Bristol vs Sheffield

(69 Posts)
GnomeDePlume Fri 02-Mar-18 20:56:35

Sorry this is a bit of an epic. DD has asked for MN wisdom (I have taught her well!)

DD is holding contextual offers from both to study Chemical Physics. The offers are the same and achievable. She now needs to decide which is going to be her firm choice (UEA will be insurance)

She has been to open days and offer holder days. The universities are different from each other and each have their pluses and minuses.

Plus points
- larger course with dedicated leaders for the specialism
- higher ranking
- industrial placement is part of the course
- really liked the city
Minus points
- expensive both to travel to and to live there
- didnt have a good 'fit' with other applicants
- Typical student entry A levels significantly higher than DD's contextual offer (teaching style demonstrated didnt seem supportive)

Plus points
- flexible course - accommodation of individual student interests
- supportive staff
- less pressure on entry grades (offer holders told not to panic if they drop a grade on results day)
- very friendly & welcoming university
- cheaper city to travel to and live in
Minus points
- didnt love the city but thought it okay
- not highly ranked for a RG university
- very small course (specialism within a larger course)
- placement not integrated into the course but available as a wider university scheme (DEE)

Does anyone have any views on either university please? How are degrees from each valued? Does the ranking matter post graduation?

OP’s posts: |
senua Fri 02-Mar-18 21:27:19

What is the long term plan? Is one University better than the other in helping with that.

GnomeDePlume Fri 02-Mar-18 22:33:24

Sheffield is slightly more responsive to individual interests but only slightly. Bristol has the larger course but it is still only around 30 students where Sheffield is fewer than 10.

The problem is the statistics of small numbers.

DD wants to know whether employers look at Bristol graduates and go yay! and look at Sheffield graduates and go meh!

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Needmoresleep Fri 02-Mar-18 23:01:18

DD is on a science course (medicine) at Bristol with quite a high proportion seemingly on contextual offers or who have arrived through access courses. I understand some have found it tough.

A personal view is that it might be wise to take a step back and consider why her grades may be lower than her peers. Is it that she is just as able, but has suffered from patchy teaching, a wide ability range in her A level group, etc. Or could have worked harder. Or did she have sound teaching and worked very hard but still found it a stretch.

Then acknowledge that she may have some gaps to fill and consider how she might do this. For example by selecting a hall favoured by 'boring' scientists and accepting that the balance between work and play might be more work focussed, at least till she finds her feet.

Bristol will presumably stretch her more. But perhaps for her to decide whether this is right for her.

The status of the degree is one thing, but the class is also important, as is feeling comfortable and engaging in wider university life.

DD never mentions what school she went to and most of her friends went to state schools. It is not an issue. For her or the one or two others within the group who went to London private schools. Indeed her friends were surprised when, during a conversation about a rather posh campus character, DD confessed to having been in the same A level class. Yes some will stick to their own tribe, but Bristol is a big university so lots of scope to make friends through course or mutual interests.

Dd will be paying £100pw next year in rent, 10 minutes walk from campus. I don't know how that compares with Sheffield. She has not found the City that expensive, in part because she cooks from scratch and takes sandwiches in, and because her social life revolves round sport rather than clubbing. There are huge differences in the ammounts different students spend. And it not always the ones with better off parents who spend most.

sendsummer Sat 03-Mar-18 01:16:30

The degree at Bristol is accredited by Royal Society of Chemistry as well as Institute of Physics whilst strangely Sheffield only mentions the former.
If your DD sees herself in industry after her degree then the industry placement rather would be a plus for experience.
The real decider though is how much hand holding does your DD realistically need for her degree. I would certainly think that Bristol will provide a lot less academically which is fine for some one who is really happy to learn independently. Also Bristol's pastoral care does not have a particularly good reputation.

GnomeDePlume Sat 03-Mar-18 01:56:12

Needmoresleep thank you for such a thoughtful reply.

Contextual offer is because the school DD is at has been in and out of SM like it;s caught on the door handle (academy trust recently gave up the ghost and handed its schools including DD's back to the state).
The school is by all measures poor with the exception of maths where it does well if the student is a natural mathematician (fortunately DD is).

DD's concern is in her chemistry, in particular in lab work. The school lacks equipment and the knowledge to use the limited equipment it does have. DD has never been able to complete a practical without there being a problem with chemicals or equipment (wrong chemicals or broken/outdated equipment}.

I think this is a relatively simple gap to fill but DD is at the stage where she is seeing the problems!

DD wants to achieve the best she possibly can. Not just academically but in terms of career prospects. Will choosing the relatively 'safe' option of Sheffield damage career prospects?

We are carefully trying not to give DD our opinion. The problem is that nobody can tell DD what it will be like for her.

OP’s posts: |
sendsummer Sat 03-Mar-18 03:06:53

Whichever university she decides to go to she will not be the exception in having limited laboratory skills.


hellsbells99 Sat 03-Mar-18 08:58:55

DD has friends at both. Both are good choices but different. We know someone who did chemistry at Sheffield and he got paid summer placements within the university, and he has stayed on to do a well-paid PhD.
From listening to DD's friends, I think northern universities tend to be more friendlier in general. Although 1 young lady in her 2nd year at Bristol is having a lot of fun - although she did have to share a bedroom for her first few weeks there.

Mamia15 Sat 03-Mar-18 09:04:07

I think the fact that industrial placements are offered at Bristol is a key factor to consider - will she do summer internships if she chooses Sheffield?

GnomeDePlume Sat 03-Mar-18 09:06:46

You make good points sendsummer. Ultimately DD thinks the Bristol degree is 'better' but not sure by how much especially in terms of career prospects.

She has been concerned that especially in her school staff have reacted positively to Bristol but have been a bit 'meh' about Sheffield. But it is a very small sample!

OP’s posts: |
GnomeDePlume Sat 03-Mar-18 09:10:43

She would also be able to do a placement year on the Sheffield course and have it recognised (DEE - Degree with Employment Experience). In the Bristol degree it is an integral part where with the Sheffield degree it is optional.

What DD needs is some future goggles!

OP’s posts: |
hellsbells99 Sat 03-Mar-18 09:18:02

Your DD also needs to consider how difficult it may be to get a relevant placement. Lots of universities advertise courses as having optional placement years, but from what I have seen with some of both my DDs' friends, it is difficult to get placements. So I wouldn't base her choice on that alone.

noblegiraffe Sat 03-Mar-18 09:35:27

Could she put Bristol as firm and Sheffield as insurance given that they said they'd be ok with students dropping a grade?

BikeRunSki Sat 03-Mar-18 09:41:17

Look at accreditation with professional bodies and graduate destinations.

If the Sheffield course is so small and specialist, check that it has a good intake of school leavers. It sounds like it has the potential to overlap with postgrad courses.

GnomeDePlume Sat 03-Mar-18 10:06:38

Currently DD has UEA as her insurance (BBB) perhaps this is too conservative as she is sitting on an A in maths (resitting a couple of papers to try and push this to an A*).

Graduate destinations information is practically nonexistent for the specific course, probably because the number of graduates across the country is so small.

BikeRunSki do you think the overlap would be a good or bad thing?

OP’s posts: |
GeorgeTheHippo Sat 03-Mar-18 10:22:36

I wonder whether that is conservative as insurance and agree with what noble suggests - Sheffield could function as a back up to Bristol. But really I don't think employers will differentiate between the two, both will be a great degree to have. A lot of kids love Sheffield and it seems very friendly as a city.

senua Sat 03-Mar-18 10:23:16

Also Bristol's pastoral care does not have a particularly good reputation.

They know it is a problem. They are currently recruiting to improve the pastoral care system

Peaceandl0ve Sat 03-Mar-18 10:29:34

DD at Bristol as 2nd year vet student, entered with a contextual offer. Her experience has been that she felt overwhelmed with imposter syndrome for the first year because others entered with much higher grades. She needed pastoral support which she asked for, and recieved very quickly and this helped.
After passing all exams last year, with grades not much lower than her peers, and higher than many in her areas of strength, she has fond her stride and no longer feels like she shouldnt be there.
It has been tough but def worth it. She has a great bunch of friends, most are private/grammar school educated but no probs integrating. Living costs are high but with vet and med applications one goes to whichever uni offers a place!
Sorry, for long message, not sure it helps. But main message is that my comp educated DD has had no probs with finding friends, has dound pastoral care to be fab and hard work and with lots of support from me has really fond her feet.

senua Sat 03-Mar-18 10:30:17

You have talked generally about the year in industry but does DD know details. Who, exactly, offers placements - are they companies that she can see herself working for when she graduates? If she stays local to her University (like many do), would she prefer to live and work in Bristol or Sheffield?

Mamia15 Sat 03-Mar-18 12:23:21

BBB is way too conservative for your DD, especially since nowadays many unis would be happy to drop a grade or two.

GnomeDePlume Sat 03-Mar-18 13:29:10

Placements at Bristol are very much that, the university takes an active role in finding placements for students. At Sheffield placements are supported but it is up to the student to source their own placement.

DD1 (BioChem) sourced an excellent placement for herself so our sample of one suggests that either way can work!

The UEA offer is conservative but there are not a lot of courses available in the subject DD wants to study. DD visited all 3 unis for open and offer holder days. She liked UEA and wanted her insurance to be somewhere she would like to be.

Bristol as firm with UEA as insurance would mean that if DD slipped a grade she would more than likely end up at UEA.

Sheffield as firm with UEA as insurance would mean that if DD slipped a grade she would more than likely end up at Sheffield.

On the other hand (aaaaaahhhhhh.....) Bristol is a 4 year course with placement where Sheffield is a 5 year course with placement so the cost difference is neutralised (just Bank of Mum & Dad will have to find more cash over a shorter period.

My apologies to anyone who is still reading this!

OP’s posts: |
Mamia15 Sat 03-Mar-18 14:30:52

What about Bristol as firm and Sheffield as insurance?

GnomeDePlume Sat 03-Mar-18 14:38:13

The worry with that Mamia15 is that DD doesn't know how lenient Sheffield would be for a dropped grade if they were the insurance choice. Both offers are the same at this stage.

OP’s posts: |
GnomeDePlume Sat 03-Mar-18 14:41:20

The BBB offer from UEA is a proper 'what happens if I get struck down with flu during the exams' insurance.

OP’s posts: |
BikeRunSki Sat 03-Mar-18 14:43:47

I was just thinking of my own MSc course. It was also 50% of the 2nd and 3rd teaching years of a BEng, which meant that 6 19/20 year olds had to hang out with us oldies. Socially not brilliant for the youngsters (project groups tricky to organise with people who had young children to look after), but also a great opportunity to draw on the oldies experience. I was a bit of an oddity, I was a brand new graduate - so neither an undergraduate or with any useful industrial to share. My social life largely revolved around an old school mate I stumbled upon one day early on. I’d be hesitant of being one if only a few upgrads on a course.

Having said all that, a year in industry is extremely valuable. I’d prioritise that.

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