Campus or city university

Campus or city university - how to decide

Stephen Spriggs
June 11th 2020

Congratulations, you’re applying to go to university! But now it’s decision time: what to study, whether to embark on a single or joint degree, whether to commit to three years or four and where in the country (or even the world) you want to study. Yet one question that is often overlooked is whether to choose a campus or city university. It’s something that might not have even crossed your mind, but your choice can impact how well you settle into higher education and could even be the difference between flourishing or dropping out before the end of the first year.

What’s the difference between the two?

As you might have guessed, city universities are based in cities, usually in or around the centre, with their accommodation, lecture halls, libraries, student unions and all other buildings dotted around across town. Campus universities, on the other hand, are situated on one large site, usually on the outskirts of a city or town, with absolutely everything needed for student life, from shops to gyms, in one place. 

The importance of open days

In order to decide what suits you, the best thing to do is to visit the university and have a look around. Open days are vital, but you could also consider visiting on an ordinary working day to get a real feel for the place. When you’re there, speak to current students about their experiences and make sure you consider the facilities on offer, especially if it’s a campus university. For example, if you’re sporty, are there pitches, tennis courts and a running club onsite? If not, basing yourself in a town might be better.

Key things to consider 

If you are looking at a city university, first of all, establish where the buildings are for your chosen subject. Would you need a bike to get around? Would you be spending a lot on public transport? Would you need a car? And if so, would that restrict where you live (remember, not everywhere has parking!) It’s also important to be realistic. If you’re the kind of person who leaves their bed five minutes before the school bell, dashing out the door with a piece of toast in your hands, could you really make your way across town to get from lecture to seminar in good time? 

On the other hand, if you are considering a campus university, an important thing to think about is how far away it is from the nearest town. Some locations aren’t as handy as others: Warwick University, for example, is situated between Warwick and Coventry, whereas Keele University is set in a 617-acre rural campus. Other things to think about include whether or not there is good public transport nearby and how the location would fit in with your interests and lifestyle. If you’re a theatre-lover, for instance, would you be happy travelling to and from cities at night to catch the latest productions?

Young adults who are straight out of school – especially boarding school – might prefer the comfort, convenience and safety of a campus university. Living onsite (at least for the first year) is a great way to make friends and there’s a pre-prepared social life on your doorstep. However, you may find you’ve exhausted the entertainment facilities after six months and feel frustrated that you’re not enjoying everything the city has to offer. 

A big benefit of campus universities is that they are usually more economical, with discounted student union bars and subsidised canteens and shops. Yet outside of term time, campus universities can feel like ghost towns as many students head back to their parents or off on holiday. What’s more, if you do find work in your nearest town, you might find the commute a strain.

Older students who have lived away from home may crave the independence of a city university, with the variety of nightlife, cultural attractions and job opportunities making them feel part of a wider community. However, it’s important to remember that big cities, especially the capital cities such as London and Edinburgh, are expensive - and whereas you’ll never be stuck for something to do day or night, you might find much of it is out of your reach financially. 

Need help deciding?

As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider. Whether you choose a campus or city university depends on your interests, personality, lifestyle, stage of life and the experience you want from university, to name just a few things! It’s a big decision, and it’s important not to overlook it.

If you are struggling to decide between a campus or city university and aren’t sure which is right for you, luckily help is at hand. As the leading education advisory and consultancy service in the UK with an unrivalled reach into the UK university network, we can provide expert help and advice to ensure you make the right decision for you so you can reach your potential. Contact our team today to find out more.