University then vs now

So your child (and you) have made it through revision, handled exams and now university is on the horizon. You’ve done the open days and seen the campuses, but how has university changed over the years - what’s it really like now? If it's been a few years since you were a student yourself, here's our guide to how university has changed.

University then vs now

There’s more students

University is now more popular than ever, with many more students starting a course in the last few years compared to the '80s. Stats from September 2017 suggest that 49 per cent of young people now go on to higher education and as a result, the diversity of students at university is changing and increasing. A UCAS report from 2017 also suggested that the number of students whose parents didn’t go to uni has for the first time matched those who did, as courses, institutions and qualifications have changed hugely, which has resulted in better access and opportunities for students regardless of background or learning style.

Continuous assessment and time spent working

Over the last couple of decades, the way in which courses are assessed and taught has changed. Gone are big final year closed book exams. Instead, students are assessed throughout the year. Students still face important exams at the end of term, but now also get assessed in modules throughout the semester. This means the start of the course is now just as important as the months at end.

Students also spend more time in lectures and seminars. Students can now be expected to spend 25 hours a week in the classroom, be that face-to-face or online, where as this could have been half as much in the 1980s.


We don’t need to tell you how technology has improved in the last 30-40 years, but it has changed university life in a variety of ways. Thanks to social media, students can now get in touch with their future flat mates before turning up. Assignments can be submitted online, reducing the last minute trips to the library. Face Time means that you’re never too far away from your loved one, and queuing for the communal phone isn’t even a consideration. Reminiscing about how things used to be? See if you can relate to the seven things you'll only know if you went to uni in the 80s.

There's also the technology for learning - not only how we teach our courses but there's also brand new courses studying the technology itself! We've invested heavily in technology and cutting edge kit across the university in recent years. From our world class TV studios, including the largest fixed green screen in the UK, to the stimulated healthcare equipment used across our health courses. See how we've integrated the newest technologies with our specialist facilities.


Universities are arguably better than ever. With more students coming through their doors, universities are developing and becoming modern, cutting edge institutions. Our transformation in the heart of Birmingham City Centre is a prime example of this. We've invested £340 million in our campus and facilities since 2010, including the first purpose built Conservatoire in the UK for over 30 years, which was given ‘Royal’ status. Find out more about how BCU has transformed and is helping transform students' learning.

People and friendships

Despite everything, the social side of university has stayed the same. Lasting friendships are made, wives and husbands are found and memories are made. There’s still club nights and student discounts, summer balls and of course 'freshers' week' (or now known as Welcome Week). If anything has changed here, it’s that’s there’s simply more friends to choose from.

Are you an alumni of Birmingham City University? Check out our top 10 memories from back in the day at our City North Campus.

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