The Polytechnics vs. Russell Group SHOW DOWN (Part One)

In the past few weeks, we here at The Tab been reporting a lot of articles about Soton vs. the Polys including Varsity, and both Alice’s and Chris’ takes on […]

In the past few weeks, we here at The Tab been reporting a lot of articles about Soton vs. the Polys including Varsity, and both Alice’s and Chris’ takes on the Soton vs. Solent situation.
It is widely accepted that Southampton is a top 20 university so it seems justified to say that it is a better university than the old polytechnics which usually don’t appear in the top 40. To find out which one really does come out on top though, we thought that we should do a proper analysis by asking people who have attended both Southampton and a poly to tell us what the real differences are. We have asked two different students for their opinions: Student One transferred to Southampton from a top 50 poly, and Student Two transferred from Southampton to Solent. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, we present to you… The Polytechnics vs. The Russell Group Show Down (Part One).

Which university provides the best course in terms of content, lecture style and structure?

Student One:
In terms of course content, the poly seems to have it covered if you want a job. The courses at the poly are far more orientated around helping you to get a job. There is also far more choice, meaning you can avoid subjects that hold little interest to you. Soton’s course is far more theory and research based. You’re expected to have a much deeper understanding then most would claim is necessary for the working world, although as a research led university, you’d expect this! The main negative aspect of the course is that there are so many compulsory modules; it’s not hard to find students from many different subjects complaining about modules they wish they didn’t have to take.

As far as lecture styles go, the poly is brilliant. Some modules don’t have traditional lectures, they have classes instead, which are a mix of both lectures and seminars. This is a great because if you don’t understand anything then you can easily ask. You know all of your lecturers by name, and they really do seem to want to help you. However, the poly seems to have even less contact hours then Soton for most subjects and it does make you question what you’re paying for.

Southampton varies drastically between modules in terms of the quality of its lectures and seminars. Some lecturers clearly don’t care about the students and will take over a week to reply to a simple email, others use seminars to give you another lecture, instead of helping you. Some lecturers, however, are brilliant! They create and distribute handouts for each lecture and upload the content to Blackboard well in advance and use the seminars to ensure you’re understanding everything.

Verdict: Win to the poly. Polys 1: Russell Group 0

Student Two:
The Electronic Engineering course at Solent is fantastic (well as fantastic as it can be anyway!). I was told by one of the senior lecturers at Southampton that Soton is designed to churn out the next generation of theoretical inventors where as Solent is designed to prepare you for the actual practical aspects of the workplace. He couldn’t have been more right! When I speak to my friends at Southampton, they don’t seem to do half the laboratory sessions that I do (and I would have thought that was pretty important in engineering).

The lecturers at Southampton never seemed to care about the subjects they were teaching. They were quite obviously only there for the research opportunities. The lecturers at Solent have all come straight from industry to work at the university so are really passionate about what they are talking about. Personally, I find that the content is dumbed down heavily for the wide range of people that take the course and having come from Southampton, I can sometimes feel unchallenged and I’ve been exempt from some modules in the past because I’d already covered them. They accommodate for those who are struggling but not for those excelling. At Southampton it is the other way around.

At Solent all the lecturers make the effort to get to know you by name and insist that you call them by their first name. I can quite honestly say that at Southampton none of the lecturers would have noticed if I turned up or not.

Verdict: Win to the polys. Polys 2: Russell Group 0

In part two we will see how Southampton compares to the polys with regards to student services and the overall student experience.