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Should you study in London?

Are you being drawn to the bright lights of London? Before you jump on the train to Waterloo, this is what it's really like to study in the capital...

If you come from a small town, the idea of studying in cosmopolitan London - with its rich mix of people, world famous landmarks and hip social spots - might sound like the ideal place to study.

But is that the reality? 

Let's help you decide whether London is the right setting for you:

Yes it's 'London' (but is it, really?)

If your picture of London is based on day trips to see West End musicals and Christmas-time viewings of Love, Actually, you might find the reality isn't quite so romanticised or stylish as that. Yes, there's Big Ben, the London Eye and Soho. But that doesn't mean you'll be passing these on the way to class everyday.

Universities in London are dotted all over the place, not necessarily slap-bang in the centre. The glitz and glam of '#LondonLife' may feel out of reach most of the time if you live or study in Zone 4. 

For instance, the likes of Royal Holloway, Kingston and Roehampton - while technically "London unis" - are actually located in the quieter, slightly greener Greater London area a short train ride away from central London. However, this might be the perfect balance for you!

Get a taste of London student life: check out our London city guide, including student tips and living cost info

The universities

London is home to top-rated universities according to annual league tables. Plus, the long list of museums and exhibitions can feed your understanding of a subject once lectures and seminars end for a day. 

That said, Oxford and Cambridge - the most famous British universities in the world - are not in London. And while a university's position in world rankings can be a draw, there may be a university outside of London that's particularly strong for your specific subject, so don't discount looking further afield.

Another factor to consider is that a lot of universities in the heart of London don't have a proper campus per se, instead being more integrated into the city itself. Therefore they might lack the core sense of community which those universities with large campuses - where everyone is a student - have. 

You should ultimately choose a university where you feel comfortable and happy. This could be where extra-curricular factors like sports or nightlife - which we highlight in our annual student survey - can play into your decision.

The cost

London is notorously expensive. This isn't just in relation to the rest of the UK either. London was the The Economist Intelligence Unit’s sixth most expensive city to live in for 2016, jumping five places from the year before. Because demand to live and work here is high (and not just amongst students), prices are consistently going up.

Making that student loan stretch in London is tough so you should take this into consideration if you're weighing this up against another UK city or town, where the cost of living will be lower.

That said, there is some specific financial support out there though for students in London. You're entitled to a larger maintenance loan to cover the higher cost of living here - you can get up to £10,702 compared to £8,200 if you're studying elsewhere in the country.

The London Living Wage - a minimum hourly wage paid by over a thousand organisations - can help too if you work part-time while studying. As of November 2017, this is £10.20 per hour.

Plus, you'll discover little shortcuts and hacks in your day that make a big difference. An 18+ Student Oyster can get you 30% off travelcards and Bus and Tram Pass season tickets. Many shops, restaurants, cafes, cinemas etc. offer student discounts. The same can be said for those tourist-trap attractions your friends and family will inevitably drag you to when they visit and want to "see London".

You should consider all of this when making your Ucas choices and thinking about student finance. You don't want to spend three years constantly worrying about money and spoiling your university experience in the process.

Things to do

There's never NOT something going on in London. 

As an entertainment and cultural hub, catering to all manner of interests and tastes, you'll struggle to be bored. From talking to people, browsing the Metro newspaper each morning or scrolling through apps like Time Out, you'll be exhausted by the number of bars, pubs, clubs, restaurants, pop-ups, performances and events on your doorstep (or a quick Tube ride away). 

There are a few things to keep in mind, namely that these cost money, something you probably won't have a lot of to throw around as a student. While there are usually lots of free things to do in London too, you might need to hunt around for these. 

You might also be surprised to learn that London universities do not necessarily boast the best nightlife according to students in our recent Student Survey...

With lectures, revision, deadlines part-time jobs and internships, just how much free time will you have to explore the latest hipster barbershop that also specialises in ramen noodles? 

 

Big city feel

In London, life is fast-paced. Buildings are high. People are many, and not always the friendliest (especially before 9am on the tube). And while there's lots to do, it might all bowl you over.

If you're coming from a very small town or village, where you know everyone by name, London can feel very alien and impersonal. For some, the change in pace of life will be new and exciting; for others, London can be overwhelming and difficult to make connections.

Think also about the far higher crime rates in London compared to elsewhere in the country. If safety is a big concern for you, read up on the best and worst universities for crime.

It's worth thinking practically too. Would you prefer to study somewhere that's easy to get about on foot or by bike (without the tourists and city workers), and won't necessarily require a 30 minute Tube ride to get across town?

Post-uni plans

While this might feel a long way off, it's still worth keeping in mind. 

Most - though not all - large companies and organisations are based in London which can be an advantage when finding that first graduate position. The same can be said for internship or work experience opportunities while you're still studying, building up that CV and making professional connections that pay off later. 

Moving to London for a graduate job is another hassle when you're stepping into the 'real world' of working nine to five and flatshares. If you're already a bonafide Londoner and have friends you can move in with straight away, transitioning into the next chapter of your 'London life' will be a bit easier.
 

Think London is for you?

Check out our London city guide, featuring comments and local gems from current students here, plus living cost info and where you can study.

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