International College

Which is the best city in the UK to study abroad in?

Posted 16 July 2015
Students walking through Sheffield

With over 100 universities to choose from, the UK is one of the most popular location choices for international students. And it’s not just the range of different institutions that makes it popular. Despite its small size, the UK is home to a diverse array of cultures and traditions that help to enhance its appeal, many of which are centred on its world-famous cities.

Of course, if you’re trying to decide where to study abroad, this diversity can make it hard to choose. How do you decide which is the best city to study in when they all have such different things to offer? Here’s our guide to some of the locations on offer.


As the capital city, London is the obvious choice for many students, thanks to its long-standing history, bright lights and cultural diversity. There’s plenty of academic choice, too: London has over 40 higher education institutions and is home to world-famous research resources such as Senate House and The British Library. On the other hand, given the city’s sprawling size, it lacks the campus life element many students look for. As a result, students can occasionally feel overwhelmed or isolated – especially since much of the affordable accommodation is on the city’s outskirts.

Verdict: Although exciting and full of things to do, London can be expensive and unfriendly for students who are new to the UK.


Popular with students who want the buzz of the city without London’s vast size, Manchester offers four universities, including the UK’s largest single-site university. The city has a reputation for academic excellence and has been home to 25 Nobel Laureates. It’s also a great, varied place to live, with a reliable transport network, a friendly and welcoming population and an impressive cultural scene. 

Verdict: A great way to experience the buzz of the city without missing out on campus life.


When considering a course of study in the UK, many students think primarily of England – and they could be missing out. Edinburgh is home to one of the UK’s oldest and most prestigious universities and represents an opportunity to get to know more about Scottish culture, learn about aspects of UK history you may not have encountered before, and explore some wonderful art collections and gorgeous scenery.

Verdict: Less diverse than some English cities, Edinburgh suits those with a taste for beautiful surroundings who want to experience something different.


Sheffield is consistently voted one of the best cities for study in the UK – and it’s easy to see why. As well as being home to one of the country’s most prestigious universities, it’s widely regarded as one of the UK’s friendliest cities, making it a hit with students from the UK and overseas. One of the areas in which Sheffield stands out is its focus on helping international students to excel – it has one of the largest selections of courses for international students and a strong support network to help them get the most out of their time in the city, including making sure that international students feel fully integrated into the community.

Verdict: One of the best choices available – especially for international students. Those who choose Sheffield can expect to receive a warm welcome and lots of support in a prestigious academic setting.


With its international reputation as a centre of academic excellence, a picturesque setting and hundreds of years of history, Cambridge is high on the list of destinations for international students. As well as having two universities to choose from, Cambridge is close to London and easy to navigate on foot or by bike. However, many students’ preconceptions are based around the experience of being at Cambridge University rather than living in the city itself, and the town’s small size can be a problem. It can feel overrun by tourists and students, especially during the summer school period.

Verdict: Almost too popular with international students, the full Cambridge experience is often only available to a select few.

Choosing where to study overseas is a big decision, so it’s worth taking your time and doing some research. As well as visiting university websites, try looking for alumni testimonials and reading general information about the cities you’re interested in, to get an idea of how they will measure up to your expectations, interests and aspirations.

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