With approximately 400,000 students, London certainly has an appeal and you may have some or all of your university choices based in London. However, there are definitely cons to studying in the Big Smoke, and here are some things to consider when making your decision:
London is the best city in the world for higher education with 4 universities – UCL, Imperial, King’s and LSE – in the top 40. Along with Oxford and Cambridge, these universities are colloquially known as the ‘Golden Triangle’ as they have among the highest incomes of all British universities and are top for prestige and reputation. (Note that London also has some not so good universities, so be careful when you make your UCAS choices.) Alongside the traditional, highly academic universities you’ve also the choice of studying around full employment at Birkbeck, while the city also tops the charts for art, fashion, music, dance and drama.
With one of these institutions under your belt you’ll be more than ready when it comes to looking for employment on graduation, as these London universities are amongst the world’s top for employment prospects and reputation.
Alongside some of the sought after universities by employers, living in London allows you the opportunity to easily spend your summer months in the city with one of the top employers as, let’s face it, they are all here. You’ll already have a flat and be settled with friends, so you won’t have that extra anxiety over the summer, and you’ll be able to tell all the other interns about the best places to visit.
It’s also a great place to find work during term time, with lots of bars, pubs, theatres, museums and cafes offering part time work to students.
The Federal System
The top London universities (with the notable exception of Imperial) are part of what’s known as the University of London, and you’ve the opportunity to join societies, halls of residences and sports clubs which encompass the other London universities. Several subjects are also taught ‘federally’ and you can choose modules from the other universities as well as study in their libraries.
This means that you’ll meet people from all walks of life, studying every subject under the sun, and perhaps chance upon a new interest you never thought you’d have!
As London is a cosmopolitan city attracting people from all over the world, this is reflected in the student body which have a far more diverse population than many universities outside the city. At the same time, London also has far more international students.
What may initially have been an eye-opener, a diverse population gives you the chance to immerse yourself in other cultures, find out about how different people work and learn from other’s points of view. Having met people from all over the world, both in your student life and general life, you’ll be well equipped when it comes to mingling with diverse populations in the workplace and as a fully-fledged adult.
Whatever your tastes and interests, you’ll find it in London, and they’ll never be an opportunity to get bored.
Where are all the students?
Unlike other large cities, such as Manchester and Birmingham, London doesn’t really have an area for students, and unless you live in halls it’s unlikely that you’ll live amongst students. (There are a few exceptions to this, such as New Cross for Goldsmiths students). Students aren’t a major force in the city, it’s not the most student friendly, and it isn’t easy to meet other students out and about. You will, however, meet lots of people from other walks of life, which you may find interesting.
London is punishingly expensive. You could see yourself paying as much as £260 a week for a room in halls which, from your £11,000 maximum student loan won’t give you much change. In fact, with a standard 40-week contract you’ll have £15 a week in change, for food, transport, socialising and study costs. And once you live out of halls you’ll be shocked at the extortionate room prices – the price of an average room was £745 in 2015, however that means you’ll be out in zone 3 and have to pay an extra £102 a month for the privilege of commuting. Once again there’s little change from your student loan, especially as you’ll have to obtain a 12-month lease.
While the transport system is great, commuting is time consuming to say the least. London is a vast city, and you probably find that as your friends live on the other side you’ve spent most of your student life on the Central line. There are better ways to spend your time.
The Student Experience
Studying and living in London is unlike any other UK city and there’s a lack of student community that other universities might offer. There’s neither a campus vibe or a university takeover, and once you’re outside the confines of your university building you’ll find yourself in amongst the hustle and bustle of London life. This is partly because it’s so vast, and there are so many other people working and living their lives, but you might find this way of life hard to adjust to or settle into.