/ Parenting, Travel & Leisure

What makes the perfect university city?


The Ucas deadline is almost here, cue last-minute applications and the nail-biting wait for universities to reply. But when it comes to choosing from offers, could the ultimate decision come down to location?

While it’s flattering to have universities throwing offers at you, you can only pick one (or two in this case – a first and an insurance choice in case results day doesn’t go to plan).

The Ucas 2018 deadline is looming, and if you’ve got universities, all of whom you’re interested in, banging at your door – how do you decide?

Choosing from university offers

We recommend taking a closer look at things like modules and student satisfaction for a course. There can be differences in how a course is delivered at different universities, even if it has the same name. Students may have a very different take based on their experience so far, too.

Similarly, does one university rank higher for subject or links to the sector? This could pay off big time later when it comes to finding that first graduate job. Or perhaps another consideration could be where you’d want to call home for the next three years?

University cities

This can be a bit more of a gut feeling rather than research-intensive, aside from finding out how far away it is when homesickness kicks in and a familiar face is needed. In which case, a conversation about distance might need to be had.

In my case, this actually helped me narrow my choices to the south-east, eventually settling on student life in Brighton, a short train ride from my family’s home in Eastbourne. Knowing family were closeby actually made the transition a lot easier, even if I didn’t actually go home.

Hopefully, you’ve seen all the universities in person and had a bit of time to wander around the local area. If it’s possible, try to visit again and take time to see the local student hangouts.

To some, big cities can seem rather interchangeable. Decide whether a sprawling, modern city with no limit of things to do (London, Manchester) or a smaller alternative you could easily cycle around with pretty scenery (Edinburgh), would be the best fit.

I write this as a 27-year old currently living in London who still sometimes feels overwhelmed by the noise, pollution and eye-watering price of a pint. Despite the free museums and part-time jobs available, I don’t think the shy, 18-year old me could have handled London life here.

Sometimes you need to scratch below the surface to find what makes a university city special. This could be a connection to a certain music genre, or a diverse population which shapes the local culture and cuisine. While not essential in your university decision, it’s these sorts of things you look back on fondly, years later. I do the same when I reminisce about post-exam BBQs on the beach (and waking up on said beach in the early hours of the morning…).

University living costs

Sometimes things come down to money, and unfortunately uni city choice is no exception.

While a student loan can cover tuition fees, living costs are another thing, namely rent and getting around. This can vary wildly across cities. In fact, there’s a reason why students living away from home in London are eligible for more in terms of maintenance loans. This can be a good time to start looking at student budgets more seriously and begin the student finance process.

Going back to distance from home, consider this cost when term begins/ends. While a train ticket from Brighton to Eastbourne didn’t take much of a bite out of my budget, travelling across the country multiple times within a single term can be a substantial cost.

Which city did you study in? Did you love it and stay, or did you escape the moment you graduated? If you’re heading off to university this year, where do you hope to be studying?


Some years since I was in the game. My searches included Bristol, London, Southampton, Birmingham and Manchester. I eventually ended up in Oxford. In my view the perfect University city, beautiful, great facilities and culture and a 20 min cycle ride from beautiful country pubs and a short train ride or cheap bus into London. Also has the best University in the world if that’s your thing. Cons: Little part time work and expensive accommodation.

Oxford City is also one of the most polluted in the UK, ranking number 10 after
Port Talbot
Stoke on Trent

Marylebone Road, the home of Which?, is one of the two most polluted places in the UK. I wonder if they have pollution measuring devices to protect their staff? I would not like to think our esteemed friends are exposed to harm. Maybe they could be moved to Bristol?

It is also the address for Westminster University. I wonder if there are any statistics correlating university achievements with pollution levels? You could avoid this by going to a nice rural or seaside location; Wales seems to have some of the best examples – Bangor, Aberystwyth, perhaps?

Who even says a university has to be in a city?

I have been a member of staff in a city centre university and one near the outskirts and I far preferred the latter. City centre universities seem to appeal to the majority of potential students, or did when I was involved.

With due acknowledgement to, ahem, a certain university sci-fi society (they’ll know who I mean), for an actual city, I think the best choice would obviously be Universe City.

In my opinion, the perfect university city has to be cosy and not too big, in the same time it has to provide enough places for “fun activities” (cafes, shops, libraries, museums etc), where students can meet up after studying.

In the UK, I personally like Cambridge and Canterbury. They are beautiful and compact, full of life, surrounded by wonderful architecture that creates very positive academic environment.