grad school: help me make my final decision
March 23, 2006 5:26 PM   Subscribe

Bournemouth, University of East London, or University of Salford: Mefites, help me choose my grad school!

So I’ve been accepted into the Interactive Media/Creative Technology masters programs at the above schools, and the time is drawing nigh for me to make my final decision. I’ve done my homework, but that homework has in some ways generated more questions than it has answers. So I’m coming to you, the people whose collective opinion I most trust, for one final attempt at gathering useful intel.

I’m looking for first-hand opinion on any and all of the following: reputation of the program; reputation of the school; living conditions (both on-campus and off). And anything else that doesn’t fit into these categories but you think would be helpful to know.

In regard to fit with the program, my ideal course will be a healthy mix of hands-on training and exploration of theory, with a bent toward the artistic more so than toward industry or heavy, heavy academic research.

posted by damn yankee to Education (14 answers total)
Whilst I know nothing of your course or indeed of either establishment. You seem to have a classic north or south desicion.

North (Salford): Cheaper cost of living, stereotypical weather (It rains all the time in Manchester dont you know). City living. Manchester/Salford is a vibrant city with plenty to do in your free time. And the Nothern peole are a friendly bunch.

South (Bournemouth): More expensive than the north. But you're in a classic british seaside town/retirement area! You aint in the city there, but you are in proximity to london the big smoke for weekends and such. I would imagine bounemouth would be lovely in the summer.

Personaly I'd probably choose salford. But then Im a northern boy...

Good luck in whichever desicion you make.
posted by gergtreble at 6:28 PM on March 23, 2006

In did BSc Media Technology at the University of Salford. I quit after a year because the course content was incredibly focused on stuff I wasn't interested in. I don't know how masters work, but ask lots of questions about what they actually plan to teach you.

Salford is a fairly grim area with burnt out cars abandoned nightly, broken glass all over the pavement from recent car break-ins and "youths" launching fireworks at student buildings. It also has no shops apart from an incredibly grim down-market shopping centre.

The on-campus accommodation at Salford isn't well run. When I was there (Sep 2001-Jan 2003) the promised internet access and cable TV in bedrooms was non existent. Even dial-up was almost impossible to use. I'd hope they've fixed this by now. Flats are almost all unisex because they have a shared shower-room. Also most of the "on-campus" accommodation is a long walk from the actual campus. It's all very cheap though.

It does have good points though. I transferred to Oxford Brookes and they have the most mind numbing soul crushing bureaucracy there. Salford just let you get on with stuff. The media department was much better equipped than Brookes. Manchester in general is a fine place to live and Salford is right next to the city centre. If you can make sure none of the stuff I mentioned is going to affect you, I'd actually recommend it over the other places.
posted by cillit bang at 6:37 PM on March 23, 2006

Salford is a fairly grim area with burnt out cars abandoned nightly, broken glass all over the pavement from recent car break-ins and "youths" launching fireworks at student buildings. It also has no shops apart from an incredibly grim down-market shopping centre.

Salfords reputation as a shit-hole in the UK is quite firmly established. It is dodgy. It will also be much cheaper than bournmouth (kinda dull) or UEL.

If you like cities, I'd go for UEL. but be warned: london is ex-fucking-spensive, especially if you're working in $USD. Take NYC prices (excluding accomodation) and basically double them.
posted by lalochezia at 10:58 PM on March 23, 2006

Salford. London is expensive, and you don't wanna be in a small town in the south like bournemouth. You can live somewhere nicer in Manchester.

Salford has a good rep for music tech, so their media is probably good. I can't say for sure, but I don't think Bournemouth or UEL will be as professional.
posted by lunkfish at 12:00 AM on March 24, 2006

Sorry, didn't read cillit's reply properly. Obviously, you wanna check out the course properly.
posted by lunkfish at 12:01 AM on March 24, 2006

I would choose Bournemouth, or second UEL. I studied at Salford for 3 years, and lived in Salford Precinct for two of those. I have a high opinion of the university but I can't recommend it due to the area (although Manchester is close and is a lot better).

As others have stated, Salford is very run-down and has high levels of crime. Students are seen as fair game by the gangs of local kids. You get used to it but you always have to be on your guard. I witnessed a shooting, and many of my friends were beaten up and mugged. Joyriders and burnt-out cars are a regular sight.

Bournemouth... stroll along the seafront chatting to attractive foreign students.

Salford... scurry between tower blocks like a figure from a Lowry painting, dodging fireworks.

Not a difficult choice.
posted by echelon at 4:51 AM on March 24, 2006

I think Salford and East London both have pretty much the reputations they deserve (as dodgy places, I mean, rather than bad universities). Bournemouth, on the other hand, is lovely.
posted by reklaw at 5:24 AM on March 24, 2006

Salford: Don't. Just don't. The only redeeming thing to say about Salford is that The Fall come from there. Well, a few of them have.

UEL: Do you know which campus you are on or where the accommodation is? You could end up in Barking which is 'orrible. Depending on the accommodation cost (if you get to stay in university halls) it could be your best chance of seeing London for cheap and it's easy to get from London to most of the UK and even Europe as Stanstead airport has cheap airlines that go all over the place.

Bournemouth: Traditionally the place where people go to die but there has been a push to give it a bit of glamour and it has developed a reputation as a good place for 20 & 30-somethings with good clubbing, beach-front & so forth.

Only 1h50m on the train to London @ the weekend, the New Forest (great walking & cycling) is on the doorstep with the Cotswolds, Bristol & Bath not too far. The SW corner of England is loverly and one of the more rural areas with great coastlines.

I had a choice between Dorset College (as BU used to be) & Sunderland Polytechnic to to media courses in the late 80's. I chose the latter and altho' I don't regret it at all, the course wasn't that good and I often wonder how things would have changed in my life if I'd've gone to Dorset.
posted by i_cola at 5:54 AM on March 24, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, all. This is incredibly helpful.

I've been leaning toward Bournemouth from almost the beginning, because their administrative staff really has their act together (which, to me, reflects hugely on an organization) and I've heard nothing bad about the program or the area. I am worried that it might be a little too sedate (and expensive) down there, but given the alternative that Salford seems to offer ...

i_cola, I'd be at the Docklands campus if I chose UEL. Which looks lovely, but I've heard it's kind of deserted and lonely out there, and adjacent to a pretty rough neighborhood. (I don't mind gritty city, but if it's as extreme as Salford has been portrayed it does give me pause.)

UEL actually started out as my first choice, but the more research I've done the worse things I hear about the school's reputation. That it's pretty much accept-everybody bottom of the barrel.

If anybody else has thoughts on the Docklands campus or UEL in general (or more on Bournemouth and Salford), please chime in! I'll be making my final decision on Sunday, because I have to let UEL know by Monday.

Thanks again, everybody.

*hugs MeFi*
posted by damn yankee at 7:04 AM on March 24, 2006

I'll bet they don't show a view out of the window of the Docklands's opposite London City Airport ;-)

OK, it's a small airport that uses special small quiet 'planes and I'm not sure if they even fly at night or at weekends.

Beckton, just to the north, isn't that great an area (altho' there is the Beckton Alps ski slope ;-) but it is classic old & modern East End to the north - West & East Ham. Gritty city indeed but very mutli-cultural and I know people who love it there. Also the land of my forefathers, one of whom worked on Albert Dock where the campus is, but that's a whole other story.

You are choosing between two extremes really! It may be down to probably the most important aspect - the courses & what you'll get out of them.
posted by i_cola at 9:26 AM on March 24, 2006

Go over to and ask. They have endless discussions about academia & student life in the UK. It's a good resource. Also, search for each of the university names on the forum search engine.
posted by tommorris at 2:49 PM on March 24, 2006

I should add that I was never harassed, mugged, attacked, etc while at Salford. I knew a couple of people who were but it didn't appear to be widespread. The university is in a big and very nice park and it's not actually that gritty at all, just a bit depressing. I never felt in danger (and I have absolutely no ability to defend myself).
posted by cillit bang at 3:31 PM on March 24, 2006

Also, consider other quality of life issues. Bournemouth has access to some of the most beautiful coastline in the UK, while life in London is a constant buzz. There is a well-devloped student vibe there now which almost makes up for the "retirement home" history.
The docklands campus is a bit "lonely" especially late at night. What is you're idea of down-time? Surfing (in full kit admittedly) or capital city life?
posted by Wilder at 7:37 AM on March 25, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks again to all of you.

I chose Bournemouth!

(And then got my acceptance letter from Goldsmiths, today! Grrrr. S'okay -- it's too expensive, anyway...)
posted by damn yankee at 2:29 PM on March 30, 2006

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