The Best Student Cities in the UK
With some of the best unis in the world, impressive work prospects for new graduates, globally recognised degrees, a great work to life balance and some of the best attractions in the world, it’s no wonder over 400,000 international students choose to study in the UK each year. The UK houses some of the best student cities in the UK.
The UK is more than just top tier academic opportunities that makes the UK a top destination for international students (second only to the US). The country has some of the most welcoming, diverse, and appealing settings for higher education studies for our fellow international students.
With over 150 institutions spread across the four countries within the entire UK, it can be difficult to know where to start finding the perfect student city in the UK. If you don’t have a particular school or program in mind, it might be best to learn about the top student destinations and best student cities in the UK.
Top 10: Best Student Cities in the UK
Each year the QS Best Student Cities index takes into consideration the student mix, employer activity and affordability to create a list of the best student cities worldwide. London currently ranks 1st out of 120 cities altogether, this is followed by Tokyo and Melbourne. kampus Group has compiled the top ranked and best student cities in the UK.
Global ranking – 1
The large concentration of world-class universities is not the only reason the capital ranks as the best student cities in the UK and the world. Aside from an academic view point, London is one of the most prominent in business and culture. London is also a top travel destination amongst Europe, with plenty to offer students looking for diversity and life experience…
The only drawback is the affordability of living in London, as it’s also one of the most expensive cities in the world. Fortunately, there are loads of ways to live affordably in London, from using student discounts for travelling on the TFL (Transport for London), to knowing which areas are more affordable for student living.
Global ranking – 15
Edinburgh’s scenery, entertainment scene and local Scottish friendliness make it one of the best places to be while you study. The Scottish capital is known for its history, charm and excellent quality of life. Massive annual events like the Edinburgh International Festival and the New Year’s Hogmanay street party are what the students celebrate in town.
It’s easy to stay close to the action with plenty of Edinburgh student flats and shared apartments to choose from, and travel around the city is convenient and manageable.
While tuition fees are slightly higher in comparison to other UK cities, it is entirely subsidised for undergraduate students from within the EU which excludes the rest of the UK through the Student Awards Agency for Scotland.
Global ranking – 29
Manchester is one of the top best student cities in the UK, this is due to its several world-class universities and exceptional student culture. Famous acts originate from this city such as Oasis, Joy Division, Stone Roses and The Smiths…
With a thriving arts and entertainment scene, vibrant nightlife and loads to see and explore, Manchester is a great city to study and pursue your studies in.
Global ranking – 39
Glasgow is home to several top universities and colleges, and as a student city, there’s no shortage of affordable student accommodation options as well…
Academics aside, there are loads of other reasons to study in Glasgow and why it is part of the best student cities in the UK. From the city’s entertainment and art sector to its thriving music scene. A huge mix of international students call this city their home, and the diverse melting pot of cultures makes it one of the most exciting UK cities to settle into as an international student.
Global ranking – 47
This city has gained attention due to its proximity to another UK University, the University of Warwick, although the highly reputable Coventry University should not be overlooked in this instance. Affordable studios or student flats in Coventry offer proximity to these campuses, and travelling anywhere in town is super easy. It’s also just an hour away from London.
Coventry is home to several art galleries, theatres and hosts numerous music and sports events. It has also recently been named the UK City of Culture in 2021 for its diversity and culture.
Global ranking – 48
Nottingham University has strong global connections, with a large international student population and branch campuses in both Malaysia and China. In addition to its strong academic game, the city has an abundance of things to do, from shopping and theatres to entertainment venues and a plethora of restaurants.
Global ranking – 49
Birmingham’s five high-ranking universities attract thousands of international students each year, making it one of the most culturally diverse cities in the UK. It’s also the second-largest to London, with a student-friendly environment, vibrant culture and nightlife scene, with loads of affordable accommodation options even close to the city centre. The fast and frequent train services from London to Birmingham that take no longer 1 hour and 30 mins makes Birmingham one of the best student cities in the UK.
8. Newcastle Upon Tyne
Global ranking – 57
Regularly voted as one of the top student cities in the UK, Newcastle has a huge student population that combines a mix of private and shared accommodation catering to students, and a relatively low cost of living…this easily makes it the cheapest UK city for a date!
The local ‘Geordies’ are known for their hospitality and utmost friendliness. In addition to the academics, there are plenty of fun things to do in Newcastle for students, such as live poetry jams and art museums to the biggest pub crawl for those students venturing into town.
Global ranking – 64
Aberdeen has been voted the best Scottish city to live and work in so far. Between its stellar academic opportunities, cheap student accommodation and insanely beautiful scenery, the city attracts students internationally, making it one of the most cosmopolitan in the UK.
The stunning views and surrounding countryside provide a great scenic backdrop for those who enjoy outdoor activities, while a thriving creative, arts and culture scene offers entertainment and creative inspiration.
Global ranking – 83
Brighton is one of the liveliest cities throughout the UK. Brighton caters to its large student population with festivals, gigs, pubs and clubs, and beach parties all year round which will pick up even more once the pandemic simmers down further.
Vintage clothing shops, cafes, comedy clubs and restaurants are located throughout the city, and with something to do around every corner, a wander through the graffiti lined alleys of Brighton will leave you for a time to remember.
Best City for To work and Live for Graduates – Glasgow
Graduates in Glasgow can expect to earn around the sum of £26,195 a year, making it the best city to live and work and is one of the best student cities in the UK. London comes in second place with a high graduate salary around the sum of £20,757, however, it is also one of the most expensive cities to live in, both cities are great for starting out your prospective careers.
Cheapest City for Students – Cardiff
The most affordable UK city for students is Cardiff. This is followed closely by Bristol, Leicester, Southampton and Manchester. Affordability in this instance is calculated by taking students’ average monthly accommodation, activities and item costs, then finalising this by dividing them by their average monthly income.
Happiest Student City in the UK – Belfast
According to research by the Higher Education Policy Institute, Northern Ireland are the happiest in the UK. They analysed survey data from nearly 60,000 undergraduate students between 2015 and 2019. These students reported better wellbeing overall. 94% of students in Northern Ireland say they’re ‘very happy’ with their education as well as their social life. Brighton came in second with 93%, followed by Coventry with 92%.
What Matters Most to Students
When it comes to choosing a country to study in, more than half of international students (59%) say the number one factor is how friendly the university is. This is followed by factors such as; the quality of teaching at 56% and how affordable studying costs are at 44%. When considering which country they wish to study in, proximity is least important to international students, there is only about 5% of international students looking closer to their home country.
At the start of 2020, uni admissions were very strong across the board. A record number of 39.5% of all 18-year-olds in the UK had applied to university, with over 500,000 people looking to start in September 2020.