Location, location, location – why it matters when choosing your UK university
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Location, location, location – why it matters when choosing your UK university

Location, location, location – why it matters when choosing your UK university

A university’s postcode may not be the top factor when deciding which one to attend. While they may be Insta-worthy, neither the beautiful towns nor surrounding natural wonders should sway you towards choosing University A over University B, however tempting they may be.

Instead, your decision should be based on a careful analysis of the academic and experiential opportunities one expects to get at any particular university. 

That being said, location still matters; not for the superficial reasons mentioned above, of course, but rather based on surveys and research, which show the influence it can play in determining the future of one’s education, experience and career.

1. Long transit can negatively impact studies

Commuting brings a specific set of logistical issues that can negatively impact a student’s performance at university, according to a report released last December titled ’Homeward Bound: Defining, Understanding and Aiding ‘Commuter Students’.

location uk university

Long transit equals less energy for optimum studying. Source: Niklas Halle’n/AFP

Cost, time and the unpredictability of travel can collectively take a toll on students, who – by choice or otherwise – do not live on-campus or in nearby surrounding areas. The further you stay from university, the more it affects how you study and engage. 

The way university timetables are organised now, ie. “quite haphazard, with taught sessions squeezed on to a timetable wherever possible”, means that commuter students “might be more discerning than their closer peers when deciding whether a trip to their institution…is worthwhile”.

“The irony is that on-campus students want their classes evenly spaced out across the week, so they are not overwhelmed on any given morning or afternoon, whereas commuter students want the reverse. They want them to be blocked on to a small number of days, so they can come to university, work flat out all day, get the work they need done and leave,” said David Maguire, lead author and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich.

For students who are unable to move close to campus for reasons such as family obligations or part-time work, it’s better to choose a university closer to home than one further away. Unless a far-away university has a course timetable that’s coherent and convenient alongside your responsibilities, any benefit of going to this university could likely be offset by the downsides a long commute will cause.

2. A London location means higher future earnings

The UK capital offers a high wage premium for graduates and non-graduates, according to a recent analysis by the UK Department of Education. London recorded the highest earnings (£30,400) among graduates, with the South East and East of England recording higher earnings than other regions. London is the only region where the median earnings are more than £30,000. 

Studying outside London and then moving to London post-graduation is more likely to get you higher earnings. Source: Shutterstock

Graduates living in London also recorded the highest wage premium compared to non-graduates.

Comparing those who studied in a different region of England and then moved to London with those who studied in London and were still there five years later, those who move the furthest away generally see the biggest benefits. For example, graduates from a higher education provider in the North East who currently live in London had median earnings of £38,000 compared to £30,600 for those who studied with a provider in the East of England.

3. Different countries have different international mobility rates

Studying, working or volunteering abroad are increasingly popular options to include in one’s degree.

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of UK domestic students favour courses that provide opportunities to study abroad, according to the Domestic Student Survey 2019 published earlier this year. Despite this, uptake of study abroad opportunities continue to be low, with cost typically cited as the main reason for this.

But the country the university is located in can help students realise their dream of going abroad.

Universities UK International’s survey of the 2016/17 graduating cohort found that students from Northern Irish institutions were found to be the most mobile, with 13.2 percent going abroad while enrolled at university. This is followed by students from Scottish (11.6 percent), Welsh (9.7 percent) and English (7.2 percent) institutions.


“Efforts are being made across the four nations to increase the number of mobile students: the Welsh government recently introduced a £1.3m fund to further support international mobility from Welsh providers, and Scotland continues to offer a fee waiver for students who go on a year abroad,” concluded the report.

Running for three years from 2018/19, the Welsh pilot offers a variety of opportunities for Welsh students at Welsh higher education institutions to study, volunteer or intern abroad for as long as two to eight weeks.

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