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Four years ago, I left school and started the hunt for a suitable university to go to, however I was only really torn between two. This was because I knew that I wanted to move back up Edinburgh, and I also knew that I wanted to do Information Technology. This left Heriot-Watt (actually spelt with 1 ‘R’) or Napier – the two in Edinburgh that seemed to offer this particular subject. I was allowed to apply to six universities; however I ended up choosing some of these by shutting my eyes and randomly pointing my finger at the map! Oops, not really ideal is it…
Anyway, after looking at both of the Universities, I thought that Napier would be the best for me, since it was spread out throughout town and my first thoughts were that this would be exciting. However, after a guided tour around Heriot-Watt, I realised that practical should maybe win over excitement. Although it is situated slightly outside town, it seemed to have everything that could be needed – a bank, restaurant, shop, hairdresser, a gym, snooker room, 2 pubs and a club and so on!! The grounds look lovely, and most of all I was assured that it had a better reputation and good facilities. I shall go into most of these in more detail throughout the review.
Heriot-Watt University is the eighth oldest higher education establishment within the UK; however it only gained its charter in 1966 making it a University.
The name of the university comes from George Heriot, who was a jeweller, philanthropist and financier to King James in the sixteenth century, and also James Watt, who was an inventor and engineer from the 18th century.
It was originally the ‘School of Arts of Edinburgh’, providing technical education for the working classes, as it was felt there was a lack of this available. In 1852, the name was changed to the ‘Watt Institution and School of Arts’. In the 1870s, it was further changed to the ‘Heriot-Watt College’ until it gained its charter in 1966.
The university was originally located in Chambers Street in the Edinburgh town centre, however due to constant expansion, the former Gibson-Craig estate in Riccarton was bought for one penny.
There are now different campuses that are associated with Heriot-Watt; the main one being in Edinburgh itself (in Riccarton, near Currie). There are also campuses in Dubai, the Scottish Borders and another in Orkney (The International Centre for Island Technology).
~~Scottish Borders Campus Originally I wanted to go to this campus, although it is really small, I thought it would be the best as I thought there would be more help from lecturers – with smaller classes and so on. My course stopped running there the year I was going to join, so I was moved to the Edinburgh campus instead (and I think I’m probably more pleased I did move there).
The Borders Campus was a really lovely little campus, in Galashiels in the borders of Scotland. It’s only about an hour away from Edinburgh, and there is a bus that’s run to join the campuses (there’s also a bus to the student union at the Edinburgh campus for those nights out). It offers courses from both the School of Textiles and Design, and also the School of Management and Languages. This campus predominantly focuses upon the textiles and design and has had great success from this area.
~~Dubai Campus Located in Academic City in Dubai, Heriot-Watt was invited to offer specialist courses that were needed in the ever expanding economy. There are ever increasing courses available at the Dubai campus including Business Administration, Accountancy and Finance, Business and Finance, Management and Mechanical Engineering.
~~Orkney Campus Stromness, in Orkney
Pictures of Herriot Watt University
is quite an unusual location for a university, but it seems to be really rewarding to those who have taken a place here. The International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT) has now become part of Heriot-Watt’s Institue of Petroleum Engineering. It was created to help with advanced research, postgraduate training and consultancy in marine resource management and associated issues. ~~Edinburgh Campus I was located in Riccarton at the Edinburgh campus, which is the biggest campus of them all, and although it’s a little way out of town (about half an hour on the bus to the town centre), everything you could need is available there. The buses come really regularly and aren’t really that expensive either, so it’s not bad for getting in and out.
When I looked around the campus, I was quite interested by how nice the campus actually looked – there is a sunken garden (which is where the graduation party takes place and has trees surrounding it), a loch (even if this is pretty toxic), with swans just wandering around the campus, and the halls are well spread out. The campus is so green which was really pleasant, and it seemed easy enough to be able to get away from it all, which is something you often don’t find in a city.
There are loads of facilities available here, I’m sure I’ll miss some out, but some of the main ones that seem important are listed below.
~~Sport There are great sports facilities on campus. The best thing is that it’s not expensive at all and both students and visitors can join up to the sports centre. When I went, it cost about £1.10 to use the gym (as a student), and when I played badminton it only cost 50p to rent a racquet.
Facilities include: - 3 sports halls - A good few pitches for rugby and football etc - Tennis and badminton courts (I played badminton with some friends a few times, and I think it was more humorous than technical) - Squash courts (this seems to be quite a big thing at university) - Gyms (which I tried out a few times and although are quite small, do the job and have all the equipment needed – get the right time and it’s not really too busy)
Hearts football team train at Heriot-Watt now, using the facilities that they have to offer, which I believe seem to have also increased the standard provided. I joined the netball team, however due to too much partying, not being fit enough and everyone else being so much better than I was, shamefully I only made it to a couple of the training sessions and decided my sporting days had to come to rest.
~~Music Some of my friends were part of the orchestra for a while, which seems to be quite a large part of the university too, providing shows every now and again that you can go and see. I went along to watch a show and it was very professional and entertaining.
~~Halls of Residence You can choose which type of accommodation you would like when joining the university; and if you know someone just pop their name down in the form and they try and put you near each other. The prices of the halls are really reasonable, and you don’t have to pay any extras for bills at all. There is also internet access and a phone in each room. You can buy phone cards to ring external numbers, but you can phone internal numbers for free – always used to catch me on the phone to the person next door, or upstairs…the cords even reach right to your bed – lazy!!
The types of residences available are:
- Catered Residences Commonly known as “The Ghetto”, you’re living in the middle of the university campus itself, which is great when you have a class first thing – you can just roll out of bed and you’re almost in the room you need to be in! Right next the loch and on the way back from the student union, these are really social and although you have to share bathrooms, you get all your meals provided for you and just have to go down to the shop, the ‘Microbyte’ (see other facilities) or the refectory and get your meal.
- Self-Catering Residences Like “The Ghetto”, you share facilities in the halls, however you also get to share a kitchen, so that you can make your own meals. These (and the en suite residences) are located outside the centre of the campus, meaning that it’s a little walk to the rest of uni, but only about 10 minutes, and it’s good exercise, good to sober up a bit, and also means that it’s a little quieter.
- Self-Catering En-Suite Residences I stayed in an en-suite self catered room. These were hardly more expensive than the others and I thought it would be really nice to have my own bathroom, and be able to cook for myself. This means that you don’t have to rely on others for meals (ie when the refectory is open, or what you can buy in the shop). The rooms and kitchen are cleaned for you and the cleaners are always up for a chat (even if you are still lying in your bed with a hangover). In each of the residences mentioned so far, there are communal ‘sitting rooms’, so that you can watch a bit of telly and have a gathering with mates from your floor.
- Self Catering Flats The self catering flats are different to all the other rooms, as they are self-contained flats, rather than study rooms. These can hold up to 5 students in each flat and have their own kitchen/dining/sitting rooms.
~~Union The union isn’t really all that big however there is a nightclub area (Zero Degrees), which host live comedy nights, Jam Friday (a cheap-drinks-club-night), karaoke nights and so on. A bar is also located here called Geordies, which has TVs in it for sports and music channels etc, and has pool tables, a jukebox, machines to play and a food area where you can buy your lunch, dinner or just a snack (depending on when they are open! The third bar is a more chilled out bar, which sells cocktails in the evening and coffee in the day time.
All these bars link up in one building, which means that on a busy night, you can just wander around through them all like one big club. There is also a snooker area in a different section, some rooms for society meetings, and this is where the Advice and Support Centre is also found.
Although they do make an effort to try and get people into the union more often, it is still a better night in Edinburgh itself, however I would usually find myself popping down to the union for a casual pint (not that it ever ended up that way), and also at Jam Friday, as it was so cheap, and such a laugh as everyone I knew would be there.
Societies are a great way to meet people that share the same interests as you, and there are loads of societies available to join too!!! You can also request to start your own society, which is easy enough to do if they think that it will be popular enough (i.e. if anyone will join). Some of the societies available currently include: -the brewing society -computer gaming -duke of Edinburgh -poker society
~~The Library The library is 4 floors high, and has all the course books available. If you don’t want to have to buy a book you can find it here, although sometimes if it is a busy time, they don’t have many copies of the books, so you might find yourself without or are only able to get it for a couple of hours at a time. There are loads of computers located in the library (however again at busy times, there just aren’t enough and it’s best to find one somewhere else), there is always wireless access for those with laptops.
I didn’t really use the library that much to be honest; mainly for revision before exams. It does sometimes get a bit noisy; however someone comes walking about now and again to keep check of the noise. There are also individual study rooms that you can get a key for and these are usually loads quieter (even though they do look like prison cells). It's open quite long hours, which is really good (I remember leaving at 10 one evening and being back in at 9 the next morning - revision was not going very well)
~~Other facilities There is a campus shop, which sells pretty much most things that you could need. It’s not really very big, but you can buy your bread, milk, something for your dinner, booze, rent a DVD, buy phone credit and so on. There is also a bookshop (Blackwells) that sell the books that you might need for your course, CDs and fiction books for a bit of light reading. They also buy back some books once you’re done with them if they are still relevant.
There is a restaurant called Scholars, which seems quite posh, and usually has good deals on. Also the Refectory where the majority of ‘catered-halls’ meals are served, and a smaller sandwich-type café-restaurant called the Microbyte, which is where many people go for hot or cold food at lunch time.
There is a bank (The Royal Bank of Scotland), an insurance shop (Endsleigh) and a hairdresser.
The university is organised into six different schools, in order to provide academic programmes, which in turn offer courses and subjects.
~~School of the Built Environment ~~School of Engineering and Physical Sciences ~~School of Life Sciences ~~School of Management and Languages ~~School of Mathematics and Computer Science ~~School of Textiles and Design ~~Edinburgh Business School ~~Institute of Petroleum Engineering
I did Information Technology and therefore I was in the Mathematics and Computer Science School (aka MACS). Although I was doing an IT degree, a lot of this course involved working in the School of Management and Languages, as I did quite a lot of management modules (this made the course a bit more varied and ended up making my specialise my degree into IT (Management) which is offered towards the end of the degree.
My degree wasn’t really all I expected it to be. I didn’t really go into my IT degree with many expectations, which I think is probably the best way to go about it, however when I was thrown into programming I was a bit shocked and then we seemed to do some modules that didn’t seem to have anything to do with IT at all. It seemed as though it was all thrown together a bit, however I have recently found out that it was only the fourth year of them offering it at all, and it is also being scrapped this year, to make place for another more focused degree. However, having said that; I have learnt a lot more than I expected I would including subjects which I ended up finding really interesting, meaning that I can put this on my CV and look skilled in a wider area than I might have if it wasn’t a bit random.
The lecturers are really helpful (most of them but you always get some that you can’t really depend on anywhere eh?), and some will really put themselves out to help you. I made some good friends with some of them, and know that if I have any problems in the future, they will still help and be there for me. Some of these lecturers really made the classes interesting, but there were some that you just didn’t want to go to at all. Lectures aren’t compulsory and you can usually pick up the class notes online, so if you miss classes it shouldn’t really matter all that much.
First year was great and the social life was excellent, there was always something on at the union, or a group of people heading into town. I made great friends and some that I know I’ll keep in touch with forever.
I have completed four years at Heriot-Watt now, and I am really pleased I chose this university; I think that it was definitely worthwhile and I’d do it again if I got the chance!