Art University vs ‘normal’ University

Going to an art university can often get you quite a lot of stick (something I will go into more detail in a later post) but it is also a very different experience from, what’s considered to be, a ‘normal’ (by this I mean not just one field related) university.

For this blog post I have got the help of my 2 lovely friends Holly who attends a ‘normal’ university and is studying Pharmacy and Georgia who attends Leicester university and is studying English literature. Through a series of questions we will look at the main differences between their university experiences and mine.

Georgia – Second year student at Leicester university studying English Literature

  1. WHAT WAS YOUR APPLICATION PROCESS LIKE? Similar to everyone else’s, you have to apply through UCAS. You pick 5 Uni’s and prioritise 2, and wait to hear back about your grades and if you’ve been accepted
  2. HOW MANY HOURS ARE YOU IN UNI AND WHAT IS THAT TIME MADE UP OF? It depends what course you’re on , and what modules you pick. For example, on a straight BA English course it is between 6-9 hours a week, however because of the modules I chose I was in around 12-15 hours a week in first year. This year my hours have changed , and I would say I am in 8-9 hours a week for lectures. These hours do not include the many hours spent in the library. When I am at uni this time is used primarily for lectures and seminars.
  3. IS YOUR FINAL GRADE MADE UP OF COURSEWORK OR EXAMS? Our final grades are made up of both coursework and exams. Once again this depends on whether you are doing single honours or a joint honours, and what course you are on. There is usually more weight given to coursework as opposed to the exams.
  4. HOW MANY SOCIETIES DOES YOUR UNIVERSITY HAVE? Between 150-200 (there are loads this is just a guess)
  5. WHAT IS THE SOCIAL LIFE LIKE AT YOUR UNIVERSITY? Being in a student city means there are lots of places to go and the locals don’t seem to mind us
  6. WHAT IS YOUR STUDENT UNION LIKE? There are lots of food options in the SU but places like Starbucks and some of the canteen food is oquite expensive. We do have our own O2, which is great for a student night out and regularly has bands coming in to perform.
  7. IS IT A CAMPUS OR A CITY UNIVERSITY? It is a campus university
  8. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST YEAR ACCOMMODATION LIKE? I spent first year in john Foster halls in Oadby which was a lovely area and I had a great room. The room came with an en suite and the kitchen area was shared between 5 of us and was very modern.
  9. HOW EASY WAS IT TO MAKE FRIENDS? In our building, there was 28 of us on different floors and we were lucky enough to all get on really well. It was incredibly easy to make friends both in halls and on the course.
  10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE AND LEAST FAVOURITE PART ABOUT UNIVERSITY? Favourite part of uni: making lots of new friends and getting to explore Leicester. Least favourite part: paying £2,50 for the washing machines in first year and having to decide really too quickly on who you live with for second year

Em (me) – Second year student at Norwich University of the Arts studying Graphic Design

  1. WHAT WAS YOUR APPLICATION PROCESS LIKE? I began by applying through UCAS which was then followed by an interview from each of the universities (blog post about it here)
  2. HOW MANY HOURS ARE YOU IN UNI AND WHAT IS THAT TIME MADE UP OF? Technically in a week I only have about 5 scheduled hours of lectures which are from my tutors as well as external designers but the rest of time is known as group teaching which basically just means free time in the studio to get work done where tutors will be around to talk to if you need help. Once a week I will also have a crit with my teachers where they give me feedback on my work. In the first year we had a lot more scheduled workshops and stuff but that has stopped as the years have gone on.
  3. IS YOUR FINAL GRADE MADE UP OF COURSEWORK OR EXAMS? It is all coursework but for each term I also have to write some form of essay or research project for the contextual studies aspect of my course.
  4. HOW MANY SOCIETIES DOES YOUR UNIVERSITY HAVE? I’m really not sure but as a guess I would say around 20? The main one we have is the storehouse magazine which is completely created and run by students.
  5. WHAT IS THE SOCIAL LIFE LIKE AT YOUR UNIVERSITY? There are lots of typical places where NUA students go on a tuesday and friday night but I would say in general Norwich is filled with loads of pubs and a good variety of clubs.
  6. WHAT IS YOUR STUDENT UNION LIKE? Our student Union is a lot smaller than most other universities but it does still offer support for students and organises a range of events particularly during freshers week.
  7. IS IT A CAMPUS OR A CITY UNIVERSITY? It is a city university
  8. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST YEAR ACCOMMODATION LIKE? I stayed in a newly built student accommodation in a flat of 11. We had our own bedrooms with en suites then shared a kitchen and living space. As far as student accommodation goes it was really really nice!
  9. HOW EASY WAS IT TO MAKE FRIENDS? I think it was slightly harder in my uni than others due to the fact we don’t have that many societies and my course is quite an individual one but it was definitely easy making friends within my first year accommodation. I think it helped that we all did an art-based subject so already had something in common.
  10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE AND LEAST FAVOURITE PART ABOUT UNIVERSITY? Favourite part of uni: having independence and meeting new people. Least favourite part: the stress of deadline day and the cost of printing.

Holly – Second year student studying Pharmacy.

  1. WHAT WAS YOUR APPLICATION PROCESS LIKE? I applied via UCAS and had to be interviewed for my degree by all the universities I applied to before an offer could be made, although this isn’t typical of most science degrees (my degree is part science and part healthcare). Each university seemed to have a different style of interview. For example, one of the universities I applied to had a ‘mini-stations’ format, that presented you with problems to solve on ethical dilemmas, chemistry, mental maths and a group work exercise. However, my other interviews were more of a casual chat about myself and why I wanted to study pharmacy.
  2. HOW MANY HOURS ARE YOU IN UNI AND WHAT IS THAT TIME MADE UP OF? An average week for me is about 22 hours. A bad week can be as many as 30 hours, and a good week at the end of term can be as little as 10 hours (this is rare, only seems to happen at the end of a semester!). Most of my teaching time consists of lectures, which are an hour long each. Usually once a week I’ll have a workshop, which is where a group of 30 of us attend and attempt to answer (attempt being the operative word here) questions from a worksheet based on material that has already been covered in lectures. A lecturer leads the session and answers any questions we have about the work. We’ll also have a series of ongoing labs, usually 3 x 3 hour practicals per module.
  3. IS YOUR FINAL GRADE MADE UP OF COURSEWORK OR EXAMS? Most of my 1st year modules were assessed 100% by exams. 2nd year has been 70% exams and 30% coursework, but 3rd year will be 50% exam and 50% coursework which I am very much looking forward to. My final year is mostly based on my masters project, but I’m not sure about weighting yet…
  4. HOW MANY SOCIETIES DOES YOUR UNIVERSITY HAVE? Erm… a lot? I wish I could tell you more about them but I haven’t really gotten involved. I did try, I managed to attend Vegsoc for 6 weeks.
  5. WHAT IS THE SOCIAL LIFE LIKE AT YOUR UNIVERSITY? I don’t have one, but most normal people do. I don’t really like the night clubs in town (my excuse for not going out is that I have ‘so much work to do’), and as previously mentioned I haven’t gotten involved in any societies so I socialize with friends I made in halls and course-mates. I’ve heard a few people conclude that the nightclubs in town aren’t great, but I think the social side of uni is what you make of it.
  6. WHAT IS YOUR STUDENT UNION LIKE? Decent. 2 club nights a week, happy hour on Fridays, elections once a year for various positions, campaigning for issues such as student housing demand etc. Very busy and active, they do a lot to improve our university experience.
  7. IS IT A CAMPUS OR A CITY UNIVERSITY? Campus. Most people live in halls on campus in first year, and then second year onwards in privately rented houses.
  8. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST YEAR ACCOMMODATION LIKE?It was okay! I went for ‘cheap and cheerful’ shared bathroom accommodation in a flat of 21 people, which I was mildly terrified about beforehand. I had my own sink in my room though. With a bit of a stretch I could brush my teeth on my bed and spit my toothpaste out into the sink, such fun! We had 3 kitchens between us, 4 toilet cubicles and 5 shower rooms.
  9. HOW EASY WAS IT TO MAKE FRIENDS? The first 3 weeks of first year is the easiest time, as you are constantly meeting new people who are all just as terrified as you. I was lucky as being in a flat with 20 other people meant I didn’t have to search too hard for people to impose my awkwardness upon. It does become more difficult to find new friends as the weeks go on, but I’ve managed to make some new closer friends in my second year, so if you don’t find ‘your people’ within the first week, don’t panic.
  10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE AND LEAST FAVOURITE PART ABOUT UNIVERSITY?I like the independence and freedom. I can have cereal for dinner and do my laundry at 3am if I want to (I’ve never done either of those things, but mum and dad would never know if I did. It’s a great feeling). I don’t like how stressful academics can be, or how lonely/boring it can be on the weekends.

I hope this helped anyone out who is thinking of applying to an art university, or just any type of uni at all! Let me know how your university experiences relate/differ to mine, Georgia’s or Holly’s. Any more questions feel free to ask!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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LIKED THIS POST? read my other post on 10 tips on surviving university


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I grew up in a small English town just south of London with my parents and older brother. I was a very inquisitive child, with a love for dogs and a strong belief that I was a Disney character. None of that has changed, now I just have a greater appreciation for a good cup of tea (one sugar and a lil bit of milk) I am currently a second year graphic design student at Norwich University of the Arts and still learning my way through life. This blog is a chance for you to relax, grab a cup of tea and learn along with me.

10 thoughts on “Art University vs ‘normal’ University”

  1. I went to a normal university but studied Dance so my time table and the way my course was structured was so different to my friends who studied things like English . I was in 5 days a week plus rehearsals and was so jealous of one of friends who was only in 2 days a week! It really depends on what course you take and how it is structured!
    Great Post idea xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s crazy how different every single university and every single course is! Sometimes I’m jealous of people who have more days in uni because at least you’re getting more use of the £9000! Thank you so much I’m glad you enjoyed it 😊 xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had never ever thought that an art degree would be less work or just some lovely painting over a river. I know how hard and competitive art can be and how few have a natural talent, which you must balance with hard work. Of course, you must prouve that you can create something which is why the application might be different! xx corinne

    Liked by 1 person

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