Another 'should she firm Bath or Bristol?' thread...

(50 Posts)
zazas Mon 21-Mar-16 22:08:09

My DD has offers (finally!) from both Bath and Bristol for Economics. Both are the same entry requirements - A*AA so she needs to choose one as her firm.

We have visited both (although only Bristol was an actual Open Day) and there are pros and cons for what else do you recommend that she should consider when choosing between these two?

I am not from the UK and therefore we have no idea of university reputations etc (if they matter?) - so DD is just going on city vs campus, placement year opportunities, sports facilities, student experience plus department visits...but is still no clearer! The courses seem pretty much the same...and rankings are slightly confusing.

Anyone with great insights they would care to share?!

OP’s posts: |
bojorojo Mon 21-Mar-16 23:31:26

I am the Mum of a Bristol grad and know quite a few young people who have been to Bath and Bristol. If there is nothing to choose between the courses, there is not much to choose between the universities either in terms of quality. There is a difference in the size of the cities and Bristol University has many more students who were privately educated. One of the highest in the UK in fact. Therefore Bristol continues to attract privately educated students and his can give it a different feel to some other universities.

Both universities produce students who are very employable and no employer would really rank one above the other. As you can see by the grades required, they are sought after universities with good employment prospects for Economics graduates. Does Bristol offer work placement?

For some students, the advantage of Bristol is the fact the university is in the city, not on a campus. Some people like a campus but my DD felt it was too much like school and a bit claustrophobic. Others will have a different opinion. Bristol, as a city, is livelier than Bath and in some areas, less genteel! The university area is pretty smart though. Rents in the private sector are not the cheapest but cheaper than London. The halls range from very old fashioned quad (Wills) to modern new halls near the centre of the city.

Student experiences will vary from year to year and will depend, to some extent, on the lecturers. They change. To a greater extent, student experience is what you make of it, the friends and the fun you have.

What are your pros and cons?

FishWithABicycle Mon 21-Mar-16 23:45:54

Bath has a strong international feel which may be valuable to your DD if your family isn't British.
I think she'll have a better chance in Bristol of finding an affordable place to live if years where uni accommodation isn't available.
Plus as lots of new graduates like to stay in their University town for their first job if they don't go to London then Bristol has better employment opportunities generally.
Then again Bath has a very strong placements programme - stronger than Bristol I think...

Tbh she'll be happy at either - toss a coin.

Coffeewith1sugar Tue 22-Mar-16 01:43:23

I'm the mum who created similar thread to your DD's dilemma last year. My DD didn't get into Bath by a few marks although achieved equivalent grades, so she went to Bristol which was her insurance.
I asked DD if she regretted not getting into to Bath and she says she is so glad she didn't get in, As she would never have had the experience she has had in Bristol at Bath. She just totally loves Bristol! She says It's vibrant, lively has this trendy quirky, indie, artsy vibe one just can't really truly describe it but she loves it. The city is integral to her enjoyment there. The harbourside area which is modern to historical Clifton side and theres so many foodie places students can go to too. Its uber cosmopolitan with international students from all over the world. On the other hand Bath campus is more of a safer bubble type environment, convenient everything at your doorstep and has amazing sports facilities seems a quiter place but very beautiful and scenic. Might find it a bit boring after a while which is what my DD thinks would have happened but then DD is going to be biased now shes at Bristol.
The course at Bristol for DD is better fit for her as it is more research led and has a emphasis on neuroscience which Bath isnt. Hence why she's really enjoying course at Bristol. Shes already has a internship and apprenticeship, there's schemes available so is not missing the placement at Bath. Actually shes saving on not having to get a student loan and part tuition fee, which she would have had to get had she had gone to Bath and also saves herself a year. It just means she has a fuller timetable but she enjoys it so don't find it stressing.
Bristol has the better world reputation and is higher than Bath in the world league table. But Bath is higher in UK league table. Think this is because of the criteria the UK tables use is different than those on world rankings. UK rankings has more emphasis on student satisfaction whereas world ranking tables takes more account on the uni's research and reputation. Someone might have a better explanation.
Again like others have said she can't go wrong with either smile They are both fab uni's.

zazas Tue 22-Mar-16 20:56:18

Thank you for the replies which I have shared with my DD...

Pros and they stand at the moment - subject to change daily it seems!

The biggest appeal with Bath for my DD is its placement year which seems to lead on to good graduate prospects - although both universities are strong in this regard of course. She feels that the placement year will also give her confidence and a great experience - the student that showed us around at Bath (on same course as DD) was placed in the south of France! Another good thing is that because everyone on the course will be undertaking a placement, it means that they are all back together for their final year. Bristol is beginning to offer placements but as of yet not many take it up so your 4th year can often mean you are finishing it with few of the students you began the course with.

She also really loved Bath's sports facilities - she rows and swims and just loved that it was right there on campus to use - they are impressive. However once again Bristol had great facilities too - just without the wow factor!

Regarding Bristol - she loves the city and the city campus (although of course she can visit it easy from Bath but it's not quite the same).

So I guess the toss up for her is does she prioritise the 'exciting' city experience that she feel she will gain in Bristol over the extra benefits she feels she will gain from the placement with Bath? She has always been keen on a city rather than campus experience but is now thinking that Bath will be OK as she liked the town and felt Bristol was close enough to visit when she wanted.

A bit of background - we live in the far north of England in a pretty rural location (can't walk to anything from our house!) although she has travelled quite extensively however she is not overly outgoing and worries that Bristol might be dominated by confident people! She is not privately educated by the way! However this is a deferred entry (for 2017) and she then feels that maybe after a year of working/travelling she will be more confident and her concerns about Bristol will be unfounded and that Bath might seem too quiet! I am beginning to think she will need to flip a coin smile

Sorry for the long winded chat - it helps me to clarify her thoughts that she shares with me!

OP’s posts: |
Becca19962014 Tue 22-Mar-16 21:45:31

I did a course with a placement and a useful placement for what I wanted to do, but not all placements are useful, it depends a lot in my expeeience on whether placements are for the whole course or at a students discretion.

My degree was three years. I had no intention of doing a year out at the beginning, but I ended up doing one, I had a really good placement which I arranged myself and it really helped after I graduated and set me apart from my peers. Someone else doing the same degree did the same thing but their placement wasn't very good and it didn't help after graduation, in fact it hindered them as the work they did wasn't beneficial - but that shouldn't be a problem if everyone does one.

I definitely think placements are a good idea, but they need to be manged properly and from what you have said here it would appear that would be the experience at bath but not Bristol - honestly if she wants a placement I think that needs to be given serious consideration. The wrong placement can be problematic and effect the final year.

Becca19962014 Tue 22-Mar-16 21:46:25

Sorry for typos!


Leeds2 Tue 22-Mar-16 22:28:07

I have only been to one UK Open Day, which was Bath. I was particularly impressed with their placement year, which seemed to me to be second to none Also understand from friends that their swimming programme is second to none (not sure if that is for sprinters or distance, I know Bath is brilliant at one, and Loughborough at the other!).

I understand from MN posts that Bath has over offered for the past couple of years, so accommodation has been a problem?

My DD went to Bath with me, and Bristol by herself. She much preferred Bristol. That is probably explained by the fact that she is a city person. She applied to Bristol, but not Bath.

Coffeewith1sugar Tue 22-Mar-16 22:48:55

Also ask if the placements are paid or unpaid paid. We asked this question when we were at a organised individual open day as it clashed with Bristol. For psychology placement the vast majority is unpaid. The student who took us around was to go to do research in America for his placement with another uni. We asked if he will get paid. He said no plus have to pay for own accommodation and travel. My DD wouldn't have minded if self funded placement just for the experience but for some student this might be a problem. The odd paid one are very competitive and can be open to all students from various departments. For economics placement this might be different but I would ask if the placements are paid if that is a important factor.

GloriaHotcakes Wed 23-Mar-16 22:07:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bojorojo Wed 23-Mar-16 22:30:49

What does she want to do after her degree? Bristol students can be City oriented and look to London for employment . Is this her aim? Or is she looking to work abroad . What about looking at a year out at an international university instead? I know Bristol have lots of links so maybe look into this?

Also when students are in halls for the first year, they make friends with all sorts of students , not just ones on their course. Therefore when they come back after a year out, they will have friends on 4 year courses who are still there. Engineers and linguists !

zazas Wed 23-Mar-16 23:07:49

Thanks again for your replies.

Placements for Economics at Bath are paid it seems, so that is fine. She is really keen on the placement (at the moment) as I think she likes the idea of going somewhere for a year! Of course that might be less important after her gap year when she has actually had the chance to leave home and has been 'somewhere'!

GloriaHotcakes will look at the Student Room...thanks.

bojorojo - she is not too sure yet where she wants to work - keen to live in a city but not necessary work in finance - but also keen to work overseas (she has dual citizenship so has always had it in her mind to live outside of the UK). Good point about others on 4 year courses.

I think that the bottom line is that she wants a city campus experience but is being swayed by the placement thing...and the 'advantage' it might give her after her degree. She is ambitious and driven so quite focussed on the 'career' path ahead.

I'm leaning to her experiencing a city university life and all the benefits...and to have confidence in herself that she will be employable but then again that was my choice and I am conscious that I don't influence her too much!

OP’s posts: |
springydaffs Thu 24-Mar-16 00:13:57

A former resident's general observations of Bristol: I'd say Bristol uni is for the erm confident sort. As pp's say, it has a high proportion of privately educated students who didn't get into Oxbridge . I've heard that a few years ago Bristol had a go at refusing students who had Oxbridge as their first choice... So perhaps Bristol were a bit up themselves at that point, trying to get into the big league! The fact they tried, though, suggests they thought they were in with a chance...

Bath's sports facilities are outstanding. Bristol does have robust sports facilities and an active sports scene but not in the same league as Bath - and not as easily accessible. The social scene in Bristol is second to none (eg a lot of Bristol kids who go away to other universities around the country are often very disappointed with the social scenes they find: not a patch on Bristol!). It's a very edgy city and that is broadly reflected in the students. Students live all over the city in a wide range of affordable areas - also a plethora of student [double decker] buses to get them around predominantly central areas and that run into the early hours. Clifton - where the uni is broadly situated - is very expensive and populated by the toffs many students whose parents buy them houses there for the duration.

(On one hand it may be a good learning experience to rub shoulders with - how can I put this - the "future leaders of the country"; to understand the UMC culture from the inside not to mention the contacts . It would stand her in good stead in future employment. yy that's not a very pc thing to say but let's get real.)

That said it is a big and diverse university, populated by allsorts (of course). She'd find her people. It has a sound intellectual tradition if that is her thing. Bristol (city) also has a well-established and -respected arts/culture scene: Bristol Old Vic Theatre School eg (many famous alumni!). Bristol historically has I think the highest %age of students in the country who choose to live there after studying.

bojorojo Thu 24-Mar-16 09:46:00

Excuse me - springydaffs! My DD lived in Clifton. Huge numbers of students rent flats there. My DD did not know a single one who bought a house. The house just up the road from her shared flat sold for £2m so I guess the majority of students' parents may find prices a bit steep.

My DD was privately educated but I resent us or her being called a "toff". She is just like thousands of other Bristol students. Quite frankly, what is wrong with being ambitious? If young people aspire to "running the country" then good on them. They can't be worse than the previous generations.

These days universities do not know where else you have applied. They may guess if the application comes in early, but I can assure you lots of people who did not get into Oxbridge or, in fact, decided to swerve Oxbridge, are very happy at a wide range of other universities. I think most students make friends with people they get on with irrespective of background or money. There is little evidence that Clifton flats and houses are forever being sold by student families. Many University of Bristol students choose to be fairly near the university for year 2 onwards because those areas are great to live in. They are not likely to move out to the areas near UWE or St Pauls.

bojorojo Thu 24-Mar-16 09:53:29

The University of Bristol Wessex Bus is a service from the university to the halls of residence at Stoke Bishop. They run in term time only and are generally used by year 1 students. They are not "get you home after the clubs kick out" buses.

springydaffs Thu 24-Mar-16 11:37:36

Apologies about the bus info op.

Coffeewith1sugar Thu 24-Mar-16 11:45:37

Ive noticed though that there is this 2 distinct types of universities that have sprung up in recent years. Modern unis like Bath, Exeter, Surrey etc offering a degree with a more vocational element to it with the placement years focussing their efforts on employment. On the other hand there's the solid academic intellectual type Uni like Durham, top london uni's, Edinburgh, bristol etc. They have that long traditional quality about them. I don't think there's a great disadvantage in going to the latter because they don't offer the placements. Since majority of those offer summer internships. They are aso headhunted alot too by top companies.
Although I do think if they want a safe, whereby they are conditioned and trained, they like to be told what to do, job centre training approach, how to prepare for life after uni. Bath is probably going to suit them better.

disquit2 Thu 24-Mar-16 13:16:56

Bath and Exeter are not less "solid academic intellectual" than Durham, Edinburgh, Bristol etc. Indeed for a number of subjects Bath is considerably more academic and intellectual than Dur/Ed/Bris and higher placed in league tables. (Bath is too small to rise high in international league tables: that doesn't mean its research/quality is worse.)

On the other hand I think the placements offered by universities such as Bath are often primarily a gimmick to attract students. In some subjects (e.g. maths) the quality of the placements can be poor and there is rather little help given to students in finding placements. While students may well be offered a job after the placement year, the actual job offered is often not as good as they could have aimed for. And the placement year is not developmental, in the sense that students spend most of their time working on specific, relatively low level tasks: they gain experience in very specific areas, many of which may not be transferrable to top graduate employers. Plus the gap between second and third years at university makes the third year harder.

Personally I wouldn't go to Bath thinking that the placement year was an advantage without careful research beforehand - it is not an advantage for subjects such as maths or physics, although I don't know about economics.

Coffeewith1sugar Thu 24-Mar-16 14:02:48

Sorry disq I didn't mean to infer indirectly that Bath, Surrey Exeter were not solid academic and intellectualblush. Was trying to say there's 2 types of uni offering a different learning experience wasn't meant as one being better than the other or one lacked academic rigour. Though I do think that bath placements and uni marketing strategy on this area is very enticing. It's hard to get work in psychology (my dd subject) and that was was what swayed DD to firm them and compromise on things like course modules which was not quite what she wanted. But at the time getting some employment experience was more important. But now her thoughts are, actually enjoying the course modules is more important than placement.

disquit2 Thu 24-Mar-16 14:48:07

It would not necessarily be true for many subjects that modules differ a lot between "two types of university". The actual material taught in maths/physics differs little between Bath/Exeter and your other group of universities. Pretty much the main difference between maths at Baths and maths at e.g. Warwick is the placement year - the learning experience is otherwise very similar.

And I would be a bit wary of choosing a course based too much on module titles and descriptions - very few students know enough about university level material to know what they are going to find interesting ahead of time - unless the courses are really very different indeed.

BoboChic Thu 24-Mar-16 14:52:06

My DSS1 is just coming to the end of his third year of Economics at Bristol.

Last autumn he applied for masters degrees and internships at top institutions/employers and got pretty much everything he applied for. His friends from his course seem to be doing pretty well too.

BoboChic Thu 24-Mar-16 15:06:21

On the placement thing - students have terrible long summer holidays that give ample time for a long internship or two, each summer. It can be more useful IMVHO to do work experience at four companies for six weeks than to spend a whole year doing a relatively menial job.

Coffeewith1sugar Thu 24-Mar-16 15:33:46

disq for DD subject (psych) because it's so broad, uni tend to have modules in certain areas or whatever the departments specialism is. Some might place emphasis on behavioural neuroscience psychology. Whilst others might have more emphasis on applied health clinical psychology which Bath is. They are very different and lead to different career paths.
I think with Economic degrees some are more maths based than others.
With Bath placements although they say it's a year long. I'm sure they said to us that the company has take you for minimum 6 weeks for it to be classed as a years placement the rest of the time they are expected to do work at home on related project to do with what they've learnt from placement, if they are unfortunate to have a short placement.

jeanne16 Thu 24-Mar-16 18:03:46

Does anyone know just how much help Bath gives students to find a placement for their year out? I have heard stories of it all being left entirely to the student to arrange. Is that correct?

NiceCardigan Thu 24-Mar-16 18:09:52

There is a huge amount of help available from the placement department jeanne16. Students just have to access it!

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