Spotlight on the Penryn Campus, Cornwall

The University of Exeter has three campus. In Exeter we have the Streatham and St Luke’s Campuses, and in Cornwall we have our Penryn Campus. Throughout this week current students from each campus will talk about their experiences of studying at their campus, what makes it so unique and why they made the decision to study at the University of Exeter.

Today Zac Lazarou (BSc Zoology) tells us about his experience of studying on the Penryn Campus, Cornwall.

The main reason I chose the Penryn campus is its unique location, Cornwall. Being a bioscience student, I did not want a city environment, and instead easy access to outdoor settings, especially the coastline. Secondary to this, was the look and feel of the campus itself, everything is modern and state-of-the art, with laboratories, seminar rooms and lecture theatres, library, bar, and café all in close-proximity. I also loved the emphasis on green spaces around campus with plenty of areas to relax in between studying or simply as an outdoor social space among peers. Finally, the community feel, as a mature student I felt accepted on campus regardless of my age or background and the synergy of sharing a campus with Falmouth University brought about a unique relationship between the science and humanities with the arts.

Drawing on my previous comment about sharing a campus with Falmouth University, it creates a distinct community of creatives and academics, in turn providing a plethora of opportunities in both societies, events and the diversity of students drawn to the campus. The environmental ethos on campus is also something I found unique. Facilities such as the cafeteria source their produce locally with a push to reduce single use plastic and use recyclable or reusable products. Recycling points are scattered all over campus so that you are never too far in disposing of rubbish appropriately. The campus itself hosts a variety of green spaces from grassland, scrub, hedgerows, and treelines, this attracts numerous native species and being a zoologist, it is a great place to explore nature. With the campus being in Cornwall, I have some of the most incredible coastline in the country on my doorstep, which in turn brings the Cornish outdoor lifestyle that I have fully-embraced with rock-climbing, hiking and sea swimming. The campus is very well integrated to the local community, which is something I did not feel at other universities. The university and the student union alike, organise engaging events or activities in the local area, on campus or between local community groups. These experiences really enrich my university journey, as I not only joined the University of Exeter, but I have also moved to Cornwall and want to integrate in living here as much as possible rather than just being a student.

Zoology was the perfect fit for me, as it is a wide-scoping degree in terms bioscience that covers whole organism biology, evolutionary theory, and broad-scale ecology. I was not exactly sure what I wanted to specify my interests in, Zoology offered a lot of modularity so I could choose topics in marine biology, animal behaviour and ecology and conservation. I knew that this would allow me to experiment with my interests and discover what worked for me. What also jumped out at me, are the practical aspects in both the field and the lab. My knowledge of the natural world was limited before joining the course, so being able to learn theory in lectures or seminars then apply that practically solidifies knowledge while gaining real-world experience.

Field courses are arguably the most distinctive aspect of my course. The emphasis on gaining relative experience in real-world scenarios provides skills that would not normally be available through taught lectures or seminars. The University is research led, thus the field sites we venture too are there to build upon what we have already learnt and also give new and challenging experiences in understanding biological aspects, especially species and environments not found in the British Isles. For example, my second-year field course, although having to go virtual due to Coronavirus, explored the montane ecology of the Pyrenees. Key topics were how altitudinal gradients effect biodiversity and ecological assemblages, transhumance farming in mountainous regions, migratory patterns of species, human-wildlife conflict and conservation strategies that incorporate socio-economic benefits while promoting biodiversity. All these aspects were explored broadly and in-depth, and which I would not have learned typically in lectures or perhaps not have fully understood without this applied outlook.

One of the defining factors for me, was the sense of community and welcoming. The moment I received an email from the University it felt personal and non-generic. Then fast-forward to my offer-holder visit day, the staff, student ambassadors and academics were so friendly and approachable. Students I interacted with at other Universities often seemed bored, uninterested and were only doing it for the experience which left me quite cold. In contrast the students at the University of Exeter were incredibly upbeat, passionate about their courses, student-life and most importantly ready to answer any questions I had. The academics went above and beyond in detailing the structure of my course, teaching methods and the utility of gaining experience through university opportunities. I felt like I was going to be taught by leaders in their field and learning topics that were informed by the latest research.

As a mature student, one of my biggest worries was fitting in while being older than most students and how the university accommodated for those circumstances. It was a relief to know that the university had a dedicated mature student group, allowing to meet other students in the same situation, but regardless of my age I also felt well integrated with the university community. Unlike other universities I had visited, staff were very supportive of mature students in terms of accommodation, financing, and part-time job opportunities. All these aspects influenced my decision, knowing that I would be well supported, be able to utilise opportunities that enhanced my experience, be part of a dynamic and welcoming community and finally being taught by leading academics.  

A large part of final year is to conduct a research project alongside an academic supervisor. For instance, my project looks at Gall wasp communities, primarily focusing on the evolutionary and ecological mechanisms that sustain the rich biodiversity in an enclosed ecosystem, especially due to the parasitic interactions that should cause species exclusion. As a bioscience student, this project encompasses everything we have been taught throughout our degree, from theory, essay-writing, field and lab work, objective critical thinking to comprehension of current literature. I believe it is the best way to embody our knowledge and experience and applying that to something that can contribute to the latest findings in research. What I find most rewarding, is the autonomy of the project, as we need to come up with our own methodologies, spend time background reading the topic and conduct all the data collection and analysis ourselves. At this point I truly feel like a scientist and perhaps imposter syndrome is kicking too.

Penryn offers a plethora of societies and sports, I believe 150 or so, for a campus inhabiting 7000 students that’s quite a lot. From quidditch and lacrosse, to gaming and dungeons & dragons. There is something for everyone, and I also think the creative arts from the Falmouth students certainly enhances society opportunities which provides unique hobbies or interests to explore during university. With the campus having an environmental ethos, student led societies build upon this to further contribute to the student experience. My interests are mostly associated with nature and outdoor activities, these societies are very much front and centre during my time on campus. For example, EcoSoc (Ecological Society) host events to teach students about natural-history, particularly local native species, as well as partnering with local conservation groups to conduct volunteer days or surveys. WildDocSoc (Wildlife Documentary Society) host film nights for students to watch natural-history documentaries and bring in guest wildlife filmmakers to talk to students about their journey into the industry while sharing their incredible stories. MarineWatch partner with a local wildlife-watching business that take students on boating trips to watch marine-life off the Falmouth estuary where we can spot peregrine falcons, common dolphins and minke whale.

I am personally part of a committee called Life Magazine as the photo-editor, it is a student-led publication focusing on science-communication and journalism with an emphasis on natural history. I like to think of it as the universities version of National Geographic. The quality of each issues is always mind-blowing to me and each committee member dedicates a great deal of work to produce a polished and professional magazine which we are all very proud of. We also host workshops on photography, writing, illustration, and graphic design, it’s a great way to engage with the student body and also provide skills that perhaps some may pursue in their career.

In terms of volunteering, the university and the students union are partnered with many community groups, such as the Flicka Donkey Sanctuary, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Cornwall Seal Sanctuary, and many others. It’s great that as students, we are spoilt for choice in extracurricular activities to get involved with, the variety accommodates for peoples wide-ranging interests and alongside studies can ensure we gain a fulfilling experience during our journey at the campus.

The Cornish lifestyle is perhaps my favourite aspect of living in Penryn. Cornwall offers so much in terms of outdoor activities, unique locations to explore and as I keep repeating, the sense of community. The traditional university setting is often within the hustle and bustle of a city environment, whereas Penryn is very much integrated to a rural landscape. This in turn provides an incredible backdrop of the British countryside and the stunning Cornish coastline. In my free time, I am either exploring coastal walks, searching for local wildlife, relaxing on beaches, swimming, or rock climbing which I could not imagine doing at most other universities. It is this integration that makes my university experience so enriching and embracing a totally different lifestyle to the London one I had before moving here. Obviously this may not be for everyone, some prefer a city environment with a cosmopolitan feel and vibrant nightlife but if you have a sense of outdoor adventure, like me, then Penryn is ideal given the swath opportunities both at the University and the wider-community in Cornwall.

Spotlight on our Streatham Campus, Exeter

I really enjoyed the location, of Devon and the South-West in general. I had intended to come to a visit day delayed by snow and so when I came in spring it was gorgeous to behold. Streatham was the choice as St Lukes is the medical campus so the Devon Campus and so liking Devon and Exeter in general meant that Streatham was the choice for me. It wasn’t too far from home, but neither did it feel like I was too close either as I wanted the freedom to be able to get home if I really really needed but not be in a position where I would just go home on the weekends and not truly “live” as much at university like some of my friends who went to universities with locations much closer to home for that reason. Streatham was well located and I wanted a campus for my university experience compared to a city experience. I also chose Streatham for the variety of accommodation options, when I had to list my preferences I felt that I wouldn’t have minded being put in any of them even as I obviously had a favourite and this helped make it really appealing to make a choice like that over Penryn or other universities for me personally. I also chose Streatham because while not out of the way, it wasn’t a campus in the middle of Exeter and therefore I felt that I’d not only be slightly safer though this wasn’t the primary concern but that it would generally be quieter for me at night and that when I did want or need to go into Exeter that the trade-off wasn’t so great in terms of being close enough to be a short walk but far enough to not have constant noise at night into the early hours.

Read More

Supporting student progression: Exeter Scholars

Here at the University of Exeter, we think it’s really important to support all students to make informed decisions about Higher Education and help them decide whether it’s the right pathway for them. Our longitudinal access programme, Exeter Scholars, does just that! Exeter Scholars is designed to give participating students the opportunity to find out more about the options available to them and to experience a ‘taster’ of university life. There are opportunities for students in the South West of England to join the programme in Year 9, Year 10, and Year 12, and the support continues right through until the end of Year 13 (and beyond, if they go on to study at the University of Exeter)! Read More

Help and support on campus for prospective students

Each student has individual needs and the prospect of attending University can feel overwhelming even before considering any extra support they may need to succeed. Each University will have its own rules and provisions which can seem daunting at the point of application and confusing for parents/guardians alike. We just want to highlight some of the key services available to prospective students that you may wish to direct them to.

We highly recommend that any prospective students fill out the following form  this will enable the team to put a plan in place to support the individual before arrival. This could range from extra time in exams, counselling or accessible accommodation. If they would like any help or guidance on filling out our prospective student online form, please call us on 01392 72 4381 or email


The Wellbeing team promotes better mental health across the student community and supports students who may be experiencing anxiety, stress and have other mental health problems which affect their studies. They have 1:1 appointments alongside drop-in sessions and short term courses on a range of topics such as anxiety disorders (panic, social anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder), eating difficulties, depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, psychoses.

Read More

Free, Easy, Short, Teacher CPD starting soon!

We know it is hard to find time in a very busy schedule (especially this year!) to set aside for some CPD. So we want to help and have created a programme of short, free, and easy to attend CPD. So we welcome ALL Teachers/HE Advisors of all ages to the Discover University Bitesize Teacher CPD sessions. We will be hosting 6 sessions this academic year to give you the opportunity to learn new skills for research-informed teaching and meet leading academics from the University of Exeter. We hope you can relax with a cup of tea and gain some useful insights and tips to apply to the classroom straight away. Each session will also have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss topics in greater detail. Read More

The University of Exeter’s Centre for Social Mobility

The University of Exeter and our commitment to help disadvantaged young people.

The University of Exeter’s Centre for Social Mobility is the UK’s first centre dedicated to improving social mobility through evidence-informed practice and policy. Its goal is to help disadvantaged young people so they do better at school, access higher education and succeed at university and in later life.


The Centre, which was Highly Commended for Innovation at this year’s UK Social Mobility Awards, has carried out a variety of research since its inception two years ago, on topics such as contextual offers; the transition of BTEC students into higher education and the evaluation of university outreach. Read More

Assessing applications

We know students can feel overwhelmed with the prospect of starting an application to university. In this blog we will highlight the key areas that the University of Exeter focuses on when assessing applications.

We take a number of factors into account when assessing an application. This information is correct at point of publishing (23/09/2020). Current policies can be found on our website at:

How do we assess an application?

In considering an application, we consider:

  • Achieved academic performance in level 2 and 3 qualifications (GCSEs, A Levels, and their equivalents)
  • Predicted performance in future examinations
  • Personal statement
  • Reference
  • Any additional statement supplied by a school or college regarding any special personal or extenuating circumstances which may impact, or have impacted on an applicant’s studies.

We may also take into account the educational context in which your academic achievements have been gained.  For further information please see the section on School Performance in our Admissions Policy.

What are we looking for?

We are looking for applicants who:

  • Are suited to the course
  • Have the qualifications and qualities to succeed on the programme
  • Are ambitious, conscientious & hardworking
  • Are able to work under pressure
  • Can adjust to the new university environment
  • Show dedication to the course & have researched it
  • Have a genuine interest in the subject
  • AND a desire to learn more…

Do we interview?

The majority of our courses do not require applicants to attend an interview. A key exception to this at the University of Exeter is Medicine, where we invite applicants to Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs). Your students can find out about the Medicine interview process in the video below:



Supporting your students’ UCAS research in a virtual world

Applying to University can feel daunting at the best of times particularly during this period when students may feel rushed starting the new term.  For your most proactive students then applications are now open for UCAS, from the 8th of September.

Two of the most important dates to note are:

15th October 2020 deadline for Oxbridge, Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine.

15th January 2021 deadline for all UCAS undergraduate courses.

There are many different ways to support your students virtually and the benefits of online support are that it is free and accessible for all regardless of location.  Below are a few ways you can signpost your students further and an opportunity for you to attend a CPD conference with other Russell Group universities.

Read More