Review Of The First Term, BA Architecture

Monday 20th November § Leave a comment

Strictly speaking it’s a bit early to start writing a review of the first term since were only in week 7, but I write this with a very specific audience in mind, the university applicant. I was there exactly this time last year and what I wanted was to find was a blog from a current De Monfort University (DMU) that peeled back the glossy finish of the prospectus, to give an alternate perspective to life here. So I’ll do my best. Of course I’ll be particularly focusing on the course that I’m doing, which is the BA Architecture, but some things will be applicable across the board.

Lets face it, the students here aren’t going to be the brightest and the best. At least not those with the best A-levels (there is a difference) who’ll get snaffled up by the Cambridges, Baths and Cardiffs of this world. Geographically, the majority of students here seem to come from about an hours travel away which suggest that proximity was quite a strong deciding factor. If you happen to care about league tables then be assured that De Montfort comes twelfth on the Times website out of all architecture courses in the UK. I have a feeling that means almost nothing until you start writing up your CV, but you can use it impress your parents.

The course for the first year is divided into four equal modules

Discovering Architecture Through History (includes Theory)
2 lectures a week + 1 hour seminar. Pretty self explanetory.

So far we’ve compiled a ‘Cultural Context’ portfolio, which is basically a few drawings following up on that weeks history lecture and we’ve been set a brief essay to re-cap these historic styles which shouldn’t be too hard. We also have seminar type exercises to encourage our appreciation of theory: last week we had to make an aquaduct.

Introduction To Design Technology contains four subsections.
Construction + Services are quite similar and each have an hours lecture each week. The research and technical drawings for these have been the hardest thing on the course so far.

Technology is one lecture a week at the moment, but on top of that we’ve had two materials labs which are very similar to high school science lessons(not that I’d know). The first session looked at the microscopic structure of wood and in this weeks we made concrete which we’ll test later on for compressive strength.

Structures (very basic engineering) started out with a series of lectures but now we’ve moved on to using these principals in practical studio projects. Right now we’re designing a canopy for the entrance to the Fletcher building in which the architecture department is located. Lots of fun.

Communication And Representation
This is where the really fun designing happens. So far we’ve had three projects which started off really arty and are now gradually becoming more building orientated. We have one lecture a week timetabled but don’t always make use of it and the rest’s incorperated in the studio time.

And then theres the fourth module: Environmental Design, which we’ll start during the next term and brings together elements of technology with communication & design.

All of this works out to quite a full week:
Monday mornings = lectures, aftenoon = studio time
Tuesday = lectures + seminars (also interesting open lectures every other week)
Wednesday and Thursday are studio days
With Friday free

When it comes to applying you needn’t worry about going on an open day, your a bit late anyway, but you’ll be coming for an interview which will contain all the tours and such. I found that I came back again with my other parent just too check, but I knew after the first half an hour that I wanted to come here.

One of the things that I was struck about De Montfort was how central to the city centre it is. Everything is within easy walking distance. The market is a good way to live cheaply and the centre has an odd collection of architectrue that I find quite endearing. Going out tends to happen this side of the centre and while I’m not the person to ask on such things, Leicester isn’t going to rank as one of the cultural hotspots (middling maybe) except in some interesting areas. Theres a Leicester Comedy Festival around Feburary time and a full calendar of religious festivals.

But have no fear, after the 1st year you’ll have no spare time to socialise. It’s not quite as ferocious as some make out, but deadlines tend to bunch together in such a way that around things get really hectic and concentrated.

So far the studio atmosphere seems really constructive. They’ve been boosting the academic staff with architects from practice who all bring up interesting ideas. Other things that have been surprisingly good: the library here opens 24 hours a day (except Saturday nights, as I found out at half 1 last night), the , at no point in Leicester have I ever felt threatened (except by a girl who was so drunk that she found one of my friends attractive, i.e. one stage away from passed out).

As far as accomodation goes, from the places I’ve visited you can’t go too far wrong. Avoid Grange Court (on architectural principle) and those that are reserved for older and international students who tend to move in different social circles. I’m in Bede Halls which I highly recommend, just over the canal from the uni. I’d have prefered it if the flats weren’t segregated between girls and boys. Apparently this was brought in by request of the boys who couldn’t cope with the messiness of the girls.

To recap,

  • The course is good, a little bit disorganised this term due to staff illness
  • High quality of tuition.
  • Facilities wise:
    • good computer labs
    • adequate studio
    • fab workshops
  • Moderate social scene compared with other big cities (Manchester, Bristol, London)
  • Nice accomodation
  • Friendly people


  • Under-active Students Union.

Hmm. Struggling to find things that I dislike about it, which must be a good thing. Guy’s drive by in the afternoons with their stereos so loud that all you can hear is a whum-whum of bass, but then they drive on. It rains really suddenly compared with Wales (where it rains far more consistently). No, I think that’s it. I would heartily recomend the architecture course here, and De Montfort in general. In fact life here is great!


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