I just can’t stay away. I received a really good comment on an old post recently which I wanted to give a decent, long answer to publicly as I think it asks some great questions which will be relevant to many people thinking about choosing their firm and insurance universities very soon! The comment was thus:
Hi, I’ve got an offer to come to Imperial this year to study Biology, I’ve already got my grades because I took a gap year, but I am torn between choosing York and Imperial primarily because York has been ranked higher for student satisfaction and I’m worried going to Imperial I may slightly miss out on the ‘student experience’ living in London. I just wanted to know how you’re enjoying the course there and how good the support from tutors is and everything?
I’d be really grateful if you got back to me. Cheers!
I’m going to answer this in three chunks. Numero uno…
The ‘Student Experience’
Imperial is a very academically rigourous university and your exams in first year do count so studying has to be a major priority whilst you are a first year. You’ll find that most people at Imperial study very hard and have lots of lab reports and problem sheets and projects to be getting on with (not trying to put you off, it’s just the truth and it sets you up well for good academic habits later on). As such, from my experience anyway, there isn’t so much of a big party/drinking culture at Imperial as there is at a lot of other universities. For me personally, this isn’t a problem as I don’t drink and I’m not interested in clubbing. I have a lot of friends who enjoy this aspect of university life and if you want to go out and experience London night life, you will find others who want to do that too. There’s also the legendary sports night at the Union on a Wednesday which many of my friends go to every week and love. Imperial, like most other places, has tons of societies, clubs and teams which also form an important part of your student life, and the Union and your departmental society organises loads of events like balls and club nights throughout the year. I feel that I have an excellent ‘student experience’ at Imperial, made up of my societies and hobbies, Union events, hall events and hanging out with friends. If the partying aspect if what you mean by student experience, it does exist at Imperial but be aware that not everybody will be interested in it and it’s not as pronounced as some other universities.
Biology Course Itself
The great thing about undergraduate biology at Imperial is that you take courses in all the core aspects of biology in your first year so you get a decent grounding in all areas before you specialise. Obviously there are certain areas I enjoy more than others but despite how much I hated studying, say, the life cycles of various fungi, it’s actually been really useful to start seeing links between different areas of the course. There are some truly excellent lecturers and I’ve found that most of them are very approachable and are always happy to answer questions by email, or if there’s something more serious going on, to have a one to one meeting. We’re also grounded in basic lab skills very early on which is very useful. Most of the lecturers are doing, or have done, amazing research themselves which means we’re being taught by people who are literally on the cutting edge of their field.
This is a tricky one as I want to be honest without coming across to harshly! There are two types of tutorial in biology, academic tutorials which focus on a problem sheet relating to your lectures that week, and personal tutorials which are usually one to one and are there to talk about your progress, exam results and any problems you have. The academic tutorials are great as you get to look at different topics in detail, in a small group which allows you to have your questions answered personally and in depth rather than having to go through email. Sometimes you’re set an essay after the tutorial and you can contact the academic tutors via email whilst writing the essay to receive guidance and ask questions. Conclusion: I think our academic tutorial system is pretty great. That said, I think the personal tutorial system leaves something to be desired. I don’t think we meet often enough with our personal tutors and I’ve found it hard sometimes to know what to do in situations where I need help on a more pastoral level. I think this is something which could do with an overhaul in the biology department. There is also a senior tutor assigned to the biologists who you can go to if you need support from someone a bit higher up and I’ve found my senior tutor to be absolutely excellent in this capacity. I had a rather unpleasant experience with an acdemic tutor who was quite insensitive to a health problem and when I asked the biology undergraduate office for help with this, my senior tutor immediately set up a meeting with me to discuss it and find a solution. Conclusion: There are lots of very good points about tutor support in the department but there are bad points which I don’t want to lie about.
Phew that was long. I hope this helps the original commenter and anyone else with similar questions. Drop more comments if you have more questions, and have a lovely and blessed Easter!