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Campus Comparison – Where is Best for You?

Choosing where to go to university is one of the most difficult decisions of your life. One of the biggest factors when you choose is often the difference between campus/city/collegiate university structures – each kind of university has its benefits and its costs and this will completely change your university experience. Here, we talk you through what life is like in each of these structures and give you an insight into what might suite you best!

Campus – Life on a university campus is not for everyone, but it seems to be for most. Being on campus can make you feel quite isolated from the world, which is why many students refer to their university campus as “The Bubble”, especially if it is far from town. With most of your week dedicated to attending lectures, you will feel like the world outside your campus has stopped existing. But at the same time, the campus creates a strong feeling of community and belonging; as you walk around campus, you only interact with fellow students or the occasional lecturer or professor. It’s an exciting, vibrant atmosphere to be in, especially since there is usually lots going on around. From cafés and bars to green areas, campuses are equipped with everything a university student’s social life needs. Plus, there are loads of student discounts on campus, making life so much more convenient for penniless students. In essence, campus is a small town full of university students.

Isolation is also the main problem of a campus life. Depending on the location of the campus, things like going out at night or grocery shopping can be a hassle. Students usually face a combination of walking and riding buses whenever they need or want to do something that the campus does not have. But then again, students living in a city will probably face the same problem, so students on campus are not at a major disadvantage. Once you accept that you will be excluded from mainstream society for as long as you stay on campus, you will begin to enjoy the benefits of being so involved in a community dedicated to university and its students.

Small city –  Whilst at the University of Nottingham I essentially got the best of two words. Technically a campus university with 20 different residential options available, I did not receive confirmation of acceptance to the university until after the deadline to apply for accommodation had taken place and hence, lived off campus and became a part of the RSA – Regional Student Association. This was a society for first year students whom did not belong to any Halls of Residence. This did not in any way mean that I missed out on all of the fun that uni has to offer, and some of my closest friends today are people whom I met that first week of university via the RSA, simply because we all came together to form our own “hall” despite not having one. For anyone who lived on campus they had the full experience, but we had our own parties prior to organised university nights out which meant we technically treated the university as a “city” university, but were simply just a group of students amongst “campus” students.

The benefit with Nottingham is that it is only a short distance outside of the city centre, and most of the second and third year students will live between the city centre and the main university grounds. This means there is stretch where literally only students live, and some of my favourite memories are all the students hanging around in their pyjama outside, at the supermarket and even at the local cinema!

Big city – Moving from a small seaside town to London for university should have been at least a little scary, but the overwhelming feeling I remember from my first few days at university was freedom. At a big-city university like King’s, you have to fend for yourself quickly- you will be living away from where your teaching takes place, and, particularly in London, will have to navigate public transport in all its many forms to ensure you get to that seminar on time! While there are student halls very centrally, I found that many students moved slightly further out of the centre as we moved into private rental houses or flats, so you might be close(ish) to your lectures, but have to hop on a 35 minute bus to head over to your friend’s place for dinner. Independence is something to be developed before coming to the city, or to be faked for the first fortnight until you’re tutting at people standing on the left on the escalator like a real Londoner! You might be in catered halls for the first year but the average student experience is cooking for yourself from the beginning, and, just like any other university experience, managing your own time, often really for the first time. The difference with city uni life is that time management also includes travel, and with it the opportunity to get truly lost exploring hidden parts of the city. While undeniably exciting, the lack of a local community can be difficult for some students, and so do consider the realities of being a tiny fish in the big city before being seduced by the glamour of city life. However, if you do opt for a big city, and make real efforts to connect with people and make your own ‘uni family’, the opportunities for exploration, growth, progression, and sheer fun, are almost endless. Enjoy!

Oxbridge College – Living in a college can have a slightly strange, village-like feel, particularly at the smaller colleges. It can be great to run into your friends several times a day, and to eat with them at every meal, but there is also a sense of being in a ‘bubble’, so you will probably want to socialise with people outside of this environment too! That said, many aspects of your university life are made incredibly easy by this living arrangement, particularly when your accommodation is within the main college site (as tends to be the case in your first year, and sometimes for your second or third year too). You have a library, dining hall, and a wide range of social events and facilities only a short walk from your room, and a range of useful services (e.g. nurses, counsellors, general pastoral care) available at the college as well as university level. Your college will also oversee your general academic progress, with your director of studies helping you to select your modules, organising your supervisions/tutorials, and arranging additional support where necessary. Finally, a slightly unexpected but fun part of college life is the sense of identity you get from being a member (which is perhaps most apparent when your college wins ‘bumps’, the rowing competition!) – many find themselves wearing jumpers emblazoned with their college crest for years after they graduate!