What are residentials really like?

Residential weekends are a common part of distance education courses and can form part of the core teaching for the course.


Many of our part-time distance education courses hold study weekends, where students spend the weekend on campus or nearby in order to have lectures and tutorials. Usually, these take place once or twice a year. Teaching generally takes place on campus and students stay at a local hotel or our own conference centre.

How could this affect me?

Some students love the opportunity to meet with other students and staff as studying by distance education can feel lonely. However, the experience can still be overwhelming and exhausting. Long days and packed schedules can take their toll and it is important to plan for the challenges of a study weekend, in order to be able to make the most of the opportunities.

What to do next?

Talk to a member of staff or trusted person about the study weekends and what to expect.

Practical tips

Consider how you will manage the challenges of a study weekend and make a list of what you will need in terms of:

  • study support
  • snacks and drinks
  • comfort/distraction objects
  • comfortable clothing
  • medicine.

Questions to think about

  1. How will you travel to the study weekend? Will you need a break or quiet space when you arrive?
  2. Have you spoken to university staff about the support you might need and how you will access it?
  3. Think about an ’emergency pack’ that you can carry around with you each day, containing for example snacks, drinks and medicine.

Additional information and links

Residential weekends can be very useful to offer some face to face contact. You can experience our campus and its resources first hand and meet up with other students and tutors. However, they are also very busy. Often, the student group is large and you will find that, in order to make your time here worthwhile, the timetable is packed.

Here, a student from one of our Autism courses describes residential weekends from her perspective:

Below is some guidance provide by the Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER) to give you an idea of what to think about before you attend a residential weekend:

In order to give you an idea of the aspects you may find challenging, we summarise for you some points to consider:

– Most sessions will take place in large lecture theatres with around 150 other students. Some lecture theatres are windowless and rely on overhead lighting. (Handouts from most sessions will be available on our virtual learning environment after the study weekend and you will also receive handout packs for use during the weekend);

– There is some requirement to move between rooms and sometimes between buildings.

– Break and lunchtimes tend to be busy and you will be required to queue for refreshments; lunches are buffet style. We provide a quiet room that students can use at any time.

– Accommodation is a large hotel on Broad Street, which is a popular area of central Birmingham for nightlife. The street outside is therefore very busy, although the hotel itself is a calm and well organised space. The hotel lobby is brightly lit and checking-in and out is liable to be busy. Rooms are spacious and softly lit, with good amenities.

If you feel that you may require any support for the study weekend, or specific support for any part of your studies, contact the Disability and Learning Support Service or your Programme Lead.

The university can provide mentors, buddies and a variety of adjustments to make study weekends easier for you. Think in advance about what might help and talk it through with university staff before the weekend takes place.


About the author

Page created by Dr Andrea MacLeod, lecturer in Autism Studies at the University of Birmingham.