By Student Reviewer,Written on Mar 17 , 2018
Pretty awful. The only good thing about the experience was that I had funding and no one appeared to notice when I didn't turn up in the department for several months, so I had time to find employment before dropping out.
I don't remember having any contact with the student's union. It seemed to be entirely focused on undergraduates.
I lived in Jo Butler college. Accommodation itself was good, with ensuite rooms and decent shared cooking facilities. Unfortunately, cleaning and maintenance staff would often walk into student bedrooms without knocking or prior warning. I ended up keeping a chair jammed under the door handle as it was the only way to prevent this. There was also a two-week period in summer when PhD students (whose courses run year-round) were expected to vacate. College staff seemed extremely confused when I didn't vacate, having nowhere else to go. In general, college staff don't seem to know that the college has post-graduate students.
Facilities were adequate. I read several good novels during my time there thanks to the university library. It was a shame that Jo Butler college had no library or student workspace available.
My supervisor was enthusiastic, but unhelpful. He ignored drafts that I sent him to review. When we met in person he would talk at length but rarely answered the questions directly put to him. The lectures we had in the first two terms varied in quality. Some of the lecturers were inaudible (even in a small class with only around 10 students) and had illegible handwriting, but others were good.
In general, city life was very quiet, much quieter than other small university cities like Cambridge.
I saw the careers service once before I dropped out of my PhD. They were quite dismissive of the career path I'd already started experimenting with (scientific writing) and suggested patent law, which I know now I would not have coped with at all. I eventually got a remote-working "job" (actually self-employment) with a Korean company that was advertised on the university careers website. That worked well until the company stopped paying me. I later found out they did this to everyone who worked for them.
I suffered from severe anxiety and bulimia while at Durham. Academic support was non-existent. Academic staff talked over me and threatened me with expulsion and withdrawal of funding when I tried to talk about mental health problems or my ongoing sessions with the counselling service. I avoided going to the department for several months, which no one seemed to notice, and eventually withdrew as it appeared to be the only option. I had six counselling sessions which were moderately helpful, but six was the limit for the year and it's not enough to actually solve any problems. The counselling service seems to have no understanding of the post-graduate system: they refused to write a letter of support to my supervisor and instead insisted on addressing it to someone in my college who I had never met or heard of (I think their job might have been to look after undergrads?)
This review is the subjective opinion of a user and not of postgraduatesearch.com
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