I have come to notice that there are no RECENT (last two years) reviews of my university, Aston, Birmingham, so here I am, to paint a pretty picture for all to see. I am currently on placement in London, and so may not be able to give you an overall picture, but a fairly clear one of the first and second year experience of the Business School.
I chose Aston University because it was one of the few universities in the country that did the course that I want to do, International Business and German. I was accepted into all 6 universities that I applied to through UCAS (not because I am that clever, but because everybody is crying out for language students, Oh, OK, I am that clever!). I chose Aston as my first choice, as it was higher on the Times Good University Guide (3rd for business in 2003), and Swansea as my reserve. I did not actually get the grades I was meant to for the course, but was accepted anyway, which was a great relief.
Aston University is a small campus, with a small intake of students. I believe the total population is about 8,000. It is situated on the edge of Birmingham City Centre, and is described as one of the greenest areas of central Birmingham. There are 3 different types of halls of residence available, the deluxe, the low-rise, and the high rise. Lakeside (so called because of the large pond by which it is situated) was the deluxe, and where I spent my first year. It has bigger rooms, with better décor (being much newer), and ensuite bathrooms. The downside is that Lakeside is £25-30 more per week than the others (so approx £90 a week and still rising). Although the luxury of having my own bathroom, and much better kitchen facilities was there, I feel that (and many agree) that the cheaper option is the best.
Lawrence, Stafford and Dalton are the high-rise halls. They are each 20 floors high, and I won't try and talk them up, they are fairly grotty. There are two showers and two toilets for each flat, which contain 8-12 people. The kitchens are smaller, as are the bedrooms, and the décor is not as nice as the beech wood ways in Lakeside. Another downside of the towers is waiting up to 20 minutes for the lifts
The difference between the two if that I found, as did a lot of my friends, that most of the people in Lakeside were spoilt and rich, and not in a good way. Our flatmates flashed their cash with the best of them, and I grew to dislike most of them intensely by the end of the year. My friends in the towers seemed to build up much stronger relationships and bonds, and so if this is what you are looking for from your university experience, then I recommend accommodation in the towers. If however, you are going to university purely for the academic side, then go for Lakeside, as it is probably much quieter.
In the second year the majority of students live in difgs in Erdington, which is a good 10-30 minutes away on the bus. There are many new developments of student accommodation in town, so act quickly and you may get in. I lived in Erdington and had a great time. Bus passes are however £96 per term, and so I am opting for back to campus for my final year, in order to be closer to the bar-I mean, library.
Now for the academic bit (yes, I know, boring, what about the nightlife?! Later, children, later.) Aston University is split into 4 schools.
- Aston Business School
- Life and Health Sciences
- Languages and Social Sciences
- Engineering and Applied Science.
Aston Business School and Languages and Social Sciences are my two schools, as I am a combined honours student.
I changed my course after a month or so, as it suddenly dawned on me that I wasn't really interested in doing German for the rest of my life. I was however not given much choice in the way of changing. I was told that I could swap to French (not helpful, I didn't want to do a language anymore), or carry on, or leave and start again the following year, but there was no guarantee that I'd get onto my preferred course (which was a single honours business course, Marketing.) Eventually, I was reluctantly given the option of a combined honours course, of which there are many, from maths to languages, to sociology. I chose sociology, so now, my course is Business Administration and Sociology. I am pleased with my decision and am glad I stuck it out and was determined enough to stick around, I think leaving would have been a real blow to my confidence, and I would have probably never gone back.
Enough about me, what about the university?! An a-z of the course offered at Aston can be found here, with links to the courses available.
Aston specialises in sciences, rather than arts, and so most of the courses offered are BSc courses (Batchelor of Science), and there is also a wide variety of postgraduate offerings. Aston was once a technical college but is now a fully fledged university, and requires fairly high grades to get in. I originally needed BBB (A-Levels) to get in, but was let in with BCC (I think because languages are so under-subscribed). When I changed my course, the expectancies were lower, BCC. Please note: this is according to 2003 admissions, so things may be different now, please check the website or prospectus if you are hoping to go to Aston.
The teaching is great, in my subject disciplines. My timetable during the first and second year was never two full, about 10-15 hours a week, including tutorials and lectures, and the lecturers are engaging. The Business School offers a range of business related topics, including Organisational Behaviour and Financial Accounting. Sociology is a very broad subject, encompassing politics, history, philosophy and data analysis.
Library services at Aston are good, although there is a need perhaps for more computers. There are three storeys, and plenty in the way of journals, and books. There are short, medium, and long loan books available (although often not enough, so it is advisable to buy your own copies in the onsite Blackwells, you can always sell them on afterwards to new students). Reading lists for all modules are usually extensive, but pinpoint the essential reading, and if you act quickly, they are easy to find.
My placement year is an integrated part of my course, on which I am expected to do an essay and a logbook. On combined honours, a placement year is optional, but essential for single honours students.
The placements team give a lot of help when it comes to finding a job for the third year. We were encouraged to attend lectures for the first term of the second year, about skills needed for job-hunting and interview success, and these were indispensable. We were also given access to a website through which big companies advertised their positions (BMW, IBM, Kraft, NHS as wel as many lucrative positions abroad) facilitating the job-hunting process. We were able to go to CV clinics and mock interviews to brush up on our techniques (highly recommended, I performed much better as a result of these). We were not spoon-fed our placement positions, but the way the department was run was fantastic. My advice: Start early, and don't worry if all your friends have a job before you do, I got mine on the last day of term.
We have already chosen business modules for the final year, of which there are many, in many different areas, Marketing, HRM, Finance and Accounting, so you can really tailor your course to your own needs. I have picked for example on top of the obligatory Value Based Strategy and Finance, to study Marketing Psychology and Entrepreneurial Management.
Shopping, Eating and Going Out
Aston's prime location in the centre of Birmingham makes it great for shopping, with the much loved newly reconstructed Bullring centre, and of course the exclusive Mailbox, which also contains some fantastic bars and restaurants. You can more or less get any type of food you want in Birmingham, from Indian, to West Indian, Spanish, French, Italian and Chinese, and if you look carefully, you will find some great, cheap places to eat.
I love the Birmingham nightlife. There are loads of options, for whatever kind of night out you want. There are student nights at Bar Risa, Bambu, Gas Street, and 52 Degrees. There are flashy places like Mechu on Summer Row, and The Living Room, 3 Wetherspoons pubs (one a Lloyds), and Flares and Reflex for all your cheesy needs. On top of this there are always gigs at the Carling Academy, and then Snobs and Bar Academy for the rockier types. Birmingham is also a prime location for gigs and events, with the NIA and the NEC.
Aston Students Guild is flailing a bit, but I really do hope it gets better again. There just isn't enough funding, and there has been talk of getting rid of the guild altogether. There are however some great events, so if you end up going to Aston, support your guild by throwing money in their general direction, in return for pints of beer! There is a pounded night every Wednesday (so-called because selected drinks are £1), then School Daze, Beach Party, and other such typical student nights, with some legendary pub crawls thrown in. There is also the great Freakers Ball (sexual fantasies ball), which take splace in November (and oh, yes I will be there, with 5 friends, dressed as builders). The Guild has some great clubs and Societies for whatever your interests may be, from religion, to Extreme Ironing, and Rugby, Film and Dance.
Because of my fairly empty timetable, it was easy to have a part time job to fund my shopping and drinking habits, so I would recommend making the most of it. I've worked at Disney on Ice, Tesco, and two different pubs while at uni, as well as some catering work through an agency in Cardiff and Twickenham for the 6 Nations this year. There is always barwork and flyering work available, but nab yourself a good job quickly.
Right, that's it, I hope I've covered everything I can, do let me know if I've missed out something vital. All in all though, Aston University is a great place to visit, and I'd sure as hell like to live there (again)!
Written by Anonymous on 16th Oct 2007