The Best Student Cities In The UK - Fresh Student Living

The Best Student Cities in the UK


Choosing the right university is an important step in any student’s academic career.

There are various factors to consider when deciding on a university, including location (do you want to move away or stay in your current town?), networking opportunities, student unions and societies, tuition and fees, financial aid, work prospects and much more.

The UCAS January deadline has provided the first reliable indication of demand from young people for full-time undergraduate education courses in the UK. According to the application rate, the number of 18-year-olds from England attending university increase to a new high. It also appears that students are more likely to apply to higher education through UCAS than in any previous year, with an application rate of 37.4% – a 0.4% increase from 2017.

Students flock to UK universities for several reasons – its rankings are among the best in the world, it offers graduates impressive working prospects, and its degrees and qualifications are globally recognised. What’s more, these universities are known for their world-class education, good work-life balance, and increasing levels of overall happiness among young people.

A question explored in the report ‘How Do Students Use University Rankings’ identified what prospective students’ top priorities are when choosing a university. The report found that the most important category is employability (33%), followed by teaching quality (23%). There is also a high demand for student experience (21%), research (15%), with the cost of tuition (8%) surprisingly lagging on the list of considerations. Let’s look at where students will enjoy the most satisfaction during their tertiary studies.

London is the Best City for Students in the UK

According to the latest QS Best Student Cities index, the UK has the second-highest number of entries following the US. London enjoys a spot in the top five Best Student Cities in the world. These have been assessed on various indicators, including university rankings, affordability, student mix and employer activity. The top UK cities are:

One of the most important business, entertainment, tourism and academic hubs in the world, London is ranked as the fifth-best student city in the world. The city receives the best score for ‘university rankings’, while ‘student mix’ also ranks high, although it falls short in the ‘affordability’ category. London is also one of the world’s great centres for culture and entertainment in terms of museums, nightlife, diversity and a thriving art scene.

The Scottish capital of Edinburgh is ranked 33rd in the Best Student Cities index, while the University of Edinburgh ranked 21st in the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, which is the sixth-highest UK entry. The city is known for its history and charm, not to mention massive annual events like the Edinburgh International Festival and the New Year’s Hogmanay street party – any student’s dream. While tuition fees are slightly higher than other UK cities, it is entirely subsidised for undergraduate students from within the EU (excluding the rest of the UK).

Manchester ranks 36th thanks to its world-class universities and exceptional student culture, including a thriving music scene, arts, history, and vibrant nightlife. The city scored well for ‘student mix’, while its ‘employer activity’ ranks 23rd.

Ranking 44th, this city has gained attention due to its close proximity to the University of Warwick, although the highly reputable Coventry University should not be overlooked. Coventry earned high scores from graduate employers thanks to the reputation of its universities and a strong history in manufacturing and design. If you are looking for some culture, Coventry is home to several art galleries and theatres and hosts numerous music and sports events.

Nottingham is ranked 57th in the Best Student Cities index, ranking higher than Paris for ‘student mix’, while the city is also well-known for being the ‘Home of English Sport’. Nottingham University also has strong global ties, with a large international student population and branch campuses in Malaysia and China.

Glasgow ranks 63rd and is home to two world-class, highly ranked universities – the University of Glasgow and the University of Strathclyde. Glasgow is also one of the UK’s leading hubs of entertainment, culture, research and academia, scoring particularly high for ‘student mix’.

This thriving commercial and financial hub ranks 66th and is home to an impressive five high ranking universities. Being the second-largest UK city, students can expect a bustling art, culture and nightlife scene in Birmingham.

Finally, Newcastle is one of the most well-known UK student cities, ranking 67th in the Best Student Cities index. This diverse, vibrant city is steeped in history and home to plenty of cultural and entertainment options. What’s more, the local ‘Geordies’ are known for their hospitality and friendliness. Diversity is also strong, with 23% of the University of Newcastle’s student population being international students.

To Stay or Not to Stay?

Attending a university and getting your degree is one thing, but what about finding a job once you graduate? Is it worth sticking around in your graduate city, or are you better off moving to another location?

The Hescu Graduate Market Trends report details the percentage of students who left their home region in 2017 to study, compared to the percentage who choose to remain close to home while receiving their tertiary education.

  • 25% of employed graduates moved away from their home region to study but returned home to work. They are known as ‘returners’
  • ‘Incomers’ are the 18% of graduates who worked in a region where they neither studied nor were raised
  • 12% of employed graduates, also known as ‘stayers’, left their home region to study and stayed on to work
  • Finally, 46% of employed graduates studied and worked in their home region. They are known as ‘loyals’

Sheffield Tops the Rankings as the Most Employable City for Graduates

  1. 1. Sheffield
    2. Glasgow
    3. Leeds
    4. Newcastle
    5. Birmingham
    6. Liverpool
    7. Manchester
    8. Cardiff
    9. Bristol
    10. Reading
    11. Edinburgh
    12. Oxford

Studies show Sheffield is the best city in the UK for graduates. The research was conducted by property portal The HouseShop and includes graduate ‘hot spots’, with Sheffield coming out tops for its perfect combination of affordability, good starting salaries, a wealth of social activities, and yes, even the cheap cost of a pint, which is a mere £2.70 compared to London’s £3.92.

Sheffield graduates can enjoy an average starting salary of £25,000, while the average price of a two-bedroom property costs £119 806. Estimated monthly income after tax, utility bills and student loan repayments, is £1 173.99. On the flip side, London and Brighton found themselves at the bottom of the list, being ranked as the two worst places for quality of life. Despite the capital being the best for graduates in terms of employment, its high rental costs mean graduates are left with the lowest disposable incomes out of all the cities.

Brighton Named Most Entrepreneurial City

According to a report by Instant Offices, Brighton is the most entrepreneurial UK city, followed by Manchester and Nottingham in second and third place respectively. This was determined by analysing Companies House data and comparing population estimates in UK cities with the number of businesses launched there in the last two years. Surprisingly, London did not make the top 10.

What’s more, a survey of 1 006 students across UK universities carried out by YouthSight found that 15% of students plan to launch their own start-up business after graduating from university. As for their reasons, 45% said they desired to be their own boss, while 27% believe they would make more money working for themselves than for someone else. The survey also found that male undergraduates are more likely to start their own business, with 20% of male participants interested in starting their own business ventures, compared to only 11% of female graduates.

Cardiff is the Cheapest City for Students

According to the latest report by the Natwest Student Living Index, Cardiff is the cheapest UK city for students. Aberdeen and Durham closely follow the Welsh capital as the most cost-effective cities for students. Canterbury, Swansea, Manchester, Reading, Leicester, York and Sheffield make up the rest of the list. Almost 3500 students across 35 popular universities were surveyed to determine the most affordable place to study. Numerous factors were considered, including the cost of food, rent, and bills like utilities and transport, how much time was spent studying, working and socialising, and how much term-time income they receive.

Turns out, the biggest expenditure for students is food shopping and household items, which costs about £78.10 a month, while an average student spends around £43.30 on socialising and entertainment. Students in Reading seem to spend the most time socialising at 38.6 hours a month, while Aberystwyth students spend the most money on alcohol at £50.87 a month. This is compared to the national average of £38.61.

Belfast Named Happiest City

1.Belfast – 94%
2. Brighton – 93%
3. Coventry – 92%
4. Wolverhampton – 91%
5. Swansea – 90%
6. Leeds – 89%
7. Aberystwyth – 87%
8. Birmingham – 86%
9. Bristol – 85%

According to a recent survey carried out by Sodexo, Belfast is home to the happiest students in Britain, with an impressive 94% of its students stating that they’re ‘very happy’ with their education and social life. Brighton came in second with 93%, followed by Coventry with 92%.

The survey was conducted across the country, where thousands of students were asked to rate how they felt about certain aspects of student life in UK cities, including standard of education, nightlife, takeaway options, affordability and stress levels.

The University of Buckingham Ranked Top University for Student Satisfaction

If you are considering moving to a different city or town for university, it’s a good idea to review how other students rate the experience. Let’s look at which universities made the cut for student satisfaction, as rated by The Complete University Guide:

  • University of Buckingham, Buckingham – This university received the highest score in student satisfaction thanks to a low staff-student ratio, small teaching groups and an open-door policy. Furthermore, students found the staff easy to reach, while their teaching methods were both enthusiastic and interesting.
  • Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool – Students leaving Liverpool Hope University felt the school did well in assessment and feedback and were also happy with its level of academic support and teaching.
  • University of St. Andrews, Scotland – The University of St. Andrews ranks well for student traditions and a high-quality learning and teaching experience, while its location in a small, historic town surrounded by stunning beaches makes it a popular option for both local and international students.
  • Keele University, Staffordshire – This university is probably best known for its beautiful campus, complete with lakes, woodlands and landscaped parks. What the students at Keele really value is this tranquil ambience combined with the universities sense of community. Teaching is also done in small groups, with particularly high satisfaction scores for science subjects.
  • Coventry University, Coventry – Coventry University comes in at fifth place for student satisfaction as students found the university courses flexible and affordable, while increased support is given to disabled students. Graduates generally leave the university with improved confidence and good communication skills.

According to Fresh Student Living, ‘With International students seeking high-quality education and a living experience to match, it’s no surprise that applications are up for September 2018. Purpose-built student accommodation offers international students (and their parents) peace of mind, all-inclusive rent, organised social events and, above all, an environment that supports their studies, where they can meet students from other cultures and make the most of their time in the UK.’

Explore accommodation in some of the top student city locations.


Fresh Student Living looks at the Top Cities for Students
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