What kind of university is best for you?

student view of a lecture

Discover where you could be spending the next three years

Despite what you may have heard, all universities are not the same. So, when you’re deciding on your ideal university, don’t just think about the course and the city. Give some thought to its character, too.

Tried the quiz? It’s just for fun, but hopefully it’s got you thinking about the variety that’s out there in terms of universities. Your day-to-day life will be vastly different depending on the type you choose.

When you start seriously looking for a uni, finding a place where you’ll be happy will be easier if you consider the following.

Campus or city

Campus unis are centred around one specific area, with accommodation, lecture theatres, campus shops, entertainment venues and other amenities located a convenient walk away in a dedicated student village. City unis, on the other hand, have all the uni buildings spread across the city.

Campus unis are ideal if you want to be in the middle of the action, where you’re surrounded by students all day, every day and you want the convenience of being located close to absolutely everything you’ll need. City unis are great if you want to mix with a wider range of people and throw yourself into life in a new place - particularly if you’re a bit of a culture vulture or want to make the most of the city’s nightlife.

Becca, an international development student at UEA, moved from northern England down to Norwich for uni. “For me, the reason I found UEA so good is because it felt like home when I got here,” she says.

“I chose to study at a campus uni because everything is right where you need it and right on your doorstep, and it feels like your own little town, which is a good way to get used to somewhere new.”

Toyin, a medicine student, wanted a uni where everything would be easy to get to. “I can be quite lazy sometimes - I didn’t want to have to take the bus to get to a lecture in the morning, so a campus uni suited me and my lifestyle better.”

In the following video, Hani talks about her experience of choosing between a campus and city university. Click the spoiler to read a transcript.


Hi everybody, it's Hani here from UEA and today I'm going to talk to you a bit about how I picked my uni based on location.

So to me the biggest question was to decide between a campus uni and a city uni and I just found out just by going to open days.

For me personally I was a bit nervous about leaving home for the first time so I was kind of looking for some kind of size of community as well as some sort of convenience and a campus uni for me feels like a bit cosier and a more personal experience. 

Living on campus makes settling into uni much easier and it's just nice to be surrounded by people who are in the same boat as you, plus I get all the essentials on my doorstep which is super convenient.


The vibe of unis varies dramatically, from the ‘ancient’ universities with their classic architecture, cute quads and traditions, through to sprawling city-based unis with their modern glass-fronted buildings and buzzing atmospheres.

Doing your research will give you an idea of what a particular uni is like, but the only way to be sure is to visit. Which is why open days are so important. Once you’ve made a shortlist of unis, make a note of when you can go and visit for the day.

TSR member abraaacadabra emphasised the importance of open days, saying: “It's obviously important to keep in mind the quality of education you receive, but it's not at all unreasonable to consider other, more social aspects of it. It’s pretty hard to tell if it’s for you until you actually rock up to the uni yourself and get a feel for the place.”

Here's a video from Toyin talking about the culture and social side of her university. Click the spoiler to read a transcript.


Hi, it's Toyin here from UEA and today's video is gonna be on social life at uni.

So in terms of the social side in coming to uni that was a big part for me because I grew up in an area where I hadn't really been exposed to that much diversity and when I came to uni that was going to be a big thing for me.

I wanted the opportunity to meet more people that grown up in a similar culture to me, so that's why things like joining the afro-caribbean society was a really big thing.
But apart from that I wanted to go to a uni where I could enjoy the same interests as other people, so I also played for UEA netball last year and I've been playing for the medics team for netball as well. So it's just been an opportunity to meet other people to get to know people sometimes that are not even on my course and just to really form new relationships that I may not have had the opportunity to do so otherwise.


A huge factor for lots of people is where the uni actually is. Do you want to stay close to home or head further afield? Are you looking for big city life or would you be happy somewhere a little quieter?

Other things to think about are the cost of travel to get between home and uni, any commitments you have in your hometown, how convenient it will be to get back and how often you might want to visit home - even if that’s only to have a proper home-cooked meal every once in a while!

TSR member studentskg says, “To me, being away from home makes me appreciate it and my family and childhood friends 100 times more than if I had stayed, but I know friends who studied locally and have had almost the same experiences, and equally exciting - but different - ones.”

And if you’re worried about moving far away from home and feeling homesick, jelly1000 makes a great point: “If you go home every holiday you'll only be at university half the year, so not as long away at uni as you might think.”

student in library

Social life

A huge part of people’s happiness at uni comes down to their social life. Social butterflies may want six big messy nights out a week and society activities coming out of their ears, whereas others may prefer a more sedate state of affairs.

Some unis (we’re looking at you, Oxbridge) are known for their big formal dinners and balls, while others (naming no names… Leeds and Manchester) are known for their party scenes.

Others, like UEA and Sussex, are famous for their amazing range of societies, so you can take your pick of the activities. Even within unis, some halls will be notorious for their parties, while others will be calmer and quieter, so you can choose the uni with the perfect social scene for you.

Before Becca applied to uni, she knew she wanted to go somewhere with an excellent nightlife, but also some fun daytime activities that weren’t all centred around alcohol. “Currently I’m a committee member for UEA Tap Dance. It’s really fun to be on the committee and to be in a club that’s really inclusive, and we have lots of socials and things to do outside of tap which is really good.”

Here's a video where Becca talks about her lifestyle at university. Click the spoiler tag for a transcript.


It's Becca from UEA and today I'm going to be talking about how important lifestyle is at university and the things that we choose to do in our downtime.

What I enjoy most about lifestyle at uni is that it can be whatever I want it to be: laid-back or full-on and the size of the university really made that decision for me, so I knew what I wanted before I even came to uni. 

And so, before I even applied, I made sure that I looked at the SU website in advance so I knew what clubs and societies they did and that they did what I wanted to do and that was what made me feel right when I got to uni and I knew that I was really interested in those clubs because I already looked at them and I had a real interest and so it really made the decision for me and made it feel right.


While it’s important to consider a uni’s reputation for the subject area you’re interested in, there are other things to think about, too.

For example, some unis are hot on their huge 200-people lectures, while others focus more on practical lab work.

Some unis are particularly strong on their research, and others may offer an exciting range of study abroad opportunities and year-in-industry courses.

In the later stages of your uni search, you may want to look over the course syllabus and the types of modules on offer - but there’s plenty of time for all that!

Toyin was impressed by the way UEA’s medicine course was delivered, saying: “UEA offered the course that I wanted in a style that I thought would suit the way I like to learn.

“This meant lots of group work, not many lectures, and we had a lot of independence along with being helped along the way, which I thought was amazing.”

Marketing student Hani loves the practical, hands-on approach of her course. “Instead of writing long essays, I get to produce a TV advert, design websites and run social media campaigns for real local businesses, which is super fun but also gives me real-life experience of the industry.

“My advice is to look at the type of work involved, and think about your preferred learning style when choosing a course.

“Do you prefer more hands-on, practical learning, or independent essay writing? Are you interested in doing a year abroad or a placement year? Take all of this into consideration!”

In this video, Ed explains what mattered most to him when choosing a course. Again, you can click on the spoiler tag for a transcript.


Hi everyone I'm Ed I'm a student at UEA and today I'm going to talk about how I chose where to apply for university and some tips to help you make your decision.

One of the key factors of making my decision was the availability of scholarships 

At UEA there were loads including ones for getting top grades at A-level or completing an extended written project.

The reason I liked the maths course in particular was because it looked very flexible. There was options for four-year integrated Master's, for a year in industry or a year abroad as well as a choice of finance-based modules and computing-based modules.
My advice for you guys is to go and try out a range of taster days. These are where you go and visit the university and get to see what the lecturers are like and they'll tell you the highlights of their course. 

You'll also get to see what the accommodation is like and the surrounding area so you really know what it's like to study there and what it's like to live there.
Imagine it like buying your first house. You wouldn't want to put down a lot of money and several years of your life in a place that you hadn't gone and visited for yourself.

Watch more videos about student life

Our vloggers are sharing their experiences of student life direct from the campus. In this video playlist, we've collected their vlogs about first year accommodation, to help you get an idea of what it's like when you first start.

People are talking about this article Have your say