How To Choose A UK University
Thinking of going to university in the UK? There’s a lot to consider. From campus location to the cost of living, it’s important to do your research when deciding where you’ll spend the next three (or more) years of study.
Whether you’re an international student or based in the UK, here’s Bloom’s ultimate guide to choosing a UK university.
10 things to consider when choosing a UK university
Here are ten things you need to think about when choosing a UK university.
Find out which unis have the best reputation for the course you want to take. Use sites like Discover Uni to compare courses from your chosen universities, or even different courses within the same uni. This will help you establish which course offers the modules and opportunities you’re looking for.
Whether you’re planning to commute or move into halls, location is an important consideration when choosing your UK uni.
Lots of students use uni as an opportunity to get to know another part of the country, while others prefer to stay close to home. Either way, research where the campus is based so you know exactly where you’ll spend most of your time when you’re at uni.
You might also want to think about:
- Rural vs city locations.
- Nearby amenities (such as gyms and shops).
- Availability of public transport.
Check out the facilities each university offers before you apply, especially if you have accessibility needs or other requirements. Some of the most used uni facilities include:
- Libraries and private study spaces.
- Services and access for disabled students.
- Computer access and WiFi availability.
- Cafes, restaurants, and other eateries.
- Sports and training facilities like football pitches and swimming pools.
4. Tuition and living costs
Going to uni in the UK can be expensive, especially if you’re an international student or you’re not taking out a student loan. (Some students opt out of a student loan as they may be considered haram.)
International student fees can vary from uni to uni, so it’s important to find out how much each year of study will cost before you apply.
In addition, certain areas cost more to live and study in than others. London is one of the best UK cities to live in, but it’s also the most expensive. So you can expect to pay more for rent, food, and activities if you choose to study in London.
Saving with friends and family is a great way to get some cash together for uni. Find out how to start your rotating savings club and check out our 30 money saving tips for students in the UK for information on making your cash go further at uni.
5. Campus vs city unis
In the UK, most universities are either campus-based or city-based. Campus unis aren’t always based in the city centre, but will usually have all the amenities you need on a separate campus nearby. City unis, meanwhile, can be spread over several miles, meaning you may need to travel between buildings and accommodation.
Campus unis are said to have a more homely feel than city unis, where students can be spread across multiple campuses and buildings. So consider which type of experience will best suit you.
Campus unis include:
- Loughborough University
- University of Bath
- University of Warwick
- Lancaster University
- University of Southampton
City unis include:
- University of Manchester
- University College London
- Imperial College London
- University of Sheffield
- Manchester Metropolitan University
6. Student population
Some people favour busy, buzzing campuses — but they’re not for everyone. Luckily, the UK has a range of different size universities, so you’re sure to find the right student population for you somewhere.
If you’re coming to the UK from another country, you may feel more comfortable at a uni or city where there’s a large international student population.
Here are the UK universities with the highest number of international students in 2023:
7. Social life
What kind of social life are you looking for from your university experience? While this might rank lower than other factors on your priority list, it may help you make the choice if you’re stuck between two options.
- Sports clubs and societies you might want to join.
- Nightlife, such as clubs and bars if that’s your scene, and/or sober activities you enjoy.
- University size — While smaller unis can feel more homely, there’s less chance for you to meet a wide variety of people.
- Distance from your hometown friends.
Lots of publications rank universities, so this can be a good way to see the national and international reputation of your chosen uni.
Check out the current rankings on these sites:
- Times Higher Education World University Rankings
- The Guardian University Guide
- Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings
9. Student reviews
Finding out what other students think about their experience at your chosen uni is really important. Check out National Student Survey results for an overview, or search forums like Reddit for individual opinions and perspectives.
10. Job opportunities
Many students supplement their maintenance loan by getting a part-time job while they study. If you’re planning to work, check out the part-time or temporary vacancies around campus.
You might also be thinking about job prospects after you complete your course. In general, larger cities tend to have more opportunities than small towns, but many areas have unique specialisms that you might want to consider. For example, Sheffield, Bristol, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, and Nottingham all rank higher than London as hotspots for engineering.
5 steps to choosing the right university for you
Follow these five steps to select the right UK university for you and your future career.
1. Research online
Lots of the information you need to choose a UK university can be found online. This includes:
- University rankings.
- Student reviews and survey results.
- Course content and requirements.
- Available facilities.
- Information about location and accommodation.
Find out as much as you can about the universities you’re interested in online. This can help you rule certain places in or out — if the course content is perfect but the location isn’t great, you can make decisions based on your priorities and preferences.
2. Visit your shortlisted universities
While there’s plenty of information available online, there’s nothing quite like visiting the city and campus you’re considering to get a real feel for the place.
Most universities offer open days, where prospective students can visit the campus and see it for themselves. This is usually the best way to get a proper indication of whether you’d like to live there for the next few years.
3. Speak to current students
At open days, you’ll get the chance to speak to current students about what daily life on campus is really like. So go armed with a list of questions about whatever matters most to you.
If you can’t make it to an open day, some unis also host webinars for prospective students to chat with current students.
4. Talk to your family
Where you go to uni is ultimately your decision. But the opinions of others may factor into your decision, especially if you’re considering moving far from home.
Discuss your shortlist with your friends and family and ask for their (unbiased) opinions. While they may want you to stay close to home, they should understand that this is a good opportunity to explore the UK and get out of your comfort zone.
If family and friends have too much of a vested interest, talking to your teachers may also be helpful.
Learn more about studying in the UK
At Bloom, we provide tools for students to put money aside while they study. But if uni is the first time you’ll have to manage your own money, you might feel a little daunted.
Check out our financial FAQs for studying in the UK to learn more about tuition fees, scholarships, grants, and more.