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Last September (2004) I gained a place at UCE studying Radiotherapy through Clearing. Initially I had wanted to do a different course at Derby University but spontaneously changed my mind about a week before the course was to start, much to the dismay of my family, as it meant we had to move.
So move to Coventry we did, and I started my course on 20th September.
I've decided to give each category 'marks out of ten' to help summarise the whole op at the end.
~~~TRAVELLING~~~ I know this is not particularly relevant to the actual university but as mature students by far exceed 18 year old school leaver students, I figured that a large proportion of these students will live off-campus, that is away from the university itself. Also, probably 90% of the students I spoke to at UCE, told me they lived at least on the other side of Birmingham, if not further affield.
The methods of travelling to the University campus are: ~TAXI - from Birmingham City Centre is around £8-£9 (I did this on my first day as I got completely lost in B'ham and didn't want to be late). ~BUS - there are several buses from around the city centre (apart from the train station) to the campus, which run every 5-7 minutes throughout the day, and the bus fare is £1 though you can buy Day Saver tickets that allow you to travel all around B'ham for £2.70 ~TRAIN - I got the train as it worked out cheaper, and also because the nearest bus stop from B'ham New Street train station was a good 15 minute walk. My train ticket was £15 something for the week. There are two trains per hour and they have a strange habit of continually changing the times of these. :-\ Anyone who's familiar with New Street train station will know how much of a nightmare it is, and those who aren't. Imagine Victoria Station. The train station at Perry Barr is terrifying, but I will mention this further on... ~ CAR - Oh yes, some will have a car. Birmingham rush hour is appalling, but there is car parking on campus. MY SCORE 3/10
~~~PERRY BARR~~~ Perry Barr is situated approximately three miles north of Birmingham city centre. The campus is easy to spot from the main street in Perry Barr and there is a shopping centre opposite the campus which, admittedly, is quite impressive.
Pictures of Central England University
There are a couple of banks, an Asda, a market, and a lot of studenty cheap shops such as TK Maxx, Next Clearance, Poundstretcher, B Wise etc, and a few places to get something to eat (Greggs, BK, McDonalds, Subways, cafes etc). The train station is tiny and located a short walk down a dirty road away from the campus and shopping centre. You almost miss the entrance as it is a tiny passageway located between two shops, one selling Class A drugs, the other guns. Sorry, no that's a lie...
There is a main road and roundabout separating the campus from the shopping centre and there are subways linking them. I originally come from 'up North' and have never seen subways before so I was a little afraid of these anyway; but on my first day at UCE, a tutor remarked to the group that we should not use the subways at any time, as a lecturer the year before had been shot in one, mid-afternoon! Hmmm. Moving on... MY SCORE: 3/10 (for the shopping centre)
~~~THE CAMPUS~~~ The campus is large and made from 1960s type brick designs. There are approximately 10 buildings and each main course group is based in one of them, plus the library, lecture theatre and admin buildings. The buildings have names alphabetically, i.e. Attwood, Baker, Cox, Dawson, Edge, Feeney, Galton, Howes, Jackson, Kenrick, Leyland.
My course was based in Cox, but the majority of my first-year lessons were on either the 5th floor or the 7th floor of Baker building. :-\. However, not to worry, there are three lifts... MY SCORE: 7/10
~~~FACILITIES~~~ LIBRARY - The library is not all that large, with two floors and part of one of them separated off into a computer access suite. However, every book I ever needed I managed to find here, so perhaps this has more of a reflection on the range of courses UCE does. There are 5-week, 2-week or 2-hour loans depending on how popular the book is, but you can renew in person or online just by entering your library card number. If you don't renew, you will pay a hefty fine (upto 75p for being part of a day late!).Queues are very very long at all times, but there are self-service machines where you can print your own tickets off to take out books, or return them. However, these didn't seem to work for many of the books I needed. Opening hours are good: 7.15am - 11pm Mon-Thurs and 9pm Fridays.
~IT FACILITIES~ There are a few IT rooms situated around the campus, and in the library, but I never actually used one because they were always packed.
~STUDENT SERVICES~ There is an abundance of information on Childcare, Disabilities, Careers, Finance information, Counselling etc; and leaflets are distributed everywhere as well as talks given several times throughout induction. There is also help available if you are struggling with the academic side of your course, e.g. tuition, and free pens etc if you forget to bring your own.
~ FOOD AND DRINK~ There are an adequate amount of eateries and drinkeries at UCE Parry Barr. These include: The Quad - hot and cold meals and snacks, including foods from around the world. Scholars Restaurant - a wider range of meals and sandwich bar. A couple of other snack and coffee bars. And there is a pub on campus, as well as a Union bar, serving alcohol and more snacks. MY SCORE: 7/10
~~~STUDENT UNION~~~ The Student Union is a group of students interested in improving the lives of all other students. They have a real place where everything is organised and there are the usual bars and cafes, shops, insurance outlets etc. They also organise concerts throughout the year, have a newspaper and radio station and there are several students located throughout the campus dishing out copies of The Sun newspaper free to all students.
As with all SUs, you can join their clubs and societies, examples such as kickboxing, football and even salsa; and the non-sporting DJ society, Bollywood and Curry society. I didn't join any clubs or societies so I don't know what goes on in one, but they are easily accessible to anyone who might be interested.
The Union also operates STAR - where a representative from each course is allocated to be the spokesperson for the fellow students on their course. They put forward any complaints students might have such as essay deadlines, how many hours of study they have to do etc. MY SCORE: 8/10
~~~ACCOMMODATION~~~ I didn't stay in University owned accommodation but I know a few students who did, and have visited several rooms. All accommodatiopn is self-catered, with laundry, cctv and bike racks; and there are basically two choices: ~The Coppice - 432 students inc. some with disabilities. Located on the Perry Barr teaching campus. All rooms are the same and don't have en-suite, and are priced at £64 per week. ~Oscott Gardens - 419 students. Also located on Perry Barr campus and all rooms are ensuite. Generally, this is a bit more upmarket than the Coppice accommodation, and rooms start from £76.50 per week depending on size.
Non-university owned accommodation is plentiful and cheaper, e.g £45-£55 per week for a room in a shared house, but students will have some travelling as they must be out of their minds to consider living privately in Perry Barr itself!! :-\ Sorry. MY SCORE: 8/10
~~~COURSES & TEACHING~~~ The UCE has a wide range of courses, in broad subject ares, for example Health and Community Care; Law, Humanities and Social Sciences; Computing and Information.
Typical entry requirements are low, e.g for the course I studied, you would need two grade 'C' A levels or equivalent. Many students (about 2/3)are mature and have undertaken an access course.
Official university rankings are quite poor for UCE. According to InterStudent.co.uk, they are placed 80th in the tables. For individual subjects, the university still appears to be doing not so well, e.g. UCE is ranked the 52nd best institution for Law, and 23rd for Computing, according to the Guardian (these subjects were chosen at random).
However, I found teaching to be good on my course. Staff were friendly and were always available if you required extra help, and I feel I have learned a lot from my brief spell on the course (I left due to moving 200 miles away with hubby's job). The course has increased my interest in the subject tenfold and I am hoping to gain a place on a similar course where I live now. MY SCORE: 5/10 (Despite my good teaching, the poor rankings let it down).
**Please note, there are several campuses of UCE, though Perry Barr is the biggest. Students of Nursing will be based at Edgbaston, and arty type courses will also be based elsewhere. I have only visited Perry Barr so cannot comment on any of the others.**