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Overseas university spotlight: Newcastle University (UK)

Newcastle University was first established in 1834 as the medical school of Durham University, and since then, it has flourished as a comprehensive Russell Group institution of its own.


In more recent history, it has also had many connections with the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. as the only UK university to award Martin Luther King, Jr., with an honorary degree during his lifetime.


The university also named one of its buildings after Frederick Douglass, who was legally freed as a slave whilst visiting the city in 1846.


Nowadays, the university continues to stand for and embed its values of social justice and diversity, equity and inclusion in everything it does.


Here are some of the highlights from my visit in June 2023!


Newcastle University Old Library Building
Newcastle University Old Library Building

Newcastle


Newcastle is considered the 'capital of the northeast', and during term time, one-sixth of its nearly 300,000 population is students (I'll let you do the math!).


It has a proud industrial heritage and is considered a 'Goldilocks' city for not being too big or too small -- but rather, just right.


One of the first things you'll notice is that it's super easy to get around; you can pretty much walk anywhere -- the main train station, the river, student housing, etc. -- within 20 minutes.


Speaking of the river, the quayside was my favorite part of the city -- maybe because it reminded me of the riverfront in Cincinnati where I grew up.


Like Cincinnati, Newcastle is also a city of bridges, and travel enthusiasts may note that the Tyne Bridge in particular (below) looks strikingly similar to one Sydney Harbour Bridge (they were actually designed by the same London firm!).


Tyne Bridge
On sunny days, this area around the Tyne Bridge is packed with people!
On sunny days, this area around the Tyne Bridge is packed with people!

It's also here that you'll find an outdoor market on Sundays, an art museum, loads of options for food and drink and a huge redevelopment that will bring a new look to the area in the shape of a £260 million waterfront conference and events venue.


Quayside in Newcastle
View from the top of the Baltic Cenre for Contemporary Art
View from the top of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
Kittiwakes
Kittiwakes! Clearly not afraid of heights.

And though they're not super original with their naming of places, there's even a beautiful beach town called Tynemouth that's easily accessible for students, just 15 minutes from the city by metro (it's literally located at the mouth of river Tyne; get it? Ha!).


Tynemouth, UK
Castle ruins in Tynemouth
I just love the contrast of these castle ruins and the ice cream truck!
I just love the contrast of these castle ruins with an ice cream truck!
Tynemouth
Tynemouth

One place that's just a bit farther out is the famous Angel of the North statue right off the A1 highway, which, like most new things, was controversial when it first went up in 1998.


Locals later grew to appreciate it, even somehow adding a massive Alan Shearer jersey at one point!


Alan Shearer jersey on the Angel of the North

I liked what the sculptor of the statue, Antony Gormley, said of it though:


"The angel has three functions - firstly a historic one to remind us that below this site, coal miners worked in the dark for two hundred years; secondly to grasp hold of the future, expressing our transition from the industrial to the information age; and lastly to be a focus for our hopes and fears - a sculpture is an evolving thing."

Insightful and inspiring!


Fun fact: its 175-foot wingspan is bigger than a Boeing 757 or 767 jet and almost the same as a Jumbo jet
Fun fact: the angel's 175-foot wingspan is bigger than a Boeing 757 or 767 jet and almost the same as a Jumbo jet.
It's believed to be the largest angel sculpture in the world
It's believed to be the largest angel sculpture in the world.

Newcastle is also quite a historical city and actually got its name from the medieval castle that still remains today.


Newcastle Castle (a fun thing to say)
Newcastle Castle (a fun thing to say)
Newcastle Castle
A church in Newcastle
Hello moon - Newcastle crescent
Hello moon!
A crescent street in Newcastle
Newcastle city centre
Art deco
Art deco
Chinatown
Chinatown

If you choose to study in Newcastle, you'll no doubt come across soccer fans.


With a recent ownership change and more money, Newcastle FC is doing quite well these days.


On this visit, I was fortunate to get to have an inside look at their home grounds at St James' Park!


St James' Park
Inside the locker room
Inside the locker room
On the pitch!
On the pitch!
Players' entrance
Hallway to the pitch
Hallway to the pitch
Visiting team's locker room
Visiting team's locker room
Newcastle locker room
Newcastle locker room
Newcastle locker room
The pitch at St James' Park

Newcastle is known as a lively city with plenty of bars and nightclubs, but I found this pub filled with books right under the Tyne Bridge quite interesting (it has a rooftop, too)!


The Bridge Tavern
The Bridge Tavern

Campus


For students wanting both a city and proper campus experience, Newcastle University offers a mix of both.


Newcastle University admin building
Newcastle University admin building

Most of the campus buildings are right in central Newcastle, just opposite the other main university there, Northumbria.


And I'm not sure if I've ever visited a campus whose buildings have a more varied architectural style!


Newcastle University
Philip Robinson Library
Outside the library
Outside the library
Inside the library
Inside the library

The university has 28,000 students (25% international), and interestingly, it has one of the highest graduation retention rates outside London in that students want to stay in Newcastle and work after their studies -- a really good sign!


Newcastle walkway
One season of Geordie Shore was filmed in one of these units near campus!
One season of Geordie Shore was filmed in one of these units near campus!
Newcastle City Council
Newcastle City Council
Farrell Centre, which works closely with the architecture department at Newcastle Uni to do research and showcase exhibits
Farrell Centre
Newcastle Uni
View of St Thomas' Church from campus
View of St Thomas' Church from campus
Northern Stage theatre and company right on campus
Northern Stage theatre and company right on campus

Newcastle is one of the UK's 'redbrick' universities, and the old part of campus is where you'll find the most beautiful buildings.


Students' Union
Students' Union
Old Library Building

It's also where you'll find the statue commemorating MLK, Jr.


MLK Jr statue at Newcastle
MLK Jr statue at Newcastle
The majestic King's Hall, where graduations take place
The majestic King's Hall, where graduations take place
Meeting room
Meeting room
On-campus gardens
On-campus gardens
On-campus gardens
Newcastle Uni building

Engineering students will be delighted to know that theirs is the newest facility to receive an upgrade, and it's an £110 million upgrade at that!


I got to take a sneak peak at the new Stephenson Building, which will open later this year.


The new Stephenson Building for engineering
Computers pop up at these workstations!
Computers pop up at these workstations!
New engineering building atrium
New engineering building atrium
Outside deck of the new engineering building
Outside deck of the new engineering building
More labs

Sometimes it's hard for engineers to explain to non-engineers what they're doing, so the university made the below room full of windows (it's right on a street corner) so that the public could see what goes on.


Large windows so the public can see in
New lecture theatre
New lecture theatre

Check out this page for more on this building.


New engineering building
New engineering building

One of my favorite programs at Newcastle is its Combined Honours program, a fancy way of saying 'create your own liberal arts type degree by choosing three subjects from 20+ options.'


Whilst these options include languages, law, film, archaeology, media, politics, sociology and more, most don't require a commitment prior to arrival.


They can also include an optional work placement year or year abroad, and upon graduation, the diploma will reflect the subjects the student ended up choosing.


And Combined Honours students even get their own special treatment, too, with classrooms in the 'penthouse' suites with beautiful views, their own kitchen and their own hang-out room.


Combined Honours building
Combined Honours building
View from the Combined Honours floor
View from the Combined Honours floor

Given the university began as a medical school, I would be remiss if I didn't mention its highly-rated medical degree (top 80 in the world), which can be taken straight out of high school in five years or via the 4-year graduate entry route.


Newcastle's Medical School
Newcastle's Medical School

One of the best parts of studying medicine at Newcastle is the fact that the school is physically connected to the Royal Victoria Infirmary Hospital, which is unique.


Newcastle's Medical School
Newcastle's Medical School

Newcastle's med school offers an integrated curriculum with clinical exposure in the first years with cases that match what's being taught in lectures.


And in Semester 1 of Year 2, students can study at its campus in Malaysia.


It's highly selective though, with around 2,500 applications for 360 places (27 for international students).


Brand new classroom

A relatively new degree at Newcastle is in sports and exercise science, which was the first UK program to be brought into the medical faculty.


Whereas a lot of sport science programs focus on performance and coaching, at Newcastle it's also about health and well-being and the science and research around that.


Students benefit from a brand new building, with facilities located on the ground floor of the fabulous sports centre.


Sport & Fitness Centre
Sport science lab
Sport science lab
Sport science lab

Really, the sports centre was impressive.


Whilst I was there, the professional rugby team, the Newcastle Falcons, were seen walking around and training; if that doesn't give you an indication of the level and quality of the facilities, then I'm not sure what would!


Sport Centre reception
Sport Centre reception
Courts
Spin room
Spin room
Sports centre
Sports centre

Elsewhere in the health sciences realm, Newcastle offers a unique course in biomedical sciences, in which students take a common first year of classes across subjects like pharmacology, biochemistry, genetics and other.


They can then choose to graduate with a degree in one of those more specific areas or a general biomedical science degree (most end up graduating with the general), but the fact that students can choose to specialize after the first year is very appealing.


Interestingly, about 60-70 percent of the students are female, and to give you an idea of the quality of teaching, the chief doctor for Newcastle United teaches on this course.


Big data and artificial intelligence also make up part of the program, which makes students highly employable.


In fact, one recent graduate was hired by Eurostar in the pandemic to calculate how many train services were needed to be put on to still make money but also be socially distant.


Lastly, in the new section of campus close to the Newcastle FC stadium, I got to visit the Urban Observatory within the Urban Sciences Building and see some of its fascinating research having a real impact on people's lives.


Urban Sciences Building

For example, the group has placed sensors all around the city that measure things like temperature, traffic and pedestrian patterns, humidity, rainfall and air quality.


Inside the Urban Sciences Building
Inside the Urban Sciences Building

They've been experimenting with closing streets for pedestrians, for example, and monitoring the environmental and traffic impacts as well as unintended consequences.


Urban Observatory data

This data helps drive agile decisions and quantifies solutions; it was so cool!


Newcastle University is all about mixing research with industry, and the 24 acres on which the Urban Sciences Building resides is called the Newcastle Helix, an innovation hub bringing together data science, urban science and life science.


Helix
Helix
Newcastle Business School
Newcastle Business School

Housing


The majority of Newcastle's housing is 10 minutes from campus, but I got to visit Park View Student Village, which is located right next to the Sports Centre.


Park View Student Village
Park View Student Village
Shared common area
Shared common area
Shared common area
Shared common area
Private bathroom
Private bathroom
Student bedroom

For students who don't want to cook, there's only one hall that offers a meal plan option, and it will be demolished and replaced with a more modern facility in the near future.


However, it does come with a nice views of free-ranging cows within the city, something I've never before seen!


Free-ranging cows

If none of these options work for you, the city also has private accommodation providers, such as Unite Students, but they can be a bit pricier.