Whether you’re thinking of going to study in London or you’re already doing so, our guide will help you cut through the crud and zone in on the good.
The UK capital is home to an enormous student community and some of the best universities in the land. It’s renowned for its unique diversity, vibrancy, culture and nightlife. But finding the best of the best within all that can be tricky. So we’re going to help you out.
Where to live
Yes, London is vast. So vast that it feels like 10 cities all rolled into one. But that gives you a lot of choice. And make no mistake, there is a lot of choice when it comes to student accommodation in London.
My top tip is: try to live as centrally as you can, preferably no further out than zones 2 or 3. It might be more expensive on your rent to stay within that inner circle but the extra you’ll spend on rent you’ll save on travel.
You’re unlikely to be able to afford a plush zone 1 pad in the vicinity of Mayfair or Westminster, of course, (and why would you want to be there anyway?), but check out the likes of Brixton, Islington, Woolwich, Deptford, New Cross, Clapham, Finsbury Park, Streatham and Putney.
As a general rule of thumb, you’re likely to find the best value accommodation south of the river and in east London.
Where to study
Wow. This is a tough one. It really depends on the course you want to do and where you’ll be able to get in to, but rest assured there’s something for everyone. Among the very best universities in London you’ll find London Business School, a Future Finance partner, Imperial College, University College (UCL), King’s and London School of Economics (LSE). These institutions have been the learning playground to some of the world’s finest thought-leaders, politicians and entrepreneurs for many decades.
There’s an abundance of specialist universities too, including some of the very best and biggest, such as The Royal College of Nursing, The Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, The London School of Theology and The Royal College of Art.
What to see and what to do
Let’s get whirlwind tacky out of the way first. A London bus tour or London river cruise will give you a day one deep dive into the London landscape in next to no time. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, go for the duck boat tour.
Once that’s out the way, get stuck into the ridiculous array of wonderful museums and galleries you’ll find in London. Plenty of them are free too, which will ease the student wallet after you’ve splashed out (sorry!) on a frivolous duck tour. Our picks include The Natural History Museum, The Science Museum, Tate Modern and The National Portrait Gallery – all of which are totally FREE!
Make sure you lap up plenty of summer afternoons in some of London’s great parks, in particular Regent’s Park, Hyde Park, Richmond Park and Primrose Hill. Again – a fantastic way to enjoy the best of the city on a tight budget. So you can save your cash for the nightlife…
Where to go out
It might not be New York, New York, the city that never sleeps, but it’s not far off. Let’s say it’s the city that rarely sleeps. Get to know Soho as soon as you can. It’ll be your best friend and your worst enemy, depending on what time of the night it is. Avoid the City, Mayfair and Canary Wharf like the plague. They’re for your six-figure salary high-rollers. You’ll be there in a few years, I’m sure, but for now you can make much better use of your student loans.
Don’t let anyone tell you that London will price you out of a social life. You might have to look a little harder for cheap eats and student deals than some other cities around the UK, but they exist. Once you’re outside the student union bar, head for one of Camden, Peckham or Shoreditch where you’ll find a bunch of great places to eat and drink, all at decent prices.
Our top 5 tips for getting the best out of London
- Take your time: There’s so much to do in London you can easily run around trying to do everything in the first month, spend a lot of cash in the process – a chunk of it on immediately regrettable experiences – and end up skint for the rest of the year. Do your research, pick out the things you’d most like to do and make the most of them.
- Walk on: London, despite its size, is very walkable if you’re living and studying somewhere in zones 1 to 3. And walking is the best way to truly explore this amazing city. You get to see everything!
- Live free: There are loads of brand freebies, cheap student deals and things like artistic, audience-participation events that you can enjoy at little or no expense. Sniff them out!
- Network: Some of the best things to see and do in London are barely advertised. It’s all about word of mouth. Build up a diverse personal network of interesting people and you’ll be swimming in opportunity.
- Stay calm: London can be a heady mix of senses, excitement and confusion. It can also be busy as hell, rude and selfish, especially if you’re living it at commuter hours. Don’t let the dark side of London get you down. Keep some perspective and if you feel its claws around your neck, take a weekend away – back home or to the nearby rural loveliness of Surrey, Kent or Oxfordshire.