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History at Bristol, Warwick or York?

(72 Posts)
Coleoptera Fri 15-Mar-19 08:56:04

DT2 has offers from all three unis (still waiting to hear back from Durham). If anyone has experience of their DC studying History at Bristol, Warwick or York, can you share any useful information that might help DT2 to decide between them?

Which of the three might have the best teaching contact time and smallest seminar groups? Anyone know of any negatives about the History department or undergraduate life at any of the three?

How might future employers rank these universities? Where best might a studious, geeky undergrad. fit in best - not yet into clubbing and pubbing but hoping to broaden his social horizons at uni. whilst focusing on academics.

Thanks for any info.

OP’s posts: |
OKBobble Fri 15-Mar-19 09:47:48

Bristol and Warwick are very much targeted by employers on the basis as the uni as a whole. My youngest will be applying to Bristol and Warwick (and Exeter) for 2020 as well as Oxford (aspirational) and Bristol is very much his preferred choice but he is already a bit of a party-goer and into gigs. He wrote off Durham as he just did not like it. I was a bit disappointed but have to accept it is up to him. DS has decided a more happening City is for him but will apply to Warwick and Exeter as back up plans. Although he does sometimes flit between just applying to a couple because obviously you can add choices after an Oxford decision.

Most History courses are low contact time 8-10 hours because by their very nature there is a lot of reading and writing to be done independently but their working life still adds up to over 40-50 hours a week.

I know it doesn't help much but all 3 are very good unis and DT2 should go on what he feels. I would really suggest doing a spreadsheet type thing setting out what each offers by way of modules (without naming which uni) and then let him choose which he prefers to study. After all they have to study for 3 years and even the quietest of unis still has students who will party/not party etc and they find their crowd. I have one through uni and one in final year and have been through this type of angst. By number 3 it is definitely easier to appreciate that they need to be happy and despite Mum doing lots of research it is down to them to decide whether they like the course and how they feel about the place.

So without pigeon holing say Bristol as a party town/Warwick as full of mathematicians/economists etc uni life is what you make it yourself. All 3 will have highly academic kids at them who will be like your son and conversely all 3 will have kids at them who are like my son. The mix of people is what makes uni fun. I am sure he will do well wherever he decides to go.

MakeLemonade Fri 15-Mar-19 09:56:50

York and Bristol are both great cities with lots going on, Warwick is a campus university which does give a different uni experience.

My DH went to Warwick as a nerdy kid and absolutely flourished (and got a great history degree).

They’ve all got good reputations - I don’t think he could make a bad decision! Have you visited all of them? What’s the gut feel?

BubblesBuddy Fri 15-Mar-19 12:27:51

Best teaching really depends on modules chosen and that’s very difficult to judge before you go. Warwick and Bristol rank a bit higher with employers in my view. Contact time will be minimal at all but frankly it’s important to be able to research. That’s what employers expect from History grads. Teaching isn’t the same as school and you need to be a self starter. Bristol is city based. Warwick is more isolated than York. All are respected so go where he feels is best. Ultimately employers won’t care about what you studied. However if DC does, then choose the right course but they will all have many options. No university is full of a certain type of student (maths, English etc) but all personalities are represented. Go and have a look.

HarryTheSteppenwolf Fri 15-Mar-19 12:44:11

Which of the three might have the best teaching contact time and smallest seminar groups?

What's your definition of "best" contact time? Large numbers of contact hours are likely to undermine students' study of history. Clear guidance on how to use non-contact hours is more important.

Also, very small seminar groups aren't necessarily a good thing. Having half a dozen very quiet students in a group of 20 might not be too big a problem. Having half a dozen very quiet students in a group of 10 is a huge problem: they don't become more likely to talk just because they're in a smaller group. (Caveat: my experience isn't in history.)

Phphion Fri 15-Mar-19 13:24:28

Also, 'seminar' can cover a whole range of different pedagogic approaches and activities, some of which benefit from larger groups.

All three are very good, well-respected institutions. Differences in contact hours, seminar sizes and employment outcomes are likely to be marginal between the three. He should consider what aspect of history he is most interested in studying and which setting would most suit him.

He is choosing between three institutions that are basically just as good as each other and there is nothing wrong with just going with the one he simply likes best.

corythatwas Fri 15-Mar-19 14:24:30

York has a very good reputation for history. But agree with Phphion: they are all good so he should be thinking more specifically about his interests and which programme suits him best.

And absolutely agree with what everybody else is saying about contact hours. An intensively taught course is like watching your teacher move their fingers expertly on the piano instead of having a go yourself. Of course you the demonstration and explanations too, but you really can't substitute for the hands-on experience: working out how to tackle an essay question, researching in the library, structuring the argument, and the boring (but employability-related) task of presenting it neatly following the required style guide etc. Again, as pp have said: it's the quality of guidance in seminars and lectures that matters.

And ditto with seminar groups: absolutely agree with Harry- a group of 4 or 5 students is nowhere near as good for getting a good argument going as a group of 13 or so. My heart always shrinks when I enter the seminar room and find half of them are absent because of a deadline in some other module: I just know the work won't be as good. Language learning is different ime: that works fine with a group of 2.

Justanothermile Fri 15-Mar-19 14:48:09

For Archeology, DD examined the course content in detail and made a list of her priorities. She particularly wanted a Bsc, so that narrowed down her options. Then, she looked in depth at the modules, especially in years two and three, when there is more chance to specialise.

Handling real artefacts was important, which discounted Exeter for her, and she found the content of the course at Durham too dry.

York really was perfect for her, the only negative was its proximity to home and so she wavered for a few weeks before pressing the button.

I guess I'm really saying what other posters have said. Really examine the specifics of the course and what your DS would enjoy studying. I'm genuinely not sure employability came too high on the list - three years is a long time somewhere less of a good than another for that reason, other subjects may be different though.

Dd also considered whether she wanted a big city university or campus based. So Warwick and Bristol would be perhaps opposite ends of the spectrum with York in the middle?

Maybe it boils down to the course content at this stage.

TwitterQueen1 Fri 15-Mar-19 15:06:16

I think you have to go and visit them and then go with your gut! They're all very good universities and there really isn't very much to choose between them with regards to anything else.

FWIW
Bristol is very dispersed, as others have said, so there's no real 'campus' feel. My friend's DD found it snobby and expensive and definitely partyville. She ended up on the 6th floor of a block of flats for her 1st year accommodation - it was pretty dire.

Warwick - brilliant history / ancient history department. Campus is not beautiful though!
Durham - DD rejected it. Too claustrophobic
Exeter - beautiful campus, small and friendly. Also excellent academically. Has a Hooray Henry reputation but my DD hasn't found it to be so.

HarryTheSteppenwolf Fri 15-Mar-19 16:34:52

Warwick - brilliant history / ancient history department. Campus is not beautiful though!

Although the buildings at Warwick are fairly ugly from the outside, I wouldn't underestimate the value of having a theatre/arts centre on campus, as well as bars & restaurants. Most students live off campus (mostly in Leamington Spa) after first year, so the considerations change a bit. The recent work on roads & landscape have made a difference to the general feel of the campus, too.

For me, the biggest drawback of Warwick is how long it takes to get into the centre of Coventry by bus (because there's so much traffic, rather than because it's a particularly long way). Coventry has a reputation as a dump but, again, there has been a lot of work done on the the city centre recently.

It's not somewhere my daughter looked at, mainly because they were so unhelpful regarding open days, but it's somewhere I could imagine her being happy. I go there regularly for conferences and the facilities are very good, apart from the campus shop.

chitchattery Fri 15-Mar-19 16:46:20

DS went to Warwick for Philosophy having been pooled but ultimately rejected by Cambridge. He was quite nerdy and liked the idea of a campus. He liked the feeling of a “student city” with its own supermarket, amazing arts centre, cafes and club as it gave him a stepping stone to living by himself with easy access to those things. He very soon started to drift off campus for shopping etc with friends. He enjoyed living in Leam second and third year and in fact stayed on and did a masters. He is very academic. Currently doing a phd and wants to work in academia. Not my thing, and nor was a campus uni but it suited him and he really gained confidence in those undergraduate years. I liked Bristol because it was more real being a city uni but it wouldn’t have suited my head in the (philosophy) clouds boy.

Coleoptera Fri 15-Mar-19 17:50:38

This is really helpful. Thank you. I agree he needs to go with his gut feeling and needs to visit all of them as we've done no visits at all. He seems slightly more into Warwick than elsewhere and so Chitchattery, as your sons sounds similar to mine (and also aspired to Oxbridge and was then rejected post interview), Warwick might suit him well. I like the idea of a definable 'centre' or campus, although he may struggle in the second and third year.

The teaching contact time is more my own consideration, as I want my DCs to 'get their money's worth' and they were both attracted to Oxbridge partly for that reason - the tutorials. However, DT2 (much more so than his twin) has always been self-driven and an independent learner.

He needs to take a closer look at the different History courses at each place. It's difficult to get him enthused though as he's still not yet heard from Durham.

How difficult is it to find decent accommodation in Warwick for the 2nd and 3rd years?

York sounds lovely, Justanothermile and the college system sounds ideal too. DT2 should take a closer look.

Bristol is much loved by wider members of the extended family but this has made DT2 possibly prefer somewhere with no previous family connections. He's still in any case trying to come to terms with not getting his first choice uni but really must start to explore his other options.

OP’s posts: |
HarryTheSteppenwolf Fri 15-Mar-19 18:07:50

How difficult is it to find decent accommodation in Warwick for the 2nd and 3rd years?

Warwick university isn't in Warwick: it's on the south-western edge of Coventry. Warwick itself is tiny and would probably be quite difficult to find accommodation it. Leamington Spa (joined at the hip & shoulder to Warwick) is the most easily accessible town of any size and most students seem to end up there in 2nd & 3rd year. There are plenty of landlords who will rent to students. Coventry itself is much bigger and probably cheaper, but it's a bit of a nuisance to get to (probably okay on a bike if you can live with the traffic) and there's another university there whose students probably grab most of the rented houses first. My nephew was an undergraduate at Warwick and had no difficulty getting accommodation.

errorofjudgement Fri 15-Mar-19 19:07:37

DD went to the History talk at Warwick and was impressed, though as her brother is there (stayed post uni) she’s reserving judgement on whether she would apply!

As others have said, everyone seems to move out to Lem after first year, there’s s remote working “library” linked to the main uni library at Lem, plus the uni owns a very nice residential block directly opposite the station which is flats and shared kitchens, just like uni accom, plus it either owns or manages a number of houses in the town too.

DS found that the societies vary their socials between on campus and in Lem, with buses provided to pick up and take back afterwards. So very easy to become familiar with and socialise in Lem should the campus become a bit samey after a term or so.

Justanothermile Fri 15-Mar-19 19:08:17

The definable centre or campus has worked well for DS, albeit at Lancaster. He's a quiet soul, not into the party scene, but has a small and solid set of friends with whom he had signed up for a house rental for within weeks. It's felt like a safe step into the adult world without being overwhelming. York is campus too, not sure re Bristol.

I wonder if actually listing the positives of the courses might enthuse your DS? If he sees all that is good about the university and course, he might find a way forward.

I'm do think it's unfair that some students are still waiting to hear from Durham.

corythatwas Fri 15-Mar-19 23:53:54

The teaching contact time is more my own consideration, as I want my DCs to 'get their money's worth'

Read my post about the different learning goals again. Would you really think your children were getting "their money's worth" in a music class if they spent all the time watching the teacher play brilliantly and no time playing themselves?

Contact hours are there to set students up for the more important work they do on their own. A tutorial is only as good as the work the student has prepared beforehand: the long hours researching material in the library, thinking through your argument, writing an essay through again.

corythatwas Fri 15-Mar-19 23:56:45

And btw it is not laziness that makes academic teachers insist on the importance of non-contact hours. Giving a lecture is actually far less work than marking 30 assignments.

marine04 Mon 18-Mar-19 10:07:47

@coleoptera he sounds a little like my son who also might be described as geeky! One of the things that is currently swaying him in favour of Warwick is that they have the UK's largest table top gaming society (ie Dungeons and Dragons!). He's very excited by this. Not sure if this sort of extra curricular stuff would influence him?!

Dancingdreamer Tue 19-Mar-19 15:38:50

In case this helps, I think Warwick were in clearing for history this year and taking people with grades 2 lower than their official entry.

GCAcademic Tue 19-Mar-19 21:01:00

You need to check out the course content, they will vary significantly. Warwick, for example, has a base in Venice and History students can spent a term there studying the Venetian Renaissance.

Coleoptera Wed 20-Mar-19 06:19:55

Thanks for the further thoughts - very helpful. Justanothermile, a campus set up might suit him quite well.

Cory, what I meant by contact time was really based on my own long ago experience of both Oxford (undergrad) and Cambridge (postgrad) where I had intense one to one tutoring at least twice a week plus also lectures and seminars too several times a week in addition to independent learning the rest of the time and at least 2 essays marked by tutors once a week too. So I'm not used to the idea of only lectures or seminars for students and given the cost of student fees, it's felt to me that this isn't on the same moneysworth- level as I was lucky enough to experience.

However, DT2 is very much someone who is self-directed in his learning and will be happy to spend hours in a library. I hope there'll also be lots of feedback for essays from the lecturers too however and plenty of work set and then marked, so he can have an idea of how he's doing.

I can't quite get my head around the contrast between unis who regularly see students twice a week on a two to one or one to one basis and set regular twice weekly essays and those that seem to set one essay a term and never meet individual students with any regularity. I wish the tutorial system was the same everywhere but that's my own biased opinion based on my personal experience of course.

Marine, thanks for that info. However, DT2 isn't geeky in that way and has never gamed in his life either tabletop or online and actually hates tabletop and online gaming! He's more into creative writing, history/politics for fun, writing essays for fun etc - that kind of thing.

Dancingdreamer, that doesn't sound good if Warwick was in clearing for History. Why would they not have enough students for places last year?

GCAcademic, yes, the Venice based bit sounds interesting to me, especially as DT2 was teaching himself Italian for fun recently. However, he seems keener on the more modern history side of the course.

Any other thoughts about History at these 3 universities?

OP’s posts: |
le42 Wed 20-Mar-19 06:37:03

I did a Masters in history at Durham. I wasn’t keen on the teachers and the city is far too small for me, no way I could have spent 3 years there. But others like that it’s small.

Having done a history degree I would advise he looks at the modules for each and how many he finds interesting.

My best friend loved history at Bristol, he is now a phd student in Washington DC.

All contact time in my experience is tiny for history 3-4 one hour lectures and 3-4 one hour seminars with an essay a term per module.

Ultimately he is going to spend 3 years there so the area is important- what feel does he get from each city.

And re employers I would say Bristol and Durham are the higher ranked but it depends what he wants to do...

GCAcademic Wed 20-Mar-19 06:45:14

I wish the tutorial system was the same everywhere but that's my own biased opinion based on my personal experience of course.

I teach a humanities subject at a RG university (top 10, students with AAB for the course I teach) and I can tell you that most of our students simply wouldn’t cope with what you described in your previous post. They barely manage the workload as it is. Preparing properly for four seminars a week, for presentations and for formative assessment, and attending lectures is a full-time proposition, and many of our students struggle with it. In reality, there are not many students who are suited to the tutorial system, which is why Oxbridge turns down many students who seem brilliant on paper. In terms of getting your money’s worth, Oxbridge is able to run the tutorial system because they are rich and have vast additional funds available to them, not because they are using your fees more effectively than other universities.

ShanghaiDiva Wed 20-Mar-19 12:13:17

My ds is at Warwick and enjoys living on a campus. Accommodation at Warwick is decent and ime not too expensive. He decided not to live in Leamington next year as they are all gym and sports fanatics and wanted to be near the campus. It wasn't a problem to find a house near the university.

sendsummer Wed 20-Mar-19 22:45:03

I can't quite get my head around the contrast between unis who regularly see students twice a week on a two to one or one to one basis and set regular twice weekly essays and those that seem to set one essay a term and never meet individual students with any regularity.
I don’t think the contrast is due laziness of academics at other universities as you might be implying Coleoptera. The Oxbridge tutorial system is propped up by hiring a lot of stipendiary lecturers on part time short term contracts who generally are poorly paid for the hours of undergraduate work they put in. Particularly for humanities this can be viewed as exploitative by both Oxford and Cambridge as those lecturers mostly don’t have grants to rely on as their main source of income.

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