There are two different types of universities: campus and city. The difference might sound subtle at first, but the choice between a city vs campus uni can have a huge impact on your entire university experience. So, what do students think about their campus vs city uni in the United Kingdom? We’ve examined verified student reviews left on EDUopinions to find out.
If you’re still deciding on the kind of university you want to attend in the UK, hearing from real students can help you make up your mind. Find out what they think about the community, green spaces, and safety on both campus and city universities below.
Campus Vs City Universities: What’s the Difference?
Typically, a campus university will feature all facilities in one space, usually located just outside a town or city. By contrast, a city university may or may not have a central campus, but facilities will be spread across a small area within a city.
Deciding between a campus vs city uni will impact your experience as a student. For example, city universities are well-connected and close to other entertainment options like shops, restaurants, and travel hubs. However, you’ll likely pay more to live in a city.
Campus universities, on the other hand, usually have a quieter, community feel. But, you be located further away from travel hubs and have fewer options for entertainment outside of your studies.
On EDUopinions, there are a few key features that students pick out in their reviews of campus vs city uni. We’ve split up student reviews into these different sections to help you decide between a campus vs city uni.
Student reviews for campus universities typically discuss green spaces, community feeling, friendship, and safety.
Student reviews for city universities typically discuss nightlife and travelling.
Green spaces are a common feature of campus universities. Some universities, such as the Bath Spa University and the University of Surrey, are set within large green spaces outside of towns and cities. However, it’s also common for city universities to be organised around smaller green spaces like a courtyard, squares, or city parks. This means you can still take advantage of pockets of nature as a student at a city university.
Student Reviews of the University of Surrey
Surrey university has a very friendly campus. The lecturers are very welcoming and friendly and are always there to talk you through issues you have or direct you in the right direction. (Speaking for my subject of law). The campus is really pretty, especially when it’s sunny with the lake. However, the university can be a bit disorganised and late at times when it comes to releasing information like timetables, events etc. This is one thing I think they should improve on. Other than that it is a lovely university with great staff and a great campus.
The university itself is amazing. The campus is much better than the average English university. The lake makes college much more enjoyable. The atmosphere is also good, people are always very friendly
Guildford is a beautiful city! It was so good to leave London for a few years. I was fed up with the crowds, the stress of the metro. Guildford is the combination of city life and countryside. The Surrey campus is perfect. I would love to spend summer afternoons on the lake with my friends.
Student Review of the University of Manchester
The University of Manchester is a spectacular university, which has so much to offer for students, including over 400 societies and many students’ events. The university offers amazing learning facilities such as multiple libraries and learning spaces and also highly supportive staff and lecturers. Based in Central Manchester, it is surrounded by parks, lively Oxford Road and an extensive campus.
For some students, nightlife is an important part of the overall university experience. For this reason, in the campus vs city uni debate, city universities win. City universities often seem more lively and vibrant than a campus, where you have more easy access to restaurants and clubs. Subsequently, some students actively do not recommend campus universities to students who do want clubs and active nightlife options.
Student Review of Newcastle University
Newcastle University is one of the few universities in England that offer a Combined Honours degree. It allows you to combine 2 or 3 different subjects from different disciplines. Being in my final year, I can say that this has been an amazing opportunity to pursue my various interests in an interdisciplinary manner.
In the first year, each student is being allocated with a Peer Mentor and a Personal Tutor to ensure that everyone receives as much support as needed. Additionally, there are numerous resources available that greatly improve the whole university experience. There are various societies to join, interesting activities taking place on campus throughout the year and many volunteering opportunities!
Newcastle upon Tyne is a relatively affordable city and there are many accommodation options depending on one’s budget. At the same time, most of the places a student might be visiting on a regular basis are within a walking distance. Another great benefit of living in Newcastle is definitely its night life – a promise of many nights danced away.
The university also offers many study and work placement opportunities, especially for Modern Languages students who get to spend a whole academic year abroad in the country where their target language is being spoken.
Overall, I feel like Newcastle University is an inclusive and welcoming environment with various opportunities to pursue different (academic) interests and there are many structures in place to ensure that the experience you get while studing there is a really rewarding one.
Student Review of Royal Holloway University
My time at Royal Holloway was amazing! However I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who is looking for a large, city uni. Holloway is definitely a smaller more intimate campus with only a few spaces to go on a night out. My friends and I definitely made the most out of the two clubs on campus, however I know quite a few people who wanted more places to go out. The surroundings of the uni are absolutely beautiful, Windsor great park and Virginia Waters are just a 15 minute walk away. The library is also absolutely beautiful and something which really drew me to the uni itself!
However, this doesn’t mean that campus universities are boring – far from it. The best campus universities feature a wide range of societies – both sports and cultural societies – offering a sense of community and large events for students.
Student Review of Surrey University
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the University of Surrey, where I studied Biochemistry BSc between the years of 2015-2019. Situated a short walk from Guildford city centre, Stag Hill campus is the perfect place to live, study and enjoy life at the University of Surrey. The university has a wide range of societies which are a great way to meet like-minded people with similar interests- I decided to pick up tennis and squash and regularly took part in social sports sessions. I particularly enjoyed my course, which was taught by a range of leading academics who made the course content intriguing and made me always wanting to learn more. The highlight of my time at the university was the opportunity I had to spend an Erasmus placement year at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, where I worked as a research assistant in an laboratory and gained invaluable experience which have helped me with job applications later in life. Overall, I would highly recommend studying at the University of Surrey.
In the campus vs city uni competition, it’s typically city universities that win in terms of travel. Being based in the heart of a city offers you plenty of options when it comes to travelling, including train links to other cities and areas of the UK and plane travel to Europe.
Student Review of Northumbria University
(+) Firstly, I love Newcastle upon Tyne as a city itself-not for its richness regarding night clubs & bars, but I love the unlimited opportunities you might do here during the study. Travel the North East, easy connections to other parts of the UK, beach 15 minutes by metro, International Airport where you can easily get by metro in 30min for only £5
(+) Cheap costs of living in comparison with other UK cities&many work opportunities to work part-time!
(+) Northumbria became the UNIVERSITY OF THE YEAR FOR 2022 according to the prestigious Higher Education award
(+) The quality of teaching is at a high level
(+) Business Clinic as a part of your final project-i.e. you have real-life experience when graduating even though you have not undergone the placement year
(+) Small size classes so everyone has a chance to participate, i.e. learning by doing approach
(+) Constant support from your module tutors
(+) I had an opportunity to be an ITT student ambassador thanks to this programme
(+) 80% Business vs 20% Tourism modules-more interesting for me in particular!!
(+) Study Abroad is available the second semester of the second year, i.e. you won’t lose the entire year while still having exchange experience
(+) Amazing study spaces&modern campus!!!
(+) University food delivery-very affordable
(-) This course, in particular, will no longer be available for the following years
(-!!!) no/low Touring grand when participating in study abroad with zero empathy from the study abroad team
(-) Ask4Help (never) helps
(-) overall administration support is not the biggest strength of Northumbria
(-) Tourism courses are sometimes very repetitive&common sense based
For this reason, campus universities can often be more difficult to travel to. This is particularly challenging for international students, who may be travelling from far-away destinations across the globe.
Student Reviews of Royal Holloway University
Royal Holloway was a good campus university located in the small town of Egham. It has beautiful buildings and nature to it. The campus itself is quite pretty. University is good in academics and it does have a lot of societies and non-academic activities going on. The town Egham is rather quiet but new investments in the town centre is happening. The train ride to London would take about 40-45mins to waterloo.
I enjoyed the tutors and lecturers, the third year Psychology choices were the most unique and fascinating of the course including ones on Occupational Psychology and the Brain itself.
It was a difficult location in Egham to get to through public transport as it is not accessible through the London transport scheme.
Every student wants to feel part of a bigger family while at university. Whether this comes from living in close quarters with other international students or from a student union or general campus vibe, community feeling is important.
Typically, campus universities score higher for community feeling than city universities. This may be because students can feel more intimidated in a large city, especially international students. At a campus university, students spend more time together in the same spaces, increasing that sense of community.
Student Review of the London School of Economics (LSE)
Bearing the title of being one of the top economics universities in the world inevitably signifies that academics at this the LSE particularly economics is bound to be challenging. Some of this burden is alleviated by the attentive tutors and top quality resources as well as plethora of co-curricular opportunities to overcome the stress. That said being a non-campus university in the heart of London meets the obvious challenge of having students scattered all over London and a lacking sense of belonging or identity in the university. Forging a stronger sense of belonging and support for the students by holding more in campus activities and programs would help with this cause and alleviate the student satisfaction ranking.
Student Review of Royal Holloway University
Royal Holloway is a great university for those who value a work/life balance, as being a campus university all of your friends are nearby and there’s an equal walk to the library as there is to the Student Union club from your accommodation. There are several societies to join and many social spaces on campus, so there are plenty of opportunities to make friends on campus.
I studied Ancient History in the Classics department which had one of the lowest turnouts with only around thirty people in my year, and this had its advantages and disadvantages.
The best part about having a small course was that it was easier to get to know my course-mates which brought us together into a close-knit group. Also, our professors could connect with us on a more personal level and we were able to receive very detailed and personalised feedback as well as access their office hours without any issue. The quality of teaching was great and my professors were more than happy to provide extra support if needed.
However, being a part of a small department also meant that a few modules were cancelled due to low sign-ups, so many people couldn’t study the modules they wanted to take. Some of the course content may be quite repetitive due to this, as you may end up having to take a similar module as one you have already studied in order to fill up your necessary credits.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Royal Holloway and I would recommend it to anyone.
Because of the relative ‘rural’ nature of a campus university, it’s common to have large events that connect students with each other. Comparatively, city universities usually try to emphasise their position within a larger, vibrant area, with options to connect with people locally. For this reason – with so much to occupy their time outside of the university – students may feel like they make fewer strong connections with their classmates at a city university.
Student Review of Royal Holloway University
I’ve loved my experience at Royal Holloway so far. It has been incredibly welcoming and enjoyable to be a part of. There are always exciting social events to attend and through this, there is a strong community being built among the students. I’ve found a brilliant friendship group here and we help each other in our studies. The staff and lectures are engaging and I look forward to all my classes.
Student Review of University College London (UCL)
I think the school infrastructure is very good. But we should hold more cross-major communication activities because we don’t have many opportunities to communicate with students from other majors. Hold more activities so that we can broaden our knowledge and make friends.
Some students worry that a city university will be less safe than a campus university, as you’re living and studying in a busy city environment. However, the UK is a large place, and there are still very safe cities where you can choose to study at city-centre universities. Regardless, if you’re worried, it’s common to feel safer and more secure on a campus university because of the close-knit community feel.
Student Review of Royal Holloway University
I really liked the campus feel of the university and it has undoubtedly one of the prettiest buildings. It is also quite peaceful as it has a lot of nature surrounding the area and you can see deer and there’s a lake as well. The teaching was also quite good and there was good guidance for assignments. There is a Starbucks and a co op on campus which is helpful but the town centre isn’t too far away either which is helpful for your grocery shopping etc. The professors and my personal tutor did a good job on giving me resources I needed as well. overall it was a good uni
Student Review of Queen Mary University of London
I like the program I have chosen and the modules. As a second-year student, I have the opportunity to choose 5 modules out of 8 which is great. I like the teaching methods and the variety of assessments, group presentations, mid-term tests, and final essays… Everything is well explained if you pay attention and the QMUL Plus is a great platform to find every information needed.
The only con is the location of the campus and the looks of it. The location is not safe.
There are lots of things to take into account when choosing a campus vs city uni. As we’ve seen, the main differences between the two are the number of green spaces, a community feeling, and the differences in entertainment and nightlife. So, when deciding on your perfect university in the UK, think about what you really want from your university experience.
Do you want to study outside in green spaces and form close-knit friendships? Then a campus might be for you. Or, do you want to experience a vibrant city environment and spend your weekends exploring? Then a city university might be the best choice.
Of course, there is another option other than campus vs city uni. Studying for an online degree means you can continue to work in your current job while gaining a degree that will help boost your career.
If you’re thinking about studying online, check out our article on what students really think of online learning.