You have a budget of £100,000 design your ideal studio.....blah blah
I have never been set any work like that.
Needless to say, the course work and home work is set to test the understanding of the students.
Maybe, to some extent, in the early part of the course. I would say mostly (almost exclusively towards the end of the course), work is set to test a student's academic skills. Style of writing, correctly citing papers, time management, generally 'subscribing' to academia. I would say the content is irrelevant.
Is there any engineering content in these courses?
Yes, on paper. Hard core maths, how technical principles apply to making a functional device in the real world. NOT: "you turn this knob and it sounds like this".
Surrey's course is very focused on churning out very good studio engineers with a greater degree of knolwege in music and elctronics...
No, Surrey's course is all about creating the next generation of AES members, recruiting them to do a PhD and writing a research paper.
In terms of musical content, I find it entirely sheltered and un-accomadating. How much of a headache does it have to be to find a space to rehearse with a couple of mates for an hour? Should this activity not be encouraged?
by the way Guilford is a lovely town
Hmmmm... Until recently there were no music venues. Now there is one. It's good, but it's out of town and small. The general student population is either foreign, shy and scared-looking, or drunk, loud and business management looking. The general Guildford population is chav. The non chavs are commuters.
The only suggestion I can make is do a course with a placement year, a year in industry. I found this experience entirely interesting and a worthwhile use of my time. I know people who did not have a good time on their placement, but this is no different from just working in a sh*t job behind a bar for a year. Such people mostly just made a bunch of new friends and did things to take their minds off a cr*p job.
Doing a course without a placement would likely be all b*llocks ("turn the blue knob to make it sound nice") or all academic ("James, you missed one apostrophe on page four of your paper"). I don't think a course exists that strikes a balance enough to hold my attention. A placement year can make up for any shortcomings in the course.