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Imperial College, what's it really like?

(227 Posts)
amirrorimage Sun 04-Dec-16 09:50:19

Ideally I would prefer my DCs to make evidence-based decisions for their university choices rather than from whims and possibly unfounded rumours (most arising from classmates with no direct knowledge of places). I realise that I may be fighting a losing battle though.
Imperial College is a bit of a dilemma. My DC applied there for physics without going for an open day. Recently had interview (which did not go badly) liked the interviewer but put off for several reasons. The first is that the tutorial groups are of 20 facilitated by one senior academic and one PhD student. DC is from a state school with very large sixth form classes for the maths and science so would really like smaller tutorial groups at university (as well as good quality academic teaching of course)
The second reason ars the rumours about the lack of social life at Imperial backed by the interview group being almost all international students (with international sounding American accents).
Has anybody got anything positive or reassuring to say about IC?

MsUnderstanding Sun 04-Dec-16 10:06:37

Dam those international students! Coming over here with thier accents, paying higher fees! If your DC dosnt like OS students then I would avoid any decent Russell Group or major red brick HEI.

lljkk Sun 04-Dec-16 10:44:03 nearest Uni (not RG or ever will be) is full of forrin students too. Not Americans much, but rather many Chinese.

scaevola Sun 04-Dec-16 10:48:20

Imperial is one of the very best places to do physics, but if your DD is put off by both the teaching style and her perceptions of the social life, then it really isn't going to be the right place for her.

How's she getting on with her other choices?

Saffronesque Sun 04-Dec-16 10:52:21

Well...I can say that Imperial is incredibly highly regarded world wide & helps a CV tremendously in the job market. I could say that I went to another London Uni, where I was the only GB student in my similar sized tutorials & seminars of 20+. I can also add that despite the lack of campus, it was the most exciting & social time of my life ever, & that I have friendships around the world as well as GB.
All depends on your DC's attitudes though.

MrsFrankieHeck Sun 04-Dec-16 10:53:00

My niece is at a London Uni, although not Imperial and comes home every weekend. She said most people do and there's not a good university life at all. She'll stick out out but it only suits some people.

RedRosie Sun 04-Dec-16 10:55:16

I used to work there (so a different perspective) but feel it's a world-class place to study. Academic staff are at the top of their game, facilities are excellent, your DC would meet people from all over the world (they come for the world-class education!), and social life for students looked pretty lively to me with lots of clubs and societies.

If it were my DC I'd be very encouraging.

senua Sun 04-Dec-16 11:45:05

Dam those international students! Coming over here with thier accents, paying higher fees! If your DC dosnt like OS students then I would avoid any decent Russell Group or major red brick HEI.

You've missed the point MsUnderstanding. There's a difference between some overseas students (=> diversity, new experiences, etc) and "almost all" (=> a stranger in your own land).
I don't have facts OP but I have heard many stories along the lines of MrsFH's: that London Universities have a high proportion of students living at home so it's a different vibe. One of DD's friends went to a Met University where most of her peers were locals and really missed out on the student experience: everyone else came in for lectures then went home (for their P/T evening jobs) and the place was especially dead at the weekend.

lljkk Sun 04-Dec-16 11:47:30

I worked most of my years in Uni, didn't socialise with other students much. What's so great about that, anyway?

BrillianaHarvey Sun 04-Dec-16 11:55:02

The London student experience is a very particular one. Widely dispersed halls of residence; many or even most students having part-time jobs; can be easy to 'disappear'. Absolutely agree with world-class education and CV points; but that's only part of the value of being at university. My advice is to do as much research as possible and apply only if you're absolutely sure that's what you want.

amirrorimage Sun 04-Dec-16 12:09:41

Understandable reactions from you all but you have to understand that for a state school teenager (from outside London) rumours build up the reputation of international students at Imperial as less social and that is compounded by studying subjects such as theoretical physics where students have the reputation to be more introverted anyway. DC very enthused by subject and ambitious but wants to have some fun with fellow students even when studying together and needs reassurance that this is going to happen.
Imperial obviously has very high academic reputation.
I would like to quash rumours and reassure that tutorial groups of that size work well.
scaevola other choices are there with one more interview awaited. Pros and cons for most in DC's eyes hence this post.

senua Sun 04-Dec-16 12:10:38

I worked most of my years in Uni, didn't socialise with other students much. What's so great about that, anyway?

Seriously!?shock What's so great about being young and with your mates, full of life and released from parental control? Need you ask?
Mine worked at University but still found time to have fun.

OP, I'd be a bit wary of 'world class'. Sometimes the world-class professors are so busy out in the world that their students hardly ever see them. You might if you are doing something post-grad but most lowly U/G will have very limited contact. Similarly, the U/Gs aren't allowed to play with the fancy kit, it's being pimped out to commerce. You are worried about unfounded rumour but marketing hype is just as bad..

RunRabbitRunRabbit Sun 04-Dec-16 12:15:32

I went to Imperial in the late eighties, early nineties.

I loved being mates with so many foreigners, that was my biggest benefit, friends for life around the world and the range of attitudes and beliefs that comes with it. Priceless education there.

I loved that it is high status and the standards are high.

I love everything London has to offer.

I hated how expensive London is. My rent was ridiculous and I had to live very far away from campus. They didn't give halls past the first year back then, don't know about now, it was too damn expensive for them to keep subsidised property in South Kensington and Chelsea. That messed up socialising, friendships and teamwork.

Many of the students were rich. I wasn't. They could do amazing London things, live close, afford clothes, eat at the café etc. I felt my nose was being rubbed in it, even though they were generally lovely people.

It is hard to be poor in South Kensington. Especially when you have to study long hours making part-time work tricky. Especially when you are surrounded by beautifully turned out gorgeous residents everywhere (I remember going to Willesden to pick up something I bought through Loot and the wash of relief I felt seeing people who looked "normal" not from Harpers is something I'll never forget).

The cost of living added stresses that were horrific on top of an expensive difficult course. I took out huge loans, much much higher than Oxbridge mates of similar family income.

I hated that the tutor groups were big. I did not feel nurtured at all and I needed nurturing due to the effects of being in a city for the first time, money woes, feelings of isolation in a far away manky flat, there being so few other women back then.

If you can afford to live close to campus and have money left for food, books etc, if you won't need nurturing, if you are confident in your image, if you are fiercely clever, Imperial is fantastic.

If you are not rich or will need nurturing, I'd look elsewhere.

I'm encouraging my DC towards Oxbridge.

Of course, things might have changed in recent years. Though I'm pretty sure South Ken is still fancy as fuck and the rents are still stupid.

LuchiMangsho Sun 04-Dec-16 12:17:54

For the sciences it is one of the very best Universities in the world (let alone the UK). Small tutorial groups are a thing of the past, except at Oxbridge. I came as a foreign student to the UK so I feel a bit odd that someone would feel put out by my presence. I am now an academic btw, although not in the sciences. The London Universities don't have a campus life (except perhaps Royal Holloway because of its location) but there is no way you can be a student in London and NOT have a social life!

senua Sun 04-Dec-16 12:22:29

compounded by studying subjects such as theoretical physics where students have the reputation to be more introverted anyway ... wants to have some fun with fellow students

It's all science at ICL, there are no Arts students: that will have an effect on the vibe.

LordRothermereBlackshirtCunt Sun 04-Dec-16 12:29:04

I'm not sure why a large % of overseas students = poorer social life. International students are less likely to be going home at weekends (or, as is often the case with home students in London, living in the parental home). I work in an RG uni with a large number of foreign students, and there is a great vibe and wonderful friendships between students from all over the world.

MrsBernardBlack Sun 04-Dec-16 12:30:43

A friend's DS has just started his second year, and I'm afraid it is not going particularly well, I would say that most of the rumours you mention are true.

He is not in the physics department, but his course has a huge number of very wealthy Chinese students, who all stick together and live in very expensive flats in Knightsbridge. He has found it very hard to make friends.

He has also found the teaching quite hands off, without much in the way of feedback. Halfway through his first year they were set a very difficult exam, including a lot of topics they hadn't covered yet. They were then told that half of them had failed, but they didn't tell them who. I have a good friend who was head of department there a few years go, he had no interest at all in the undergraduates, only in his Post Grads.

My DH found it incredibly tough when he went there years ago, a real ordeal, and it does sound quite similar today but an Imperial College degree on your CV is a hugely impressive thing to have. Perhaps not for the faint hearted though.

senua Sun 04-Dec-16 12:31:59

I came as a foreign student to the UK so I feel a bit odd that someone would feel put out by my presence.

No-one is objecting to foreign students. That's half the point of University: to get you out of your childhood bubble to to experience otherness. It's when the percentage gets too high - the class is mostly 'other' and the UK person feels like an outsider - that it has swung too far.

amirrorimage Sun 04-Dec-16 12:36:59

Thanks for all your opinions and experiences. Runrabbit that is interesting.
Luchi you are missing the point - from a teenager perspective, it is not being 'international', it is whether you fitted the stereotypical 'very quiet, stays in room' Imperial international student 'from rumours'and therefore harder to have fun with.
Senua yes but medics, engineers etc have the reputation of being less quiet than theoretical physics which is DC's course.

mudandmayhem01 Sun 04-Dec-16 12:37:22

I think all science students would definitely change the vibe, Also male to female ratio has pluses' and negatives. My bf at university was an engineer and I think he really enjoyed the chance to mix with my friends who were mainly doing English and other arts students.

amirrorimage Sun 04-Dec-16 12:37:48

cross-posted with senua

LordRothermereBlackshirtCunt Sun 04-Dec-16 12:38:37

I'm reluctant to point to this source, since its methodology is extremely flawed, but have you looked on unistats, OP? The satisfaction rate for the course is rather lower that I'd expect (and, in fact, on teaching itself is very low indeed, the overall figure being augmented by higher satisfaction with IT and library facilities). I think I would be asking why.

amirrorimage Sun 04-Dec-16 12:41:48

Thanks*MrsBernardBlack*, unfortunately that is discouraging. DC is definitely not faint-hearted but likes discussions not just solitary study.

LordRothermereBlackshirtCunt Sun 04-Dec-16 12:42:24

What I also find interesting is that employment and further education rates after graduation are 10% lower than for the arts degree I teach on, and the salary not massively higher. But, again, I think the methodology is flawed since it relies on the picture six months after graduation which is problematic in all sorts of ways.

amirrorimage Sun 04-Dec-16 12:43:47

Yes LordRothermere, unfortunately that adds to the teenagers talking amongst themselves rumours about Imperial.

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