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Choosing where to study

How to choose a university

This guide to choosing a university will help you think about location, features, facilities and more, and decide where’s best for you.

Students walking into university building


  1. Choosing a university

  2. University facilities

  3. University location

  4. Types of university

Choosing a university

There are over 150 institutions in the UK to choose from. Think about which ones match your preferences when it comes to courses, teaching style, location, type and extra-curricular opportunities.

Ask yourself these questions to help you shortlist universities you’d be happy to study at.

Which universities offer the subject area or specific course you’re interested in?

Don’t go to a university if it doesn’t offer what you want.

Where do you want to study?

Think about proximity to home and if you want to be in an urban or rural area.

What type of university do you want to go to?

Think about size, reputation, and if you want to go somewhere with a greater emphasis on research or teaching.

What other opportunities and facilities do you want or need?

There could be certain societies and sports clubs you want to join, or you may need specialist support.

University facilities

Going somewhere with the opportunities and facilities you want will help you create a good balance between studying and socialising. Most universities will offer similar things, but the quantity and quality will vary.

What societies and sports clubs do you want access to?

You might have a sport or hobby that you want to start or continue at university. Most universities will cater for popular sports like football or rugby and will have societies linked to academic departments. However, smaller universities won’t necessarily be able to satisfy more niche interests.

You can research the students’ union to find out what it offers, how responsive it is to students, and what its reputation is like.

Do you need any special services?

Universities should be able to accommodate anyone with special needs. They’ll understand the Disability and Equality Act (2010) and associated legislation, and will want to make you feel welcome.

However, you can contact the university to make sure it will meet your needs. This could be by asking about the accessibility of old buildings or seeing what’s on offer for learning support.

Is having a good careers service important?

University careers services help with everything from finding internships to industry networking. They can also help you get a part-time job to earn extra money during your studies.

If you’re looking for a high level of career support, make sure you research what services are available at the universities you’re interested in.

Is there affordable, accessible accommodation in a convenient location?

University accommodation varies in price and quality across universities. Each institution will have a range of options to suit different budgets and requirements. Use our accommodation section to find advice on what to look for.

University location

The right location can help you make the most of your time at university. You may want to stay close to home or experience living in a completely new place.

Do you want to leave home or be able to commute from there?

Moving somewhere new can offer different experiences than living at home. This may be the first time you’re living independently, so you’ll have different responsibilities.

Alternatively, you may choose to live at home or be limited by personal circumstances. You’ll still be able to immerse yourself in university life even if you’re not living with your peers in student accommodation.

If you decide to leave home, how far away do you want to be?

You might want to move somewhere new but close enough so you can still easily see family and friends at home. Alternatively, you might crave independence and a fresh start that comes with moving far away.

You don’t have to limit your search to UK universities either. Studying overseas offers different experiences and challenges to staying in the UK.

What do you want your university surroundings to be?

Universities are located in a variety of environments, from cities and towns to the suburbs and countryside. Each offers a different experience.

A more rural setting will be quieter and safer. This could be better for concentrating on work, but there might be less varied social and cultural opportunities. Going to a city will expose you to a much busier lifestyle with a more diverse population and more opportunities to socialise, but could mean too much distraction.

By visiting a university on an open day, you can find out:

  • What the journey from home is like
  • If you like the campus
  • How far from the nearest town or city the university is
  • If the location feels like somewhere you'd enjoy living

Behind students sitting in a lecture

Types of university

The UK has several different types of university. They can vary in age, size and location among other things.

What size university do you want to go to?

UK universities vary from large – with 30,000+ students, offering courses in a broad range of subjects – to small, specialist institutions of a few hundred people, and everything in between.

A smaller university will likely provide a stronger sense of community, but won’t match the large universities for the number of courses, clubs and societies on offer.

Do you want to go to a campus or city university?

A campus university has accommodation, teaching spaces, research facilities and other amenities such as shops, restaurants and laundrettes all on one site. They’re usually just outside a large city or town. Campus universities can be safer and more convenient, and have a stronger community spirit.

A city university has facilities spread across a number of different locations within the same city. They allow you to get more involved with what the city has to offer, such as industry opportunities, nightlife and cultural experiences.

Is the age of the university important?

Universities in the UK vary in age, from ancient institutions such as the Oxford and St Andrews to more modern ones like Harper Adams. The age of the university can be an indicator of the types of subjects taught and teaching style.

Older universities usually have a more ‘traditional’ academic focus and a strong emphasis on research. Newer universities often offer less traditional and more vocational courses, with a greater attention on teaching over research.

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