As a young person, it’s natural to develop the urge to explore the world and all that it has to offer. Really, there’s no better time to get out there than in your university years.
Free from lengthy rental contracts and other financial commitments, it’s easier than ever to move or study abroad.
The UK is a popular choice for international students, offering some of the world’s top universities nestled within picturesque towns and cities.
Although it’s a relatively small country, there are lots of reasons to study in the UK and thousands of different locations to choose from.
In this guide, we detail our overall top UK university towns and cities for international students.
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Top UK Student Cities
Choosing the right city to study in the UK is an important decision, and with over 90 cities to choose from, the thought of narrowing down your options can be overwhelming.
Quoted from a recent survey of over 2,000 students, one student said it best, “Finding the perfect city for you is like searching for a needle in a haystack – but with this article, you’ll have the needle in your hand!”
Let’s take a look at some of the best UK cities for students and visitors alike.
With over 40 colleges and universities, London is the number 1 destination for international students. It is one of the most diverse cities in the world, offering a variety of cultural, educational, and professional opportunities for students from all backgrounds.
The city is full of fascinating history, culture, and education opportunities. In fact, some of the top universities in Europe are located in London – University College London, Imperial College London, King’s College London, University of London, London School of Economics, and many more.
Plus, London offers plenty of places to visit on a budget. From its incredible free museums to its bustling arts and entertainment scenes, London is the perfect place to explore and make the most of your academic dreams.
Also, the city is filled with a variety of housing options, ranging from traditional student housing to more luxurious options, ensuring that all students can find something to suit their needs.
With a wealth of resources available and academic institutions, London is sure to offer international students an amazing experience that they’ll never forget!
Durham presents the ultimate haven for students. Home to Durham University which ranks in the UK’s top ten universities, it provides excellent prospects for all kinds of studies.
The city of Durham is also an excellent place to live, boasting magnificent historical monuments that make for a quintessentially British experience.
What’s more, it’s also one of the most affordable UK cities to live in. This may come as a surprise, as the city oozes the grandeur that you’d expect from many other upper-class locations. But in reality, students can expect to live very comfortably, even on a tight budget.
With numerous restaurants, bars, pubs, and clubs, Durham provides an electrifying nightlife that makes it a great place to call home. There’s something for everyone, from the classical music fan to the party-lover – all at a fraction of the cost of other student cities in the UK.
Plus, it’s easy to get around by bus, and with local attractions like Durham Cathedral, you can always grab a scenic lunch along the way.
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Another famous historical city, Bath is an incredibly popular destination for tourists all over the world. The Roman Baths and classic limestone buildings make the city appear as if it was frozen in time, seemingly untouched since it was first established.
Although it is a bit more expensive to live in this city, it remains a popular choice for students.
Bath is not only beautiful but is also an incredibly safe place to live. With some of the UK’s lowest crime rates, students can safely wander the streets without fear. This is even more important for international students, as they may not be aware of common dangers in the area.
Not to mention, it’s also home to the University of Bath, which scores in the top five universities in the whole of the UK.
The university is also extremely accommodating to international students due to its large International Office, which offers advice and support on visas and welfare. Upon arrival, faculty staff can provide language support for those who are new to English.
Even after exams, there is always something to do in this small yet vibrant city. Students can take a relaxing stroll along the River Avon, enjoy the street food market at Green Park Station, or visit the various pubs and theatres located across the city.
Overall, Bath is one of the most popular student cities and a perfect choice for students looking for a safe and unique place to study.
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When you think of universities in the UK, it’s likely that the University of Oxford comes to mind. Founded in 1096, Oxford is one of the most prestigious universities not only in the UK but in the world, consistently earning itself a spot in the top five.
While the entry requirements can be a bit challenging, studying at this famous university is considered to be the opportunity of a lifetime. Alongside the world-class education that Oxford University offers, the city of Oxford itself is a wonderful place to explore.
Established in the 12th century, the streets of Oxford are lined with an abundance of fascinating medieval architecture that makes you feel as if you’re wandering through a historical film set. Just imagine sitting at the same cafe where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien would meet to discuss ideas.
But Oxford is not just about history and culture, it’s also one of the best university cities in the world. There are plenty of amenities for students, with restaurants, parks, and pubs around every corner. Plus, students get all kinds of discounts and offers at shops, cafes, pubs, and attractions around Oxford.
This amazing UK college town really has it all (except Uber… Oxford does not support Uber and taxi cabs can be slow, just be prepared).
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Have you heard of the University of Cambridge? Of course, you have! Along with Oxford, Cambridge is one of the most recognized universities in the UK. Established in 1209, this great university attracts brilliant minds from all over the world.
As a top destination for British and international students, Cambridge has become a multicultural city with lots of historical, cultural, and educational opportunities for locals and visitors alike.
The city provides not only an exceptional education but also a wealth of opportunities for leisure and entertainment. The city’s vibrant nightlife, festivals, cafes, and restaurants offer something for everyone, and the cost of living and studying here is often lower than in other UK cities.
Cambridge is also a great place for students aspiring to build successful international network connections, as the city is home to a large number of multinational companies. Cambridge is also known as “Silicon Fen” due to the number of high-tech companies located around the city (Cambridge Cluster).
This wonderful university city, with its excellent academic reputation and diverse local community, is an ideal destination for those seeking the ultimate student experience.
Approximately 40,000 international students call Edinburgh home each year, officially recognizing it as one of the UK’s top student cities.
Not only is it a buzzing hub for academic excellence and accomplishment, but its stunning architecture, vibrant culture and rich history make it an unbeatable destination in the minds of both locals and visitors alike.
The city buzzes with a diverse, international atmosphere, from the student pubs, cafes and restaurants to the live music, theater and never-ending nightlife. Having a vibrant arts and music scene, Edinburgh provides students with a safe and friendly environment to explore their talents and interests.
But Edinburgh’s unique charm doesn’t stop there. From the famous Edinburgh Castle to the striking architecture of the Royal Mile, this Scottish city has a story from every angle.
If you are looking for an immersive experience in a city that blends excellence in higher education, culture and history, Edinburgh is the perfect destination.
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Manchester is a bustling university town that has become a hot destination for students. With a population of approximately 550,000, Manchester is a vibrant urban center with a cultural diversity that is hard to find elsewhere – making it the perfect destination for international students.
In recent years, Manchester has become one of the best university cities for postgraduates seeking an unforgettable experience. The stunning and well-preserved Victorian and Georgian architecture, combined with the lively social life of the bars and cafés, is a huge draw for students who are looking for a unique and exciting university experience.
In addition to its beautiful scenery, Manchester is home to two of England’s top-ranking universities: the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University.
The sheer number of international students that flock to Manchester makes it one of the top university towns in the UK – an experience that those who take part will never forget. With a wide range of courses, top-notch universities, and a vibrant social life, students in Manchester can expect an unforgettable university experience.
Leicester University is an excellent option for postgraduate students interested in courses from Business and Computing to Medicine and Veterinary Science, creating an unbeatable selection for aspiring students
Loughborough is another of the UK’s top universities, and its community-driven spirit attracts thousands of students every year.
Leicester itself is a highly culturally diverse city that is widely appreciated for its vast number of award-winning venues, hosting numerous popular music festivals and productions. This makes it perfect for students looking for a city with great nightlife as well as an excellent university education.
The city of Leicester also has a brilliant art scene, bursting with galleries and museums that display a wide range of art forms, making it a popular choice among art students.
What’s more, it’s also very cheap to live in Leicester. With low rental costs and plenty of affordable supermarkets, it’s ideal for international students on a budget.
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Warwick is the perfect destination for international students looking for more of a laid-back area to call home. Warwick is a quaint market town, teeming with historical monuments, open green spaces, and a variety of independent shops.
Away from the hustle and bustle of cities, you can also expect a much lower cost of living here. Overall, Warwick is an excellent town to lead a relaxed and fulfilling student life.
The University of Warwick is another world university that is highly respected. It’s especially known for its high standard of education in accounting and finance, where it regularly earns a position in the top five across the UK.
Warwick is also ranked as one of the top online MBA programs around the world. The university is known for its excellent education, successful career placement, and relatively low university cost.
International students can expect small class sizes and access to world-class research opportunities. Additionally, the university campus offers numerous social activities and student-run clubs that provide endless opportunities for getting involved in one’s new home.
Finally, Warwick is also conveniently located just a short drive away from Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, and other nearby cities. This makes it easy to enjoy everything the region has to offer, from exciting nightlife to international cuisine, and so much more.
With so much to offer, Warwick makes a great choice for students who are looking for a peaceful place to live and study.
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Which top university is right for me?
These great universities are only a few of the UK’s best educational institutions. We’ve selected these based on multiple factors, such as the culture of the area, the cost of living, and the educational prospects.
Although the primary reason for your new venture will be your degree, it’s important to consider all of the relevant factors such as location, community, values, economy, job, or research opportunities. And not just the university itself.
Once you find a location and a university that is a good fit for you, you’ll be on track for a fulfilling student experience in the UK.
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Whether you want to study in a bustling city or a more laid-back peaceful setting, the UK offers fantastic student experiences. Each of the university towns mentioned in this article offers a unique combination of convenience, affordable living, and cultural opportunities. All of these elements combined make for an unforgettable student experience.
At the end of the day, choosing a university town should come down to personal preference. The UK is home to many incredible student cities, and no matter where you decide to go, you’ll be sure to create memories that will last a lifetime. So, go ahead and start your journey—it’ll be worth it!
As the late British physicist Stephen Hawking said, “We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain.” With so many educational, social, and cultural opportunities available to students, these great university towns provide an opportunity to connect people, ideas, and knowledge unlike any other.
Keep exploring, and find the university town that’s right for you!
Denisse is a global education and communications consultant, as well as the main person behind MacQuil. As an international mentor and frequent traveler, she enjoys sharing information to help anyone travel, study or work abroad.
Denisse holds a Master's in Management from GWU, a Master's in Education from Harvard University and an Executive Coaching Certificate from the University of Cambridge.