Campus vs city: Which type of university is right for you? | Top Universities

Campus vs city: Which type of university is right for you?

By Aisha K

Updated July 25, 2022 Updated July 25, 2022

With most degrees taking a few years to complete, it’s important to consider where you’ll be spending the bulk of your time during your studies. If going to university means you’re imagining a vibrant city life with plenty of variety around you, it’s possible you might not be well suited to a campus university, and vice versa.  

As home to a wide variety of both campus and city universities, we’ve taken a look at UK institutions to help you decide which type of environment is ideal for you.  

Before we dive in, it’s worth clearing up what both types of university mean, particularly in a UK context: 

  • Campus: All university-owned buildings and facilities such as lecture halls, libraries, bars, gyms and student residences are located in the same area. Despite its meaning, campus universities can still be based in a city, such as the University of Birmingham. Some universities may have more than one campus, but campus buildings are generally closed off to the general public and are only open to student and staff.  

  • City: Although universities in a city will still have a variety of facilities, buildings are spread over a larger distance, and will usually be located in a particular area of a city rather than a closed campus that is only accessible for students and staff.  

Reasons to choose a campus university 

Convenience is important to you 

Swansea University

A huge advantage of going to a campus university is that you have everything on your doorstep, meaning you won’t need to take public transport or walk far to get from one lecture to the next.  

We’d recommend researching which campus universities have high-quality facilities and services so that you have the best experience possible. According to a 2022 survey by StudentCrowd that used over 15,000 student reviews to rank UK universities on their campuses and facilities, the University of Reading took the top spot. With facilities such as an extensive library that has over one million volumes and 130 hectares of parkland, it’s easy to why the university topped this year’s list.  

Top 10 UK universities for campus and facilities, according to StudentCrowd 

Rank 

QSWUR rank 

University 

229 

University of Reading 

University of Cambridge 

=96 

University of St Andrews 

=96 

University of Sheffield 

28 

University of Manchester 

91 

University of Birmingham  

=256 

Loughborough University 

601-650 

Bangor University 

81 

University of Glasgow 

10 

801-1000 

University of Greenwich  

You want to be part of a community 

Whilst going to a campus university means you’ll have everything in one place, you’ll also have everyone around you too. So, if getting to see and meet many of your fellow students on a regular basis is important to you, a campus university could be ideal That’s not to say students at city universities can’t find their own community of friends but having everyone together in one place naturally creates a sociable environment.  

A ‘hustle and bustle’ environment doesn’t sound appealing to you 

As some campus universities aren’t based in cities or large towns, it’s important to ask yourself what type of atmosphere you can see yourself thriving in. Even though you may be further away from a town centre, the upside is that you can enjoy some quiet time.  

Reasons to choose a city university 

You like having a variety of amenities and attractions 

Chinatown, London

Not enjoying the coffee on campus? That won’t be a problem if you’re studying in a city, where you can explore as many cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs as you wish. Whether that means trying a variety of cuisine in London’s Chinatown or Manchester’s famous Curry Mile, you’ll have the option to find your local favourites.  

In bigger cities, there’s definitely no shortage of things to do, especially if you’re looking for an enriching cultural experience. Nhi Nguyen, an Erasmus student from France, studying business at the University of Edinburgh said: “In terms of cultural attractions, there is no doubt that Edinburgh is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. The Scots are cheeky, friendly and funny!  

“I've made new friends with whom I shared my best undergrad memories, such as hiking in the Highlands and watching football in a pub. I’ve very much enjoyed the artsy vibes of the city.” 

You prefer a bigger social scene 

One of the best aspects of studying in a city is being able to meet and make friends from other universities, as well as people from all walks of life. With cities such as Sheffield and Liverpool each boasting a student population of over 50,000, you’re bound to make strong friendships that last well beyond your university years. 

You’re keen on finding internship or employment opportunities 

Google headquarters in London

Although it’s not impossible to find a job or internship at a campus university, big cities can provide a greater diversity of opportunities, especially in high-profile companies. As an example, London ranks fourth for employer activity in the QS Best Student Cities Rankings 2023, with many international organisations based in the city, such as Amazon, Google and Unilever.  

So, campus or city? 

All things considered, online research can’t replace an in-person visit so we’d encourage taking advantage of open days and speaking to current students to help you find your home-away-from-home. While both types of settings present their own pros and cons, it’s essential that your personal preferences guide your final decision.  

This article was originally published in July 2022 .

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Written by

Aisha is Content Editor for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, creating and publishing a wide range of articles for an international student audience. A native Londoner, Aisha graduated from the London School of Economics with a degree in Philosophy and has previously worked in the civil service. 

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