I've taken the 3 day course and it's great if you sign up early and pay the extra fee for the more hands-on 4th day at the farmhouse brewery. -But don't forget that Sunderland is pretty crappy although they do have a couple good independent pubs (and like 4 Wetherspoons); Newcastle is very close by train and they've got a load of great restaurants and pubs including what I believe is still BrewDog's newest pub. There's an Indian street food restaurant up the street and around the corner maybe 2 blocks away from the BrewDog pub and it's to die for; fantastic Indian food.
-The syllabus is a little bit misleading as the microbiology section isn't actually covered any more as they've broken it out as it's own course that they only offer to commercial brewery employees now...
I've never heard of the 2nd group before but the more hands-on nature does sound better if you're more interested in making beer vs. starting your own brewery.
I went in November, and it's brilliant! If you can afford it, get there! I do have to defend Sunderland though, as I did have an nice time and found some great bars.
Over the Queen alexandra bridge, on the south side, on the street near B&Q is a couple of bars with shedloads of real ale. Ask the lecturers. Also, I stayed in roker lodge, and though not the best ever, the bar there did have ALL of sonnet 43 on tap, and they're really nice.
Finally, the 4th day is now in the brewlab brewery (about 4.5bbl I think), not the farmhouse.