Guide to Choosing UK Universities - Location and Facilities

Learn more about choosing UK universities based on campus location and facilities.
guide to choosing uk universities - location and facilities

Our guide to choosing UK universities shows you how to pick a UK university based on university location and facilities. We go into detail about popular UK universities among international students and why you should factor in location and facilities when choosing a university.

Table of Contents

Overview

When we recommend universities to our clients, we always advise that they take into account a number of factors – the university’s ranking, as it is an indicator of its academic performance and teaching standards, the type of courses the client is interested in, entry requirements, and the university’s location among other important factors. We’ve covered in detail some of these topics which you can read on our page (Guide to Choosing UK Universities – Quality Assurance and Student Satisfaction and Outcome). In this article, we’ll be looking at the location of the university and the facilities available on-campus, and we’ll discuss why these are important to consider when choosing a UK university.

Campus Location

When we refer to the location of the campus, we may mean a few things – the first is the city where the university is located (ie. London, Manchester, Glasgow, etc..) and the second is the location of the university in the city (ie. urban, countryside, etc.) and the third may be the type of campus (ie. city campus, campus university, etc.). Let’s look at how each of these may impact your studying experience in the UK.

Which city?

In one of our previous articles, we’ve done an analysis of the cities that are most popular among Malaysian students. The following table breaks down the most popular universities in the UK based on the number of enrolled Malaysian students.

UniversityUK RankingTEF RatingMalaysian Students
University of Cambridge1Gold190
University of Oxford2Gold105
University of St Andrews3Gold100
London School of Economics and Poli...4Bronze352
Imperial College London5Gold450
Loughborough University6Gold100
Durham University7Gold80
Lancaster University8Gold125
University of Bath9Gold235
UCL (University College London)10Silver610
University of Warwick11Silver365
University of Exeter12Gold174
University of Birmingham13Gold180
University of Bristol14Silver380
University of Edinburgh15N/A375
University of Leeds16Gold280
University of Southampton17Silver340
University of Manchester17Silver745
University of Glasgow19N/A175
King's College London, University o...20Silver275
University of Nottingham20Gold425
University of York22Gold40
Newcastle University23Gold225
Royal Holloway, University of Londo...24Silver45
University of East Anglia UEA25Gold125
University of Aberdeen26N/A65
Queen's University Belfast27N/A140
University of Sheffield28Silver420
Heriot-Watt University29Silver230
Cardiff University30Silver430

We found that the most popular universities among Malaysians are Manchester, London, and Bristol. There may be a few reasons that explain why, and our speculation is that students tend to choose big cities such as Manchester and London as they may have heard of these cities before, whereas Bristol may be popular as it has been rated as one of the most liveable cities in the UK.

Our advice? Factor in the liveability of the city where your university is located – what we mean by liveable is that these universities have easy access to amenities and the urban area, living costs are reasonable, and public transport systems are efficient. We find that cities like these offer students the best support and it can help international students quickly integrate into life on campus.

Urban, Sub-Urban, or Countryside?

This is a lot more to do with the student’s preference than anything else. If you love being in nature, a campus located next to a park such as the University of Sussex would be perfect for you! If you’re a city person then you might find a campus such as UCL to be best for you. Some universities may have several campuses, typically one in the city and another in a suburban area – it’s a good idea to find out where your course is taught.

It’s important that you like the campus you choose as you will be living there for three to four years. Consider doing a virtual tour of at least five or six different universities before you make your decision. It might seem trivial to pick universities based on the location as most would assume the university’s reputation is the most important factor. However, realistically speaking, the campus’ location has an impact on your daily experience as a student, whether it be walking to your next class, the cafeteria for a snack between lectures, or making a weekend trip to do some shopping.

Campus University or City University?

A number of UK universities are known as city universities. This means that the university’s buildings are scattered around a city – it might sometimes be a 20-minute walk to your next lecture or you may need to take a shuttle bus. The other type of campus is known as a campus university. The university is self-contained with all the facilities within easy access and all the lecture halls are close to one another.

There are advantages and disadvantages to either type of universities. Some may find city universities to offer more freedom and a more immersive experience living in the city, but the drawback is occasionally needing to make a long trek in the cold weather to get to the next class. Living costs may also be higher in cities such as London. Campus universities on the other hand may be limited with the amenities available on campus, occasionally requiring a trip out of the university for shopping, but students will not need to travel far for classes or to access facilities such as the gym.

Facilities

Speaking of facilities, why do they matter? When we mention university facilities, most would think of the gym or a football field. That’s not all! Facilities may refer to student services that provide students with support as well as campus facilities. So it ranges from services such as a childcare centre and sporting facilities such as tennis courts and swimming pools, and it also includes student services such as an on-campus health centre, the careers office, disability liaison office, counselling services, student union, and so on.

It’s best if the university can provide necessary amenities without requiring students to pay additional fees as it will eat into your living costs. Take note that some universities may charge a fee for a gym membership or for use of the childcare centre.

Good support from your campus is crucial, especially if you need financial assistance, require some help finding an internship, or you have a disability that requires accommodations from your university. Most universities will have at least a student union, disability liaison office, counselling services, and a health centre, while the availability of other facilities will vary.

Choosing a University - Prioritising Your Campus Life

Our previous articles in this series have been centred on using empirical evidence in choosing UK universities, such as using quality assurance frameworks to determine a university’s teaching standards (Guide to Choosing UK Universities: Quality Assurance) and looking at student survey results to determine student satisfaction and student outcomes (Guide to Choosing UK Universities: Student Satisfaction and Student Outcomes). This article has been centred on your likes and dislikes as a student who will be spending the next few years on-campus.

The number one complaint we hear about any university is usually about the campus – for example, students who were unprepared for long walks between classes in the UK winter may find it tedious, or students may feel overwhelmed living in a city campus. Most candidates applying to UK universities would prioritise university reputation above all other factors, however, we strongly urge our clients to factor in their personal likes and dislikes too.

It’s important that you know your own needs as a student. Doing a bit of research on various campuses could help you understand how well you’d fit into campus life at your university of choice. While university rankings and ratings are important, it does not always reveal the full experience of a university or a particular course of your choosing.

Other Articles in This Series

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