Finding the best university isn’t just about the rankings and courses

How to choose a university

There’s more to think about than simply what course you want to study; there might be any number of institutions that offer the subject you’re interested in, so how do you decide between them? These tips will point you in the right direction.

Home from home?

A 2006 survey by higher education action group Universities UK found that around 20 per cent of HE students live at home. If that’s your decision too, then obviously you need to find a local university. If you want to get as far away as possible, it’s time to get the map of Great Britain out!

City or campus?

Some universities and colleges are scattered throughout the town or city in which they’re based, while others are all in one place: on a campus. So, if you want all your lectures and general amenities close at hand, go for the latter. If you’d rather things were a bit more spread out, you want the former.

Cast a web

As well as checking out the websites of the universities you are interested in, take a look at other helpful sites. Ucas’s has great advice and keep browsing the site as it is updated daily.

Course notes

A number of universities have particular subjects that they specialise in. For example, Bath are known for engineering, the University of Central Lancashire for journalism and Warwick for the sciences. This could be a good way to refine your search.


Despite what people in some quarters might tell you, you’re not just at university or college to study. Whatever your interests are – whether it’s rock climbing, amateur dramatics, politics or snorkelling – find out whether there are facilities to cater for them.

Open house

Attending open days is easily the best way to find out whether the institutions you are thinking of applying to are up to standard. You can visit individual departments, ask questions of lecturers and generally get a feel for the place. Visit for where and when you can visit.

Make room

Accommodation is usually one of the most expensive bits of university life, so getting it right in your first year is paramount. Find out if things such as internet access and bed linen are included in the rent and what activities are available if you go into halls – many have their own clubs and societies.

Hit the town

The quality of the university or college is vital, but what about the town or city in which it’s based? You’ve got to live there for three years at least, so it’s worth making sure you’re going to feel at home as well as be entertained. Open days are a good time to have a wander around.

Climate conscious

Responsibility for protecting the environment falls on all of us, but particularly large organisations, which include universities and colleges. Many do their bit – encouraging bike riders, reducing energy consumption, so you may want to find out what your chosen institution is doing.

Previous form

An institution’s alumni could inspire you to follow in their footsteps. Gordon Brown went to Edinburgh, David Cameron went to Oxford, David Walliams went to Bristol, Stephen Fry went to Cambridge and latest England rugby sensation David Strettle learnt his trade at Sheffield Hallam.

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