A university's location is one of the most important factors you'll consider and it’s a great place to start if you are completely overwhelmed with the number of options out there. When thinking about university location, you can pretty much split your options into five different categories.
Image Credit: Davide D'Amico/ Flickr.com
The London universities have their own category because living in London is different to living in any other UK city. For a start it costs almost twice as much. However don’t let this put you off because you’re student loan will be bigger to compensate for this, and there are more opportunities for part-time work. The other difference between London and other cities is its sheer size; with over 8 million people living in one place you will have the chance to meet a huge range of different characters and, despite its vast mileage, London is very convenient city to travel around because of its excellent transport links. It’s also the hub of England’s culture, nightlife, shopping and food, and there’s something for everyone. The biggest downside to living in London is that, because of its size and number of people it can be both quite isolating and overwhelming, and can take you a while to travel to visit friends across the city. If you’re not living with others from university if can also be quite hard to meet people.
Some of the country’s best universities are located at the hearts of its most exciting cities. Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, Liverpool etc. are all home to excellent universities and can offer students loads of the benefits of London, alongside the security and familiarity of living in a slightly smaller place. If you love the hustle and bustle, culture, nightlife and activity you get living in a city but are scared of feeling isolated in London, or can’t afford the inflated prices, these are the right universities for you. You’ll be able to enjoy all that the city has to offer whilst at the same time it’s easier to meet friends and feel connected to both the university and city.
Built predominantly in the 1960s, suburban universities are a great compromise between living in the city and the countryside. These universities are attached to large or middling cities meaning that you can benefit from the culture, nightlife and amenities that a city has to offer. In addition, they are usually located in quiet leafy suburbs meaning that, if you are unused to living in a city, or don’t like the idea of the crimes, noise and frenetic nature of city life, you don’t have to launch yourself in at the deep end. Universities located in the suburbs are also predominantly campus-based so if you are looking for a supportive, community environment, these are the right places for you.
Universities in Towns or Small Cities
If you are not interested in big city life and prefer somewhere familiar and local, you don’t have to look right out into the countryside to feel at home. Lots of larger towns and smaller cities with populations of around 100,000 are home to universities. This is great for people who are used to living in an urban environment but don’t like the noise and pollution of a larger city. They offer all the local amenities you need, and will also have a few nightclubs and cultural centres, but will be much safer and more homely than living in a large city. Another bonus is that these tend to be some of the cheapest areas for students to live in.
There are a few universities that are not particularly affiliated with a city or urban area but are self-contained units right in the heart of the countryside. These institutions will really suit people who love the outdoors and enjoy the peace and quiet of country life. The downsides are that there will be less exciting things going on outside the university so if you opt for one of these you should make sure that the university’s own social scene and amenities are excellent. The big upsides are that you will most likely be living in a beautiful area and will experience a really close university community.
Once you have decided which broad location you are interested in, there are a few other location factors to consider, to narrow down your options.
Firstly, you have to decide where abouts in the country you want to live. You may want to think about living close to home so that you can get the train back whenever you need to, or this may be your worst nightmare! You also might want to think about the weather, the UK is only small but there is a big temperature difference between London and Glasgow. Another thing to consider is whether you would like to live near the sea, or near a national park, or somewhere where you can easily catch the train for day trips.
Once you have narrowed down your options to 10 or 15 universities, you could have a look at things like local amenities, whether the town or cities has facilities to cater for your hobbies and interests, and what the local cultural and nightlife scenes are like.
When choosing which university to go, it is also important to factor in the cost. Often fees will not differ dramatically but the cost of living in different places can. Save the Student’s living costs in the UK 2020 blog offers a great breakdown of costs in terms of universities and expenses. It’s a great way to get a feel for how much money you might need to have at university, and understand which university towns offer the best value for money if you are going to live away from home.
Save the Student’s student money survey also has some great information about how students spend their money at university. According to the survey, the average student spends £807 a month and you can clearly see in which regions students spend the most money.