits graduates but not me? We do talk about who his company recruits so I am not making it up. Why do you think yourself superior? They are experiences of a similar nature - and therefore both worthy of debate.

BeckAndCall Sat 19-Jul-14 07:57:45

Well, if we're going on rankings, Bristol is 70 something in the world rankings and Exeter is 150 something. If you go by world rankings, that might influence you.

And employment wise, there is a perception in the legal world that a Bristol degree is one of the few that will get you into a London chambers. Just a perception, I'm sure and only relevant to one particular career. So with others, my experience is limited to the areas of work I know.

And yet, all of these wouldn't make me choose one over the other. By now as this thread has been running a while, the OPs DS will have visited both places, I'm sure, and made up his own mind. If he hasn't visited, I'd say he doesn't care enough about it in any case - if you don't care enough about where you're going to spend the next three years to actually go and see it, or you think you'd be equally happy either place, then you may as well go on what you read on the website that attracts you. He may be working, but presumably not 7 days a week.

UptheChimney Sat 19-Jul-14 09:25:21

It's always so nice when someone says 'I do something' and then someone else says 'my DH does something and you are wrong'. Real personal experience there

I've noticed that too, Herc! Mansplaining by proxy ...

But Herc and Boo are right about all the different league tables. They are of some value, but it's limited and you need to look at the individual elements which make up the rankings. The Guardian league tables let you sort according to each different element, for example, so you can rank Universities in the subject you're interested in by Research score, or by Student satisfaction, or by Value added, or by Employment -- and so on. You'd be surprised at how the rankings change when you sort by each individual factor.

But then I'm only an academic, not someone married to someone who used to be something or other ...

But Beck is right, and this is the central piece of advice I'd give always: visit each campus, go to an Open Day, talk to the people who'll be teaching you.

MillyMollyMama Sat 19-Jul-14 23:14:35

So nice to be attacked on Mumsnet for putting forward an opinion! Why is it SO wrong to talk about my DH's company? It is a professional one and surely ALL opinions should be valued? Some of you are very superior and rude!

LRDtheFeministDragon Sat 19-Jul-14 23:22:41

grin at upthe. I had been quietly wondering about that.

Anyway, I came on (as a mere fool, not married to anyone of importance, won't be a lecturer for two months, not a philosopher - didn't know that many philosophers ran companies but there we go) to say that bristol is an extremely pleasant town to live in, and my sense is Exeter can feel a little more isolated.

I think it is hugely important to go with a place you like. It will make him feel so much happier, and he's 21 ... he's old enough to know where he feels comfortable. There is nothing to beat waking up thinking 'wow, I'm so glad I live and study here'.

Best of luck to him whichever he ends up with. smile

AllMimsyWereTheBorogoves Sun 20-Jul-14 09:38:58

Milly, for the future just say 'Someone I know/a family member who runs a company and regularly recruits graduates...' and you will avoid this. Unfortunately saying it's your DH will put some people's hackles up. I know you didn't mean to imply that as your husband is a man he will know much better than any woman, but this is how any reference to a husband's opinion is always taken here.

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