best cities in the UK for students

The top 10 best cities in the UK for students

Choosing a university at the best of times can be stressful, especially as there are so many cities to choose from and a lot to take into consideration. Which university has the best library facilities, will the course be right for you? And, let’s be honest, the most important question: what is the nightlife like?  Whilst university open days may help you to answer the questions you have, they’re not always realistic. It’s like showing your mum your room after you’ve tidied it – everything nasty is just shoved under the bed! If you want to know where the best cities in the UK for students really are, we’ve got the answers.

For this more realistic view, QS crafted a league table showing the best student cities in 2019. Their report analyzed the top 500 cities in the world and assessed them based on six factors: university rankings, desirability including the safety of the area, percentage of international students, employment of graduate students, affordability and student satisfaction.

After taking all these factors into consideration, these are the 10 best cities in the UK for students.

10. Brighton

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Brighton is known for its laid back attitude during the day and its outrageous buzzing nightlife by night. You’ll recognise you’ve stepped foot into Brighton by its pebbly beach and hip residence. As the unofficial LGBTO+ capital of the UK, the nightlife is very much inclusive and wild.

Talking about inclusion Brighton is ranked number 19 in the world for the city with the most mix of international and home students. This means you’ll definitely meet a variety of people and hopefully find friends for life that you can jet back to their home towns (cheap vacays). A slight downside is the city is voted 110th for its affordability so you may be eating beans on toast for a while. However, you would be studying at the 92nd best student city in the world.

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The vibrant city is full of surprises everywhere you turn. The city is made for students with the trendiest part being Kemp Town (in our opinion). For going ‘out out’ make sure to check out Club Revenge which is known for its legendary student nights. If you want to be in the know about Brighton’s hidden bars then check out the 6 hidden bars in Brighton.

9. Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

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You may know Newcastle for its well-known reality show Geordie Shore, but Newcastle is also the 56th best city in the world to go to university and made it onto the top 10 list in the UK. The Cities main universities are Newcastle University and Northumbria University, with Durham university close by.

Newcastle is ranked 17th in the world for diverse students making it a great place for international students. There is a lot to do in Newcastle, including discovering its best hidden bars. Students love the friendly atmosphere and great nights out where you’ll almost always bump into someone you know.

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The very instagrammable pizza punks which is known for its customisable pizzas at only £10. In the evening we recommend the Tap Room for pres and Digital after (especially on a Monday student night).

8. Aberdeen

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Aberdeen has everything you need as a student, with a student population of 50,000 you’ll definitely be kept entertained. You’ll find live music events, plenty of pubs, clubs and even festivals that people travel far and wide to attend. The city is diverse, ranking 26th for the best student mix. It is also ranked 70th worldwide in the University rankings, with the city home to Robert Gordon University and the University of Aberdeen. 

The city is safe, affordable and ranked high for desirability and affordability. They are even voted 6th for the best club in the UK being Tunnels. QS has named Aberdeen as the 55th best city in the world for students…. not bad at all.

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As a student you have to try Belmont Filmhouse which shows independent and quirky films. Try Tippling House for cocktails and The tunnels for a good night out.

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The city that brought us Peaky Blinders and UK’s second-largest city, it’s no surprise Birmingham has a lot to offer. Take a casual boat trip down the canal in the summer (close your eyes and you might just think you’re in Venice) or take a trip to Digbeth which is famously referenced as the ‘new Shoreditch’ or check out these hidden bars in the city. You will find that most clubs and bars are in one place on Broad Street which means transport links are really good for students. Most students you talk to will hype Birmingham for the best night out in the UK and our 25 hardest partying uni rankings also confirms this.

According to QS it is the 51st best city for students in the World and ranked in the top 50 in the university rankings. The city is home to Aston University and the University of Birmingham. It hasn’t been voted the cheapest place to study but with all the city offers, it’s well worth the money.

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Of course, we are going to recommend the peaky speakeasy which is a secret hidden bar behind a bookcase in a peaky blinders pub. You can’t not go here, especially as Peaky Blinders was invented in your city! For clubbing head to Broad Street with Pryzm and Pop World particularly popular among students. 

6. Nottingham

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Nottingham is ranked 47th for the best city for students in the world… but it’s also known for the Robin Hood Legend. It is home to two incredible unis Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham.

The city is loved by students, with over 60,000 students and ranked 3rd for student satisfaction. The nights out are amazing, with the city being small enough for you to definitely bump into multiple people you’ll know. The city is great for offering out free events, supplying some of the best hidden bars in the UK and having some of the best activities for date night. It’s also known for the fierce competition between universities and we actually settled this through the article Nottingham Uni v Nottingham Trent: Who is ACTUALLY better?

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We love an Ocean night out Wednesdays for Trent Students and Monday for Uni of. For a little higher end night out head to COCO Tang where they’ll serve you the most delicious cocktails!

5. Coventry

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Coventry didn’t do so well in our ranked hardest partying unis in the UK coming in at 20th but the city does have a lot to offer. They have numerous escape rooms, comedy gigs and lots and lots of pubs. They came in 2nd out of 29 cities for selling the cheapest pint.

Coventry is home to Coventry University and the University of Warwick which explains the huge student community feel. Coventry was ranked 34th in the world for the best employer interest and is extremely diverse with 40% of students being from outside the UK.

Some students have said it can be pricy to get around but there are plenty of taxi services offering discounts. Download Central Taxis app and enter ‘WELCOME5’ for £5 off your first ride!

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When your student loan comes in make sure to treat yourself to the award-winning Indian at Tumeric Gold. Then head down to Kelsey for some live music and end your night at Smack or Neon which are popular clubs for students. Kasbah is also popular in Coventry.

4. Glasgow

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Glasgow is a little surprisingly the third highest in the UK for desirability, with high scores in student mix, Student satisfaction and university rankings. It is home to the University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow. 

The city is loved by students, scoring 76/100 for student view. It’s easy to see why with the friendly atmosphere, plenty of attractions to see and the vibrant music scenes which means a diverse club scene. The universities also have some seriously impressive former celebrity students, such as Gerald Butler and Emeli Sandé.

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If your looking for an amazing atmosphere and varied menu then head down to the Ubiquitous Chip. For the best bars head to Sauchiehall Street but if you’re looking for an edgy night out then head to Viper in the West End. 

3. Manchester

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It is easy to see how Manchester is ranked 3rd. After all, it is the city that gave birth to Oasis, Joy Division, the Buzzcocks and The Smiths… pretty impressive right!? Manchester is extremely diverse which has inspired their own Chinatown, Curry Mile and a gay village on Canal Street. This is reflected in the rankings with the city being ranked 12th in the world for student mix.

The city is home to Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester with the city holding a staggering 100,000 strong student population. Both unis made it onto the list for the 25 hardest partying unis in the UK and it’s easy to see why with these 7 hidden bars in Manchester to explore!

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Affleck’s  is a mecca of independent shops, selling vintage clothes, jewellery and even tarot card readings. You have to visit this place at least once as a student. For some yummy street food head down to Hatch where you can eat, drink, shop and hang out.

2. Edinburgh

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This brilliant city is the 16th best city in the world because of its diverse student population. It came in 8th place globally due to the high rate of student satisfaction. It is rated 21st in the world for universities, being home to both Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Edinburgh.

The city is notoriety expensive, coming in 93rd place for affordability but they have some of the best nights in the UK, and it shows with their appearance in the rankings of the 25 hardest partying unis in the UK. They also have some great girls nights and some pretty interesting shops to check out. The city is filled with beautiful architecture, an infectious atmosphere and is home to the Fringe festival.

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For some fast food head to Red Box Noodle bar in-between lectures or study periods. The city is renowned for its stand up comedy so make sure to check it out! That way, you’ll prepared for Edinburgh Fringe, after all, it’s hugely popular and people travel from all over to witness it. If you’re into your cocktails then head to Under the Stairs which serves some of the best cocktails in the city. If you’re looking for student clubs then check out the Liquid Room, Silk and The Bongo Club.

1. London

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London is the city of dreams and it seems everyone else thinks so too! It is even ranked the best city in the UK, as well as the best city globally by QS for students!

Home to 17 prestigious universities, London is ranked the second best city for employer activity. The city is of course very diverse coming in 7th worldwide, 13th for student satisfaction and 18th for desirability.

London really does have it all with new clubs, bars and restaurants opening up daily. To help you out we’ve put together a few guides for you including the best London venues beneath our feet and the top 7 hidden bars in London and the best attractions to see in London on a budget.

We love…

We love The Breakfast Club at London Bridge… hot tip when you’ve finished your meal tell the waiter “I’m here to get lucky” and follow them to an intimate secret bar.

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