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Appearances can be deceptive
University of Nottingham in general
Member Name: jennikitten
University of Nottingham in general
Date: 29/12/08, updated on 30/12/08 (1769 review reads)
Advantages: A lot of people love it
Disadvantages: Too many flaws with the systems
Nottingham University is generally based on appearances, boasting one of Europe's greenest campuses and a range of archiecture from classical looking buildings on University Park to postmodern award winning buildings on Jubilee. This is generally what attracts potential students, along with its reputation as being one of the best universities in the UK.
However, as we all know, appearances can be deceptive.
I did my undergrad degree at Nottingham University, and whilst I can honestly say that a lot of my friends loved at and were keen for any excuse to say, there were a lot of things I had problems with. Some of these I assume will be similar for other universities, but this is just a guess, and these are problems I encountered.
One thing I will say is that if you're doing an Arts course, be prepared for an overwhelming amount of superficial people, many of whom will take 3 or 4 hours to get ready to go to the library, whereupon they do no work at all but just go there to be 'seen'. Many people are fake and/or snobbish, though there are plenty of nicer and more normal people too, these are the ones who will most stick in your mind unfortunately.
Most of the staff, particularly in first year, gave the impression that they'd much rather be doing their research than teaching us. In first year the majority of seminars were given by unqualified postgrads. This I found quite shocking as you wouldn't even expect a teacher without training in a primary school, never mind a university. This is a problem across a lot of universities, mainly due I think to costs in teaching large numbers of people. I did have supposed seminars where the 'teacher' would hold up something like Paradise Lost and say 'So what did you think of this book?', and then proceeded to get visibly annoyed when met with the silence of people completely flabbergasted by such a broad question that hadn't been thought through. Occasionally I would get a good postgrad teacher, but this was rare.
This is really not worth paying over a grand a year for, especially where there are only a few hours a week teaching time for English students (about 10-15 in first year, going down to about 4 in third)
In second and third years a bigger proportion of the teaching was done by lecturers; however this varied hugely. Amongst the best, like Peter Stockwell, lectures were fully attended by the 200-300 people on my course. We'd spend time discussing them after and it made us love what we do. We had a purpose, we were crazily enjoying it. Other lecturers relied solely on muttered Powerpoint slides, often badly spelt and mistyped (appalling for any subject, but they made many English students want to cry). For the worst, only about 10 people would show up once the lecturer had established what they were like by reading off slides and then putting them up on the intranet for people to download in full anyway.
At the end of the third year, I went to apply for a master's and to apply at other unis, I needed official proof of my results to date. After reading the terms on the Nottingham Uni website, I then had to fill out a confusing form where one of the mandatory questions was the type of 'letter' I wanted. I was confused but completed it anyway. I was then told to wait 3 days before I could collect my copies. I went to collect them, and they'd printed the wrong thing for me and then told me it was my fault and I had to pay if I wanted anything else printed. I explained that the form had confused me, and they looked it up on their computer and tried their best to prove it was my fault but they couldn't. The woman acted like she was doing me a big favour by printing off the stuff I needed and not charging me for it (after 5 printouts of official admin things you have to pay). All she did was print 5 sheets of A4 and stamp them. And that apparently took 3 days. The worst thing was that if I had been charged, the first page would have cost me £10, and the subsequent ones £5 each. For a two second printout on a plain piece of paper, and an ink pad stamp.
Then I was told that I'd have to provide a copy of my final degree certificate to confirm my place - that is a fixed fee of another £20. Their attempts to get you to stay on and do more/other courses mounted up and ended up costing quite a lot by the end.
Secondly, a considerable amount (we're talking hundreds of thousands if not millions) of the money the university makes is based on investments in the arms trade, which I find politically and morally unethical and I'm ashamed that by going there I unknowingly supported this. Apparently it's done because it's a safe investment with a big return.
Thirdly, the university has campuses in China and Malyasia. To be officially recognised as a university in China, there needs to be a certain number of books per student. So the university has decided to ship out a lot of English books from their UK libraries that are either banned or not applicable to the courses they do over there rather than pay for new books that would actually benefit the Chinese students and allow the English students to keep books they need and use, when there is already a shortage.
3. Societies and Karni
Karni is the charity organisation that plans tons of different ways to make money. The university loves it because it makes them look good. Even though they're perfectly willing to take credit for this, they are not prepared to accept responsibility of the students. There are various Karni 'reps' in charge of events and organisation, and they are required to sign for personal responsiblity for the students in case anything should happen. I imagine if anything did, this would cause massive problems and guilt issues, outside of courts and lawsuits etc.
Societies are given precedence over students to some degree. For example, I was told I was not allowed to book a room to rehearse a presentation in because I was not a committee member of a society. So I couldn't use the drama studio for presentation purposes even though I studied Drama; yet a computer scientist as a secretary of, say, the rambling society could organise hang gliding in there if he/she wanted. I found this really unfair, and this applies to all rooms that can be booked on campus.
In my second year they put a warning on the intranet portal basically telling people that if they posted anything negative about the university on the Internet, they would be kicked out.
This kind of censorship was added to by two people recently being arrested for 'terrorism'. This involved one of the students asking a staff (not academic/lecturer) member to print out a copy of some terrorism-related stuff; but this is widely available in print/on the Internet, and was strongly linked to his thesis. It was blown out of all proportion and unsurprisingly the university tried to distance themselves from it until they were found innocent, refusing to use the word 'staff' even internally - instead, they referred to the incident as involving a student and an 'ex-student', refusing to even acknowledge it was anything to do with them...and passing the non-existent blame onto the students - just for a change.
5. Student cards
In the second year I was there the university decided to remove the NUS logos from our student cards, meaning we couldn't use them for the discounts we were entitled to. They also did this without consulting the Students' Union, which everyone was so furious about that they reinstated it the next year - but not before a whole new generation of students (and the thousands that hadn't kept their cards from the year before) had missed out on their student discount.
These cards are also used around campus for many things including the library, library room bookings, general ID and entering buildings and rooms. The university decided anyone who was careless enough to lose theirs had to pay £20 for a replacement, despite the fact that they cost £5 to make. After a big uproar about it, they finally agreed to reduce the price - I think it's at £10 - and they are still making money on it.
Overall, though I had some good experiences at Nottingham uni, and some of the lecturers are world leaders in what they do, there are a lot of underlying issues I have with how things are run that you don't see from looking at the pretty campus and the general reputation.
If you are interested in applying here (or to any UK university), I would recommend skipping the Open Days and instead walking into a random lecture or two - trust me, no one will know you don't belong there - and then you can see what it's really like before making a decision.
Summary: Make your own mind up
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