A question I have been asked a lot recently is “What did you think of your Undergrad and was it worth it?” so I thought I’d write a post about it.
Firstly I think it’s really weird that reviews on university courses are not more readily available. It’s probably one of the most important/expensive decisions you can make at 17 – what to study and where to go? Yet little actual student-based information is available.
Now I have to warn you that this post may be a little out-dated in terms of the current course, as I graduated in 2016, nevertheless, there may be something useful to someone in it.
My choice was to read for a BA Hons in History at Oxford Brookes University. Mainly as it was my only option, but nevertheless I was happy with it.
I rather naively had no idea about the location, as I had never even been to Oxford before I the day I arrived at halls. That said I was more than impressed with Oxford over my three years and it holds a very special place in my heart.
Despite being expensive for pretty much everything, there was never a dull moment.
The city famed for the “Other” university is a wonderful place to be a student. Brookes students stake their claims on the East side of the city, with Cowley and Headington being firm favourites. As these areas are slightly outside the city centre the Brookes Key is the most important thing at a students disposal – £1 bus travel you cannot go wrong, plus the free Brookes Campus buses!
Do not, I repeat, do not underestimate the significance of where you live! For a History student, this is key, as although the contact time is minimal the reading time is astronomically high, thus proximity to the library is crucial. Plus you want somewhere you enjoy coming home to from all those all-nighters.
There is a wide variety of accommodation on offer at Brookes, from shared bathroom to en suite, off to on campus and even fully catered!
My advice would be to work out who you are and what is most important to you. In my first year, it was an en suite, even though that meant I was 30 minutes away from campus. In my third year, it was being as close to the library as possible. Not that that made me go!
Societies and activities were a lifeline for me, when I arrived I was overwhelmed by the whole thing, despite having been at boarding school since the age of 11. I missed home, the people I’d grown up with and the atmosphere of a school that I was perhaps institutionalised in.
One thing I had learnt at an early age was the need to try new things and keep busy. So, I signed up to almost 30 things at the Freshers Fayre, from there I whittled it down into a core three, fencing, mentoring and the University Royal Naval Unit (URNU).
These three I knew I would commit to for my entire course. I loved them all and the people I met through them are the people I most identified with and remain close friends with until this day.
Sadly the nightlife in Oxford has greatly declined since I left. What with the closing of Purple Turtle a few months ago, sending shockwaves through generations of patrons who reminisced about drinking Hulk’s and the dungeon-like effect we all loved.
Wahoo was loveable rogue, with its awkward dance space and cramped smoking area. Skint Monday’s were not to be missed – £1 VK’s and £2.50 double Vodka Mixers – it was every student’s dream.
In my time Fuzzy Ducks was held at Wahoo and was akin to a pilgrimage for any Brookes Students, dress code creativity was a must. Though Wahoo has sadly passed on and an Entrepreneurial Hub for the other University stands in its place. It is survived by Fuzzy Ducks who is something of a club night nomad, having settled at Emporium for now.
Café Baba’s on the Cowley Road has to be my favourite bar in Oxford with its £4 cocktails or 2 for £6 between 17:00-20:00, my personal favourite has to be the Lemony Snicket, closely followed by the Moroccan Mule.
The number 1 pub spot has to go to The Library on the Cowley Road for its Hipster vibe and a great choice of beer.
On to the main reason I was there…
I choose Oxford Brookes because the course seemed so flexible and offered the option to do Independent Research Modules in 2nd and 3rd year. I did mine in the 2nd year and thoroughly enjoyed it though I did wish I’d known that the topic you choose couldn’t be used for your dissertation.
Another great thing about Brookes was that it only has 2 Semesters and for my course, all of the assessments were done during those weeks, so there was no holiday revision! Also, the length of those semesters meant we were only actually in lectures for 6 months of the year.
All 8 modules were compulsory in the first year with topics ranging from Historiography, Early Modern History, French Revolution, the building of Great Britain, the Cold War.
For my second and third year, there was a broad and interesting range of modules to choose from, outside of the compulsory Historiography modules, including History of Medicine, History of Childhood and the History of Crime, Early Modern History, plus many more.
My dissertation was 10,000 words and the support given by my supervisor was fantastic. Though I would say I never met my Personal Tutor, as he never turned up to scheduled meetings!
The range of assessment was engaging, from essays to presentations, I only sat 2 exams in my first year, but we did also have a hybrid 24-hour exam – where they release the question and you then have to research and write up an essay in 24-hours! You were only meant to spend an hour on the essay, but inevitably you used all the time you had. It also caused chaos in the library as everyone was waiting there to grab the books from the shelves and go home.
The JHB Building was still under construction when I arrived, but luckily it had opened by the second semester of my first year. This building was fabulous it had quiet areas and silent rooms all the way to the buzzing forum, plus it was also open 24 hours a day so it catered for my all-nighters!
There was a wide range of resources from online databases to print material. You could loan up to 12 books for a week at a time, with a 50p a day fine for ordinary non-returns and 50p per hour for short loans– it’s now up to £1 respectively. Also, they prevented you from graduating if you have not paid your fines!
Rather fittingly Brookes is home to the National Brewing Library, with the archive housed in the basement of the JHB Building! I never had a need to access this resource, but I’m sure it was a paradise for some.
WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?
In a heartbeat, there are some things I would do very differently. I wouldn’t have used my dissertation topic for my Independent Research Module, I would have used my spare time in a more productive way and I would have learnt to cook. Overall though, I had the time of my life and desperately miss those carefree days where I could study what I loved full time and had no adult responsibilities.