Top 5 UK university cities, what are they like?

While choosing the right course is tantamount, you won’t spend your entire three years on campus. As well as your university's repuation and pedigree, it's important the town or city you're studying in is a good fit for you and meets your expectations, especially if you're studying on a student loan.

The UK offers a choice of world leading universities in some the of world’s greatest cities. Whether you’re looking for killer clubs or an outdoorsy oasis, there’s a perfect stomping ground for you. Here's our top five.

best UK university cities

1. London

You won’t find a more vibrant, multi-cultural (300 different languages are spoken here) base for your studies. Steeped in history, home to huge and picturesque parks, and paradise for shopaholics, London could be the best city in the world. The capital’s renowned galleries and museums, many of which are free to the public, make it the perfect choice for culture vultures. And if you’re looking for non-stop nightlife, you’ll be spoiled for choice. From stadium gigs to intimate venues, packed out pubs to buzzing bistros, Super Clubs to fringe theatre – London really does offer something for everyone.

Oh, and the universities aren’t bad either. London boasts an impressive 19 universities within the top 800 in the QS World University Rankings 2015/16. And two, UCL and Imperial, made the top 10. But don’t just take our word for it…

"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."
Samuel Johnson

Watch out for… The high cost of living. A pint will set you back nearly £5, cinema tickets are around £12, and student accommodation £93 to £167 per week, according to www.accommodationforstudents.com. If you are planning to live in London on a student loan, be sure to budget, you can find our budget template here.

2. Edinburgh

The Scottish capital Edinburgh is one of the most scenically situated cities in the world. The City is famous for its imposing castle that dominates the skyline, historic old town, and carnival atmosphere during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August and New Year’s Hogmanay street party. If you’re the outdoorsy type, you’ll appreciate the spectacular surrounding countryside and rugged nearby coastline. Edinburgh is large enough to have a buzz about it but, unlike London, is small enough to offer a friendly community feel.

Around 100,000 students currently live in Edinburgh, choosing to complete their degrees at some of the best universities in the UK. The University of Edinburgh has a particularly good reputation, ranking 21st in the QS World University Rankings, and the 6th highest UK entry. Scotland also has a different student loan system to England which may also suit your needs.

“When I looked out in the morning it is as if I had waked in Utopia”
George Elliot

Watch out for… Biting cold winters. Average temperatures hover above the freezing mark in January and the weather is often damp.

3. Manchester

Ranked 36th in the Best Student Cities index, Manchester has one of the biggest student populations in Europe, so you’ll never be short on nightlife. In fact, you’d do well to sample everything during the course of a three-year degree. Make sure Sankey’s, recently voted the world’s best club by DJ magazine, is top of your list. If gigs are more your bag, then Manchester is the city for you. Its world-renowned music scene has produced icons such as The Smiths, Joy Division and Oasis. Today, you can see the big names at Albert Hall or up-and-coming bands at the best selection of intimate venues in the UK.

But don’t forget to study. The University of Manchester is currently ranked as the 33rd best university in the world, and the seventh best in the UK. Nearby Salford University enjoys a great reputation for arts and media.

“A city that thinks a table is for dancing on.”
Mark Radcliffe

Watch out for… Crime. Manchester has the highest student-related crime rate outside of London.

4. Coventry

Coventry ranks a strong 44 in the Best Student Cities index. While the City suffered a bad rep for many years, it’s since proved to be quite the comeback kid. Thanks to ambitious regeneration, Coventry is no longer the soulless or turbulent city it once was. And with two excellent universities – Coventry and Warwick – calling this city home, the area boasts a large and multicultural student population. Its long history of leadership in manufacturing and design attracts students keen to exploit these industry links.

Coventry offers a more down-tempo city experience than others on this list, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to keep you entertained. For culture enthusiasts, Warwick University’s Arts Centre is one of the largest in the UK, and the City itself offers a number of theatres and galleries. If you’re on the hunt for nightlife, you’ll find live music venues and pubs galore. The other major advantage of studying in Coventry is it’s the 3rd cheapest city in the UK. The average cost of a pint is £2.40, and accommodation can be found for around £70 a week. So it's great for those you planning to live within a student loan budget (check out our cheapest and most expensive university guide). Coventry is also well positioned for many other parts of the UK: Stratford, Birmingham, Leicester, London and Warwick are all just a short train ride away. Oh, and did we mention the massive local Ikea?

“Coventry isn’t glamorous, but it has a unique charm.”
Hayley Simon, fourth-year chemistry student at the University of Warwick

Watch out for… The nightclubs. There aren’t very many, and they aren’t very good.

5. Nottingham

Last but by no means least, the ‘Queen of the Midlands’ ranks 57th Best Student City overall. Full-time university students account for one in eight of the population, which means Nottingham isn’t short on clubs and pubs, plus we’re told the City does a great line in quirky cocktail bars. What’s more, music fans are spoiled for choice with regular big-name billings at Nottingham Rock City and the Nottingham Arena. Unlike London or Manchester, the City is super clean and committed to greener living. In fact, you’ll find this one city where traffic isn’t a problem thanks to a recently extended tramline and a brilliant bus network.

Nottingham’s two research-focused universities, Nottingham and Nottingham Trent, are globally admired for their international approach and unrivalled innovation. If you’re interested in growth industries, such as digital content, clean energy and life sciences, this the place to be.

“A place for innovative businesses and individuals to thrive.”
Vince Cable

Watch out for… Stag and hen parties. The city was recently named as a top destination to celebrate your final hours of singledom.

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