On MMU, The ‘Backup Choice’ University

Manchester Metropolitan University is one of two universities in the city of Manchester. As the other is an older, longer established red brick university, MMU is often seen as the lesser of the two institutions, having been formed from the old Manchester Polytechnic. Having studied at both Durham University (a traditional red-brick uni, similar to Manchester University) as well as Man Met, I feel as though I am in a better position than most to determine whether MMU deserves to be seen as second best to Manchester University.

The obvious difference between Durham-style uni and MMU-style is the amount of responsibility that lies on the lecturers and staff in making sure students attend each lecture. This was apparent from my first day at Durham – If you missed a class, it was a big deal and you had better have a good reason for it. If you missed a few classes, the uni would send a letter of concern to your parents. It was a very school-like atmosphere, which most people were OK with, probably because most people came straight from public schools, rather than going to a college after secondary school, like me.

MMU took a different approach. The impression that I got from MMU in my first year was ‘If you don’t show up, it’s your own fault’. The lecturers wouldn’t offer help outside of lecturers to any student who didn’t regularly show up. I thought this was very fair and a much more grown up way of managing attendance. It meant that the students who cared about being at uni would attend the lectures so that they could get the support they needed if they were stuck. This is obviously reflected in the grades – the ones who care and applied themselves got good grades, and the ones who never showed up were weeded out. I appreciated this method much more because I felt as though I was being treated as an adult, rather than a schoolchild.

The next difference I observed between the two styles of uni is the equipment on offer. Having taken a Computer Science course, the availability of up-to-date technology was very important. To my surprise, the equipment I was given access to at MMU was, for the most part, all brand new. I think their Computer Rooms had been recently refurbished (in 2009). They ad brand new Macs and/or PCs on each desk and I don’t remember having many issues with particular machines. One thing that stands out to me about Durham was the lack of decent computers. All lectures were in old fashioned rooms and portacabins and the computer labs were old and the technology was out of date. Perhaps the university funding was more heavily focused on sports and creative subject than Computer Science? I don’t know, but it wasn’t good enough. I do know that Manchester Uni does in fact have a good CompSci department, as it is actually a very ‘science-focused’ uni.

My favourite thing about MMU though was that it was just less intense. Going to Durham was seen as a privellage and people try really hard to get in to that uni each year, and it’s understandable – a degree from Durham often looks better than the same degree from MMU to employers. The thing that people, me included, don’t realise is that it’s just an extension of school. Yes, you move away from home, but you can’t get a job because of the number of required study hours and you there’s nothing to do in the town anyway and the teachers treat you like kids… It’s just not that great. Whereas at MMU, if you have the maturity to motivate yourself to go to lectures and to do the work, you will enjoy it much much more.

And hey, I ended up getting a first at MMU and managed to get one of the best jobs I could have hoped for in the field I studied in.

In short, MMU is good, don’t just see it as a backup choice.


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