The Pros and Cons of London Universities
Ah, London! Capital of the UK, one of the largest cities in Europe, and home to many of our top universities. It’s certainly a tempting option if you’re looking at prospective universities, and places like King’s and UCL Imperial consistently occupy the very top of uni league tables.
But before you commit to studying in the City, it’s worth remembering that the place definitely isn’t all sunshine and rainbows – going to university in London is not without its drawbacks. Here, then, are a few things to mull over while you make your decision.
Superb academic reputation
After Oxbridge, London is where a lot of people rating universities will go next. Of the Russell Group’s twenty-four members, five (King’s, UCL, LSE, Imperial and Queen Mary) are London-based, and it’s rare to see a year when at least one London uni doesn’t make the top five in the overall league tables. In terms of job prospects, a degree from one of these institutions carries serious academic clout, and, again, most of these universities are near the top of the charts for graduate employability, too.
The majority of London universities, with the notable exception of Imperial, are members of the wider University of London, and several subjects, most notably History, are taught “federally” – from your second year onward, you can take intercollegiate modules very freely, which gives you a far greater diversity of options. This gives you a great opportunity to mingle with new crowds, as well as the chance to study specialist fields that your home uni may just not offer. The universities of the UoL can also use each other’s libraries, which can come in very handy if you’re after a rare text, or just a place to study if your mates are getting on your nerves.
London, perhaps more than anywhere else in the UK, attracts all kinds of people. Since you’re living in a real, breathing city, you’ll be mixing with plenty of people who aren’t students, but even the student body is unusually diverse, as London attracts a good number of international students as well as people from all over the British Isles. If you’re looking to meet all kinds of people in all kinds of contexts, London really can’t be beat.
You’re in London!
The appeal of living in one of the world’s most famous and cultured cities really can’t be denied. You’ll certainly never be short of something to do. London has a plethora of parks, museums, historic sights, beauty spots and other attractions all practically within arm’s reach, and a good number of them are free. And the nightlife… well, each uni certainly has its own favoured drinking establishments and some excellent SU bars are on offer, but there are plenty more clubs, bars, live venues and other options for a night out. Keep an eye out for those that will give students special deals!
Because of their reputation and prestige, entry to London universities is highly competitive. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that many of them don’t interview; for some this will be a relief, but it also means that they’ll be accepting or rejecting you on your academic record and personal statement alone, so you’ll have to go that extra bit further to get there – LSE is considered harder to get into than Oxbridge by some metrics. Grade requirements are also pretty stringent, and the top universities will rarely ask for less than an A or two.
Studying in London does entitle you to a larger maintenance loan, but you’ll need it – the halls of residence on offer in the city are the most expensive in the UK, on average, and for international students the costs are even more punishing. And, if you want to seek out housing independently in your second or third year, that will put an even larger hole in your bank balance; even with several flatmates, and sticking to the cheaper areas of London, you may well need to supplement your loans with a part-time job. And, to address the obvious concern for many students, the drinks aren’t cheap either!
Travel can be a pain
Most London universities are spread out across multiple campuses, and they won’t always be within walking distance of each other, or of your halls. As a result, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with the city’s vast and occasionally bewildering transport network, which, again, can be a little on the pricey side. Discounts are available for students, but riding around London on an endless sequence of buses and tubes can still be a major inconvenience.
Not your standard uni experience
Since you’re living and attending lectures in a living city and not on a campus, some London students have noted that the place can lack the sense of community that a more traditional campus university has. Your mileage may vary on this, of course, but for some there is a certain appeal to living away from non-academic civilization, and, if that’s what you’re after, London may not be for you.