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How to Choose Where to Study in the United Kingdom

Three photographs of UK cities and countryside.

Why study abroad in the United Kingdom? A better question is: why not? From its respected academic institutions to the great quality of life, international students rank the UK as a top destination. Once you’ve narrowed down which courses you’d like to study, it’s worth thinking about how you’ll fit into life on campus and in the broader community.

Did you know you can get your degree faster in the UK compared to other popular study abroad destinations? Learn about this and other surprising perks of studying in the UK.

Depending on your course and personal preferences, some parts of the UK may be a better fit than others. As you’re making your decision, think about:

  • How long do you plan to study abroad? If your course is one to two years long, it might be easier to live somewhere different than what you’re used to. However, if your course takes you to the centre of a large city, and you prefer smaller towns, it could be harder to manage city life. That said, a change of scenery is only a short bus or train ride away!
  • Does being in a larger city matter? Some cities have a high cost of living, but offer opportunities that will accelerate your studies and/or career.
  • Does your course require fieldwork, or access to specific facilities? Unless you don’t mind commuting, it’s a good idea to choose courses that provide access to necessary resources and environments.  

Community Size

The cost of living is generally higher in larger centres. International students can be budget-conscious by choosing institutions in smaller cities or living outside the city centre. The University of Glasgow shares that international students should expect living expenses in the UK to average £13,000 for a single student and £20,000 for a couple.

Helpful Tool: To get a custom estimate, use a calculator to estimate the cost of living in different UK cities.

From a cultural experience angle, despite their higher cost of living, cities like London and Edinburgh are sought-after by international students for the diversity of experiences they offer. These cities regularly attract high numbers of international students thanks to their excellent: 

Wondering which UK universities get top marks? Check out our 2022 list!

London Double Decker Bus

Climate

Quick: What do you think of when you hear “weather in the UK”?

Did you think of rain?

From Adele to the Eurythmics, artists have created songs that range from heartbreak ballads to dance-floor classics, all featuring the most British of precipitation. This makes it easy to imagine a study abroad experience with a laptop in one hand and an umbrella in the other.

Don’t resign yourself to wearing wellies (rain boots) every day, though. The UK has a range of climates, notably getting wetter the further west you go. So while the Scottish highlands will get up to three metres of rain each year, and Wales’s Snowdonia region and the Lake District in England aren’t far behind, cities in the central and eastern regions are more moderate.

In fact, while every Londoner is happy to talk to you about the rain, Greater London averaged only 121 rainy days every year between 1991–2020, per Met Office climate data. Surprisingly, it rained more often in Miami (135 days)! Washington, DC and Sydney, Australia also saw more rainy days.

Much of the UK has a temperate climate. That means that most winters are cool and wet, and summers are warm and wet. The BBC groups the UK into four main climate patterns:

  • South-east: cold winters and warm, dry summers
  • South-west: mild and very wet winters, warm and wet summers
  • North-west: mild winters, cool summers, and heavy rain all year
  • North-east: cold winters, cool summers, and steady rain all year

Curious about other countries? Learn how to choose where to study in Australia, Canada, or the United States.

Illustration of hands holding heart

Culture

Think about your ideal study abroad experience:

  • Are you living in on-campus residences or off-campus? 
  • What hobbies would you like to continue or start? 
  • Do you plan to work part-time?
  • Does a community with a lively entertainment scene appeal to you, or would you rather have easy access to the outdoors?
  • How important is access to food that meets your dietary restrictions?

Answering these questions can help determine where you’ll thrive.

Also, look at on-campus culture. The size of the student body can help you determine how large your classes may be, and from that, whether they are lecture-based or more hands-on. Larger universities with lots of clubs and athletics may be a perfect fit for some international students, but could be distracting for others.

If you’d like to live in a smaller community, you might experience things many visitors never do. You might find yourself trying bara brith in Wales or whisky in Moray Speyside, Scotland. Are you more active? Consider playing in rec league football or visiting traditional festivals

On the other hand, if religious or cultural services from your home country are important, studying in larger communities might suit you. In a bigger city, you’re also more likely to find other international students or restaurants with meals that remind you of home!

Curious about what you should try when dining out in the UK? Check out our blog.


Choosing where to live and study in the United Kingdom can feel like a lot to manage. However, if you keep the three Cs (climate, culture, and community size) in mind, you’ll be able to choose a college or university somewhere that fits your needs.

Start your study abroad journey! Search opportunities from over 100 UK institutions on ApplyBoard’s AI-powered platform.

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