Hailed as one of the most beautiful campuses in the UK, the luscious greenery surrounding the University of Nottingham's academic buildings is certainly pleasing to the eye. The Portland building, home to a vibrant student union offering a multitude of clubs and societies, looks over a boating lake.
Welcoming halls of residence are scattered throughout the leafiest parts of the campus, and the sports centre offers a wealth of facilities, including a large, modern swimming pool. All of this is attractive to the prospective student. However, I have spent the past three years here as an undergraduate arts student and have become somewhat disenchanted with other aspects of life at Nottingham. I think potential applicants should be aware that the university's priority might not be to cater for the needs of its students.
Seating and the provision of desk space in some of my classes is inadequate. One class takes place in a room with space for 30 students, but there are up to another 10 students without a desk. Another class is made up of more than 20 students; yet the room adequately seats 16. The option is a desk-end, if you can find a spare chair; otherwise it's the floor. It is difficult enough to take notes if you are crammed in on desks, and virtually impossible if you have to sit on the floor.
Postgraduate students, with no more than a couple of years experience over ourselves and little teaching experience, give classes to final-year undergraduates. They don't have their own offices, and so are not easy to find. For over a week, even my department was unable to locate one postgraduate teacher, who had failed to return a set of marks on time.
Don't assume that you will be able to drop a subject after your first year, even if you're told that this will be possible. Bear in mind that the final-year modules available when you're choosing a university may not exist by the time you reach your final year.
You'd think that consideration might be made to ensure that your final exams, probably the most stressful ones you'll ever take, are set at reasonable intervals, at least within each individual department. But I am due to sit one exam in an evening, with another first thing the next morning. It's made worse by the unavailability of the tutors during the exam period.
As there are no lectures, they tend to spend less time on campus; this is hardly helpful if you need to contact them urgently. They all have research to do which does affect a university's position in the league tables. A cynic might say that it's not the quality of teaching that counts, but the number of books that one can publish.
The university library, focal point of a student's studies, is open for "reference only" after 5pm in the holidays, allowing no access to short-loan collections, where the most relevant books are kept. When coursework has been set for completion during a holiday, and you work all day to keep your bank balance out of the red, there is no way of accessing this collection.
You could always photocopy work, but might feel you were being overcharged; a £1 card gives you 10 copies, twice the price of most newsagents.
NTL telephones have replaced BT ones in all of the university's buildings, leaving a meagre scattering of BT boxes on the main campus. NTL's charges seem somewhat excessive; is 8p a minute at all times for an 0800 freephone number realistic? A Chinese student calling home with NTL pays over £2.50 per minute at weekends, yet BT claims to charge less than half this, even from a payphone. Incoming calls are also expensive because all the student phone numbers start with 0870, with calls charged at national rate.
Ultimately you want to get your degree and get out, so a trip to the University Careers Advisory Service is a necessity. In fairness, they are friendly and helpful, yet they have a tendency to display employers' application forms after the deadlines have passed.
Finally, having paid your way through university, you get your graduation bill before your graduation ball. Parents are charged £10 each to attend graduation in the sports hall. Is this really an institute of higher education, or just another business?
The author is a student of modern languages at Nottingham University.Reuse content