This year 2009/2010, I’ve been a student at Oxford Brookes University (Oxford, UK), preparing a Master of Science in eBusiness. As semester 2 is now well started (like 4 weeks of class left after Easter holidays), I’m already rich of experience and discoveries about the student life in the UK (that I totally adopted :p) but I’ve also learnt what it is to be a student in England, the amount of work it involves and the values and thinking methods we’re taught. Thus this is a little review about my first semester. Table of contents:
- Oxford Brookes University
- My course: MSc eBusiness
- Wheatley campus: business and technology
- My accomodation: private shared house
- The transport services
- Nights and parties in Oxford
- In the end (conclusion)
Historically, Oxford Brookes has roots in Oxford since 1865 when it was known as the Oxford School of Art. It evolved quickly through the 20th century to be renamed finally in Oxford Brookes University in 1992, qualified as modern university, since it’s a former Polytechnics institution that was given the university status according to the Further and Higher Education Act of 1992.
OBU gained recognition for quality in architecture, art, economics, computer science, automotive/motorsports engineering, history, modern languages and publishing. It’s also recognized for their Online MBA programmes (30th largest in the world).
In 2010, OBU is ranked 52th at the Times Good University Guide and 56th at the Guardian University Guide. Although our neighbor, Oxford University, is ranked first at both, OBU’s ranking remains pretty good.
Every time I talk about my course, people don’t hear the e before business, but that’s bloody important! It’s about electronic-business, business activities that are fully or in part on the Internet. Since my plans for the future are to go on working in the web domain, no other courses could be more appropriate. These are the modules I’ve followed during semester one:
- Principles and practice of eBusiness: the only module given by a teacher from the Business School. A bit hard for students with a technological background like me, but it was by far the most interesting course in semester 1
- The business web: it was mostly a LAMP course, the basics exposed at the speed of light, non-techy mates were a bit lost
- Web Application Development: XHTML/CSS course, web semantics, accessibility and W3C guidelines
- Research and Study methods: how to write reports, dissertations and other papers… it’s a preparation for the finale dissertation in semester two
For the second semester, I have these modules:
- eBusiness futures: each session is called a seminar, in which we work and debate about a specific eBusiness topic that we believe will have a significant role in the future. Our 7 seminar topics were: The past, Consumer Digital Imaging, Internet 2020, Disruptive technologies, Recommenders, Open Data and Microblogging.
- Building a web based business: that’s the PHP course for semester two. Nothing more than semester one for me, but the assignment is harder. In a group of two (one with a business and the other with a technological background) both the business aspect (business plan, marketing decisions…) and the technological aspect (developing an e-commerce website from scratch) are marked.
- eBusiness Information Systems: this course is more general, we saw topics like RESTful web services, OSI layers model, management of a web project… The assignments for this module seem too much for me compared to the marks we gain for them, like your have to carry out a heuristic evaluation for 10%, and to write a RESTful application with all the study including a 10 pages report for just 20%. Then, you have the exam for the 70% remaining.
- Finale dissertation: the module you really can’t afford to blow up. This is a big project you have to give at the end of August, and present in front of teachers in July. I personally chose for my project to develop a Multiplayer Online Tower Defense video game, but it could be a variety of other things.
- Headington campus: located in Headington, a residential area of Oxford, one mile from the city center. It’s the main teaching site, there is a big library, the health center, the student union (with pub and club), the sport center, and 7 halls of residence.
- Harcourt Hill campus: located 2.5 miles from the city center in western Oxford. I’ve never been there, although I know there is a bar and a sport center with swimming pool there. It has one hall of residence.
- Wheatley campus: located in the countryside, near the Wheatley city, 7 miles east from the city center. This is where business, IT, maths and engineering courses are taught. It has one hall of residence.
The thing with the Weathley campus is that you need to take the bus (or the car if you have one) to go there. At the beginning of the year they told us that it’s also possible to come over by bike, but i’m culturally not used to ride when it rains! 15 minutes of bus from Headington campus to get there, in congestion hours you may see one or two full buses pass without stopping.
Otherwise, the campus is alright. Buildings are new, hardware and material are new and well maintained. There is a cafeteria and a library where I like to go for working and studying when I don’t have lectures.
Before coming to England, I studied the accommodation possibilities in Oxford for students, that I would classify in 3 categories:
- halls of residence: they are halls owned by the university. Students have their own room with or without a private bathroom (otherwise they share a common bathroom) and they share the kitchen (approximatively 6 roommates per kitchen). It’s clean, new and well maintained. It costs about £500 or £600 a month (regarding to the hall and if you have a private bathroom or not), including bills. For an extra charge you can have access to the wireless. You have halls in the three campuses. The clear advantages of living in a hall is that you’re close to your teaching site, you can meet many other students there, and everything is handled by the university. However, you might know that it’s more expensive than shared houses you can find in Oxford, and that they have strict rules like no noise or party after 10pm…
- managed shared houses: OBU’s accommodation office has partnerships with private house owners. These are private houses but managed by the uni. They can be located a little everywhere in Oxford (but still concentrated around campuses). Usually it’s cheaper than the halls, and you have no rules to follow (well, if you party every night you may have problems with the neighbors though!). But you have to take care of the bills by yourself.
- private shared house: or the wildest solution is to go and look for a house by yourself with private owners. You have more choice than what the accommodation office can offer you, but you can’t book your accommodation remotely and can’t rely on anybody to help you to manage it.
Since my budget was small, I opted for a shared house managed by Brookes. I’m living in the residential district of Headington (15 minutes to Headington campus walking, and then 15 minutes to Wheatley by bus). I pay around £280 a month for the rent, which indeed is much cheaper than the halls price. We are 4 housemates (3 french and 1 welsh guys), with a bedroom for each of us, a shared kitchen, a bathroom and a living room. The neighborhood is quiet, and there is a Cooperative shop 100 meters away.
Some english students I know have their own car but the most common way to go to the uni is still the bus. There is a bus company dedicated to Brookes students, which is called Brookes Bus. The journey of these buses are made to serve the 3 Brookes campuses (Headington, Wheatley and Harcourt Hills) as well as the city center, and all the halls of residence.
There are two main lines: the U1 goes from Harcourt Hill to Wheatley, passing by the city center and Headington campus. The U5/U4 goes from the city center to Marston Road (a hall) passing by Cowley Road (which is a long street of shops and clubs/bars/restaurants) and Headington campus.
An annual key is £215. If you want to take a bus after midnight (a night bus) you’ll pay an extra pound. As Brookes Bus belongs to the bigger company Oxford Bus, you also have access to these buses at a lower price, and you also have discounts for the Oxford Tube (buses between Oxford and London).
The last bus is at around 2am, so most of the time when you leave clubs late you’ll have to take a cab. If you are many it’s not too expensive to go back home by cab. Most of the time I go out with my housemates, thus we can divide the cab cost by 4.
There are plenty of things to do in Oxford by night when you’re a student … These are some places I like to go with my friends:
- The Regal (friday night “300”): it’s a big club on Cowley Road, which main night, called “300” on fridays, is reserved to students. Cheap entry, cheap drinks, good music and wild students!
- The O2 Academy: it’s a concert room / club on Cowley Road too. Gigs often take place there (I missed Trivium and Chimaira some weeks ago because it was sold out :(). The wildest nights in Oxford are told to take place there on wednesday nights (called Fuzzy Ducks). Saturday night is not so bad either, several rooms with rock music.
- The RUSH: this club located on Headington campus belongs to the Student Union (to OBU then). Parties are taking place on saturday nights, entry and drinks are cheap.
- The Bridge: if I had to cite one club in the city center, it would be The Bridge. Although it’s not a student club, we can find a lot of students there. It’s a bit more expensive than the 3 previous clubs, but it’s a little more classy I think.
Nights in Oxford (and I guess in England in general?) start early at like 10pm and end between 2am and 3am. It changes from french times when we start going to clubs at midnight and go out after 5am right for breakfast!
Also, students organize kitchen parties in halls of residence. It’s usually starting at around 8pm, and people who are still up after 10pm/11pm sometimes go to clubs then.
I think going to the UK for my last year of Master has been the best decision in my life so far, because not only I’ll get a valuable diploma recognized in whole Europe, but I’ll also have gained a lot of experience, and discovered many things, that is priceless to me. I discovered the english educational system and the university world’s culture and traditions here. I also improved my english like never before, I met many friends from many countries, I visited cities over here…
I am now at my eighth month in Oxford (4 months remaining before the end of my schooling year), and so far it gives me the wish to work and live in England for the coming years.