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University of York in general
Member Name: Going To California
University of York in general
Date: 11/04/02, updated on 12/04/02 (3457 review reads)
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Long ago when I was new to the idea of Dooyoo I wrote a particularly poor opinion on archaeology at York, a degree that I am now happily enduring (a contradiction perhaps? You decide!). Regrettably, when I wrote that opinion I was a prospective student, i.e. I had not actually done any of the degree. I based my opinion on open days that I had attended, and on prospectuses that I had been sent by the department. Whilst these are good starting points, they do not tell the whole story. Instead they opt to show you the glossy covers of university life and the strengths of all-things from that particular institution.
I hope to offer a balanced opinion here, giving both the pro's and the con's. For that reason I have reserved my opinion about the University itself until now, the Easter holiday after 20 weeks of study, the reason being that I hope have accumulated enough experience to know what I am talking about. So, with no more rambling to cram into an introduction...enjoy:
THE CAMPUS: BUILDINGS AND DEVELOPMENTS:
Physically, the University is a schizophrenic place. Being engineered in the 1960s and 1970s the older buildings are made of a grey concrete that brings anyone who gazes upon them to immediately think of "dull", "bleak", and all their synonyms. It looks like someone has taken that horrible grey Northern motorway material and wrapped it around the buildings...sadly the result is an insult to both architecture and to the eye, and at first glance the University itself looks like a cold and uninviting place...not the sort of first impression that would lead someone to commit three years of their life to the place.
However, look closer...the University has undergone serious redevelopm
ent in the last decade and the later buildings are much more pleasing. Since 1990 the university has had some form of construction or renovation taking place, and a clear image of the development of the University of York can be seen from the buildings...in the centre is the drab old concrete of the 70s, around the outskirts is the nice new brick of the 90s.
The new colleges look closer to hotels than to prisons, the sports centre is state of the art, and, as I write this, the big Physics & Electronics Department is undergoing a huge renovation to transform it into a "modern" building. The campus library is also scheduled for redevelopment work, and several colleges are being upgraded over the current year.
Added to this is major development work for the Department of Environmental Studies, and Chemistry is also being treated to new buildings in a massive new Science complex that is being constructed on campus. As you will therefore expect there is lots of construction work to disturb the feng shui of the environment on campus, but the end result will be worth it. York is a first class university, and it is about time it had some first class buildings, for both teaching and for living.
THE LAKE AND OTHER STUFF:
The University of York's main campus is a charming place, if you can learn to accept the vast amount of concrete, and this charm is aided to a great extent by the lake that occupies the middle of the campus. Apparently it is the biggest manmade lake in Europe, although I find that a little hard to believe! The lake is crossed by four bridges, and has a nice fountain in the middle that is either a beauty or a burden...depending on which way the wind is blowing! In winter the lake, unsurprisingly, can freeze over which leads to quite a lot of fun in the face of danger as we students attempt all manner of crazy games upon the inch-thick ice. Needless to say, some of the more intoxicated students get we
The lake is home to a large amount of ducks that live on campus, probably rivalling students in terms of numbers, and these ducks find their way between the colleges via the many "green areas" that run along the paths and between the buildings. The presence of these ducks is certainly a novelty that makes studying at York a little bit special...but I guess you have to live alongside them before you appreciate that!
Also on campus is the Quiet Area, which is effectively a walled garden away from the hustle and bustle of central campus life. A quick fact for you - part of the Harry Potter film (2001) was filmed in the Quiet Area. I personally have never seen the film and haven't spent much time in there - so I wouldn't be able to point it out to you, but there are plenty of students who find it incredibly exciting and would be willing to direct you to the exact spot if you were to ask.
The campus is currently under development around the 'retail centre', which in reality equates to two or three shops. There is a reasonably stocked Costcutter supermarket on campus, which is suitable for general living needs. Also there are two bookshops, one of them plush and new, the other cheaper and secondhand, and a York University Students Union shop.
There is little difference between Costcutter and the YUSU shop, except that the YUSU shop sells newspapers and magazines, as well as merchandise for the university. Profits from the YUSU shop goes back into the Student Union and is spent on other initiatives around campus, so it is worth buying the little things in there rather than in Costcutter, which generates no money for the union.
So, a lake surrounded by both concrete monstrosities and, a little further back, 1990s guilt-inspired redevelopments (guilty of the sinful architecture as much as anything!) - the University of York's main campus is certainly an odd one compared to many universi
ties around the country. It is away from the city of York by a 15 minute walk or so, and as a result the campus has a definite independent 'student vibe' to it that might be lost at a university that was in the middle of a city. All in all, a good place to study and a good place to live.
The University of York is divided into colleges. Whilst these are not seen as branches of the university themselves, as may be the case at Oxford or Cambridge, they serve as the place in which you live and are the small inter-university community to which you belong. At the moment the colleges are as follows, named as they are after people or things from history that are significant to the city of York; Alcuin, Derwent, Langwith, Vanbrugh, Goodricke, Wentworth, and James.
Vanbrugh college is the largest and has three spin-off colleges near to the campus; Halifax Court, Eden Court, and Fairfax House. These are basically accommodation blocks that are built slightly off campus because they couldn't fit them into Vanbrugh.
James and Alcuin are the newest colleges, and from a buildings point of view are therefore the envy of the other older colleges, such as Goodricke and Derwent. I am fortunate enough to be able to call myself a resident of Alcuin college, which means I get a nice big room in a nice new building :-)
When I went through the application process, in the early summer of 2001, allocation to colleges was entirely random. In other words, you could not directly choose which of the colleges you would be put into. There was some leeway on the application form for you to cite preferences, such as "please put me in the same college as this friend from school"...but ultimately, apart from good luck and coincidence, allocation to the colleges was an entirely random process. I am not sure if this has changed since I applied, as far as I am aware it has not.
r>However, do not let this put you off...the campus is small enough so that you are never out of reach from other colleges. One of my friends from home is at the other side of the campus completely, but in reality is only five or ten minutes walk around the lake away.
One of the biggest problems that the University has been forced to confront recently is the idea of differential rates. As I have already mentioned, the colleges vary in both age and style significantly across campus, and with a flat "University Rate" for all students it was understandable that those who were allocated to one of the 'poorer' colleges should feel hard done by. The general argument is, e.g.; "why should I pay the same, for this crappy old room in Goodricke, as he/she is paying for that nice new one in James?" The last I heard this matter was unresolved so it is probably best that any prospective students, or perhaps more importantly their parents, check up on the issue on the university's website (see bottom).
A TYPICAL YORK COLLEGE:
Whilst the appearance of the colleges might alter dramatically across campus, the facilities remain basically the same. Each college typically has between four and six residential 'blocks', in which are the rooms and the kitchens. Accompanying the residential blocks is usually a 'main block', which includes the main reception desk, computer room, bar/dining area, common rooms, laundry services, and administrative offices.
This is a general summary, and it is worth pointing out that James college does not have a bar or a computer room. This is something that the university is working towards correcting, so that all colleges have the same facilities. Regardless of this all students have the same facilities on campus because any student can use any facility from any college. I live in Alcuin but I am still able to use the computer rooms in another college.
The college's are guarded and looked after by Porters, who man the main reception desk. Recently there was an up-roar on campus when the administration decided to remove 24-hour portering from several colleges, prompting issues about student safety to be raised. This is a point worth asking of the university if you are interested in studying at York, as it will make them realise that it is off-putting to prospective students as well and so action may be forced through.
Bars in the colleges are pretty much the same across campus. Food is of a suprising high standard for the price, it is not the sort of café food you might find in any town centre. Alcohol is cheap and readily available but there is currently no student union bar...something that has raised arguments. Whilst the college system is a good idea, it does tend to restrict people from mingling together in a centralised Union bar. This is currently being addressed and there are plans to make a central Students Union bar on campus in the near future.
Most of the teaching is done on campus, in teaching rooms and lecture theatres within the main college buildings. I study Archaeology, so my course is taught off-campus in the Kings Manor, which is in the city near York Minster. In general most students are within shouting distance of their course at any time, which might not be the case if you were studying at a big city university with residential blocks miles away from the main campus.
Similarly in a centralised space is the JB Morrell Library, which stocks all of the books that any course is ever going to require you to read. Studying at York, therefore, is not a problem...unless like me you do archaeology and have to struggle into the town at 9am on a rainy winter morning with a bad hangover!
As for the standard of teaching prospective students need only look at the University 'League Tables' for proof that York is one of the top in
stitutions in the country. York regularly places in the top 5 against, usually, Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, and Loughborough. Recently the department of Archaeology scored a perfect 24/24 on an assessment of teaching standards, and the sciences have also been praised at York.
Without wanting to sound too preachy, York is a very good place to study. It is often reminded that it has the highest number of Ox-Bridge rejects in the country...which in theory makes it Number 3 behind the 'Big Two'. Of course certain subjects will be taught better than others, as at any institution, but across the board York retains a consistently high academic standard that ensures it is always there or thereabouts on the imaginary league tables.
THE CITY OF YORK - A HOME FROM HOME?
I personally love the city of York, and always have done for some reason! Maybe because I am studying archaeology, with a keen interest in history, York is an obviously appealing place with it's own history being very much on display throughout the city. Whilst it might seem a little out of the way in North Yorkshire, York is a busy tourist centre and is often over-run with day-trippers from across the country and from Europe. For that reason there is a vibrant and lively atmosphere to the city centre, which is big enough for shopping and lifestyle needs whilst being small enough to remain 'cosy'.
York, with its high number of continental coffee chains and al fresco sandwich bars, has a curiously cosmopolitan feel to it. Sitting on an old Roman road sipping a cappuccino in the sun you could be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in sunny Europe, when in reality you are in the northern reaches England. It is an attractive city with a nice combination of the old and the new. Much of the heritage is on show, such as the Roman and Medieval walls, the Minster, and the large number of Anglo Saxon churches.
The only thing that damages t
he cosmopolitan feel of York is, of course, the weather. This is a nuisance at first, but eventually you get used to it and begin to live alongside the November and December rain that drives the River Ouse high above its banks. The campus is nowhere near enough to the river to be flooded, but the city occasionally loses and gains a few metres as the water level rises and falls by the day. This is just another quirk that makes York a special place to live.
York boasts a staggering amount of clubs, around 366 (at last count!) in all. In theory there is a different pub for everyday of the year. In practice the city centre is home to only some of these, but there are still plenty of different watering holes in close company to one another. Bars are reasonably well spread out in the city centre, with the furthest you'd ever need to walk from one to the next being only about 5 minutes.
As for clubs, York is disappointing. With a thriving student community you might expect there to be more clubs on offer, but York sadly has just four. One of these, Ikon & Diva, is not even in the city but is a bus-ride into no man?s land. So, in reality we have just three clubs in York and one of these is a converted house (Ziggy's). Don't let that put you off though...you get used to it. Ziggy's should not be good fun at all, in theory, but cram in a group of your friends with several hundred other students on three floors of homely atmosphere and it becomes a nice place to spend the evening. Unless you are a die-hard clubber, who needs the big lights of a Leeds or London Mecca-Club, you should survive easily in York.
In general, I love York. The University was always high on my list of choices for further education and I am just thankful that I was able to do well enough to secure a place on the course I wanted. The city is a wonderful place to live, if you can get used to the rain at the end of the year. Anybo
dy who is seriously considering further education should give York a look; it is a very high standard university with a nice if somewhat unusual campus in one of the most well-loved cities in England. I hope this opinion might lead some of you at least to consider the University of York...you could do much worse.
For further information, see www.york.ac.uk
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