When chatting to Year 13s about how they’re deciding where to go to uni, course and what the university is like are often the top two factors. However the city that they’ll call home for the next 3-4 years is another slightly scary 3rd factor. So what should you be thinking about when it comes to choosing the right uni city?
Different cities have their own character or “feel”, which can match (or conflict) with your personality or interests. Also, they can take a smaller or bigger bite out of your student loan depending on where in the country you are.
Here are the 5 things you NEED to consider if looking to move away from your hometown:
1. Distance from home
Going to uni is a big step. For some, being able to hop on a train and be home in less than an hour can be a comforting thought. For others, there’s a thrill in studying somewhere completely different, which may even take a short flight to get to.
Think about how often you may want to go home. If you’re further away, this can be quite costly or just not very straightforward in terms of transport if you can’t simply catch a lift.
2. Day-to-day living
Try to imagine what an average day as a student in particular might look like.
Start simple: how easy would it be to get to class from the popular student neighborhoods? If it’s not walkable, what transport options are there? For instance, London has the tube which connects the whole city quite nicely. Other, smaller cities will be more reliant on a bus (or even tram) service.
Plus, where you live in a city will dictate what you have nearby – we’re talking things like supermarkets, shops and gyms. Will being a loyal Lidl shopper be tough if the nearest one is in a completely different part of town?
3. Entertainment and nightlife
You won’t be studying 24/7 – you’ll need somewhere to go on a Saturday (or spontaneous Wednesday) night!
While most big cities will have clubs, bars, pubs, music venues and restaurants, their offering will vary wildly.
Some cities cater to certain music genres more than others. For instance, there was a big trend in house music lovers raving about Leeds.
A city’s population can even shape the food choices on offer. One Liverpool graduate we spoke to praised the city’s Chinese cuisine, considering it has one of the oldest Chinese communities in the UK.
4. Living costs
This is a biggie and really important to consider once you know roughly what you’ll have to play with. Things like rent and public transport costs really depend on where you are.
Not surprising, London is pretty expensive due to the demand to live there, hence why you’ll be eligible for more in maintenance loan if you are studying away from home here. Meanwhile other cities may be slightly easier on your wallet, especially considering some of the factors above (e.g. can you skip public transport and walk to class?).
Here’s a pretty good guide that helps compare living costs in different cities to give you a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into.
Do you want a big city where your commute to class sees you brush shoulders with everyone from young professionals to international tourists? Or do you want to be somewhere where students rule the town?
In some smaller cities where there are two or more large universities, there is more of a sense that the city is “built for students”, with more on offer for you in terms of entertainment, student discounts etc.
In a larger city like Birmingham, where there’s a real mix of individuals with little in common, it can be tougher to establish personal connections. This “small fish in a big pond” sensation can be exciting for some, while intimidating for others.
Hopefully these steps will help when you’re thinking about choosing a uni city. If you’re still not sure and need to fill in some gaps, Which? University have created detailed city guides which cover anything from where the best student club nights are and value for money for housing, to where you can study if a city catches your eye. You can just pick a city and start your virtual tour online!
Good luck, you’ll make the right decision in the end!