Beating the backpack brawl of a bustling Bristol


By Zoe Glascow, Second Year Politics and International Relations

With the University's on-taking of an unprecedented number of students this year, Epigram discusses the best ways to tackle full libraries, bustling streets, and a crowded campus.

We’ve all found ourselves worming our way through the busy streets of Clifton at the start of this term, bashing into the unsuspecting backpacks of our peers as we hurry to our lectures and seminars. The libraries are packed, and unless you fancy an 8am start to secure your seat, you may find yourself feeling lost and helpless without somewhere to tune into your reems of readings or piles of problems.

This year, the University accepted a much larger influx of students than usual due to an unprecedented number of students meeting their grade offers. Inevitably, this has led to a bustling campus and an even greater struggle to find an available study space.

The University published a statement on the oversubscription: ‘This year, an unprecedented number of students have achieved the highest grades across a wide range of subjects.’ In taking steps to try to tackle the problem, the University offered students on law, business, and other oversubscribed courses £10,000 and a year’s accommodation if they deferred their studies. For some students, this was a difficult decision, as many already deferred a year to avoid COVID restrictions affecting their university experience.

'In taking steps to try to tackle the problem, the University offered students on law, business, and other oversubscribed courses £10,000 and a year’s accommodation if they deferred their studies.'

Many students were also offered accommodation in nearby cities, such as Bath, along with travel bursaries to get to and from campus. First year student, Ella, was offered accommodation in Bath and explained how living in a different city has affected her: ‘Travelling to and from Bath is a pain as public transport is not reliable; usually I have to plan my journey over an hour early as the buses don’t show up. It was really stressful to be told there was no accommodation available for me after Results Day, and then when I was told it was in Bath, I was worried about missing out on the full Bristol experience.’

If you are one of these students struggling with both living in accommodation far away from campus and finding an available study space when you’re there, or if you’re simply just overwhelmed by the number of students on campus this year, the University have confirmed plans to expand its study spaces in order to tackle this issue. The University plans to build a new £80 million library on the current site of The Hawthorns to improve students’ access to more on-campus facilities, but the new University Library (UNL) is not planned to open until 2026, meaning most current students will not be able to reap the benefits of an additional study space.

In the meantime, this pocket guide on how to navigate this year’s oversubscribed campus provides some handy tips on avoiding the crowds to stock up on your study time at alternative spaces.

Beacon House:

One of the smaller study spaces in Bristol, Beacon House is a great stop for a quick study-fix. The café serves teas, coffees, and cold drinks, as well as meal deals if you need a snack in between lectures. Up the steps, there are sofas and coffee tables where you can eat and study, as well as silent areas through the building so you can really focus. I recommend avoiding the peak midday rush to bag your seat, and the space is open through the evening if you’ve had a busy day of teaching.

Source: Epigram | Ottilie Cullen

Bristol Central Library:

Lesser known by freshers, Bristol Central Library is a great alternative to the more traditional atmosphere of Wills Memorial Library. With the smell of leather-bound books and seemingly primordial desks, Central Library is a great place to kick back with a stack of books and ponder over some of the most tedious of tasks, feeling as scholarly and cultured as Oscar Wilde or Stephen Fry. There is also the added perk of being just opposite College Green, so you can pop out for a break and grab a drink and a snack from Costa and chill on the grass, which is especially good if you’re with a study buddy!

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

For the cultured and creative forces among you, a trip to the museum may be in order. Traipsing through the exhibits and taking in the ingenious craftsmanship of ceramics and paintings ranging from the mastery of Romanticism to contemporary Bristol Blue Glass will provide you with some motivation for greatness and peacefulness for concentration. After taking a walk through the collections, you can head to the café and sit with your laptop and a coffee for a stimulated study session.

Brandon Hill

If you’re anything like me, sometimes being indoors is just too claustrophobic and dull. Even the most ornate buildings and libraries sometimes just don’t cut it, and I find my eyes wondering, counting the books on the shelf, and feeling my mind fog with the flurry of words. Brandon Hill is a go-to spot for relaxation. If you have some book chapters to catch up on, or an essay that just won’t hit the word count, sit under a tree, and let your mind relax with the sight of the tame squirrels bounding across the grass and the patter of dog walkers.

This list of alternative study spaces may hopefully highlight some both on and off campus study spaces for students across Bristol to turn to while navigating a much busier campus than expected. However, try to embrace the thousands of new faces as the world starts to open up again and explore some quiet retreats if the mayhem of a hectic student environment becomes too overwhelming.

Featured Image: Epigram | Lucy O'Neill