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Campus versus city universities

How do you decide between city universities and campus universities? Each has its own benefits so we have highlighted the differences so you can decide which is best for you

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Grace McCabe

Content Writer, THE Student
July 7 2022
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Students preparing to attend university have many factors to consider when making their final choice. One of these factors is a city versus campus university. Although both can provide students with a great education and student experience, they can be quite different. 

Below we have broken down these contrasting experiences to help you in your applications. 

What are campus and city universities? 

Campus and city universities may be defined slightly differently depending on the country.

Broadly speaking, however, at a campus university all its main buildings and facilities are located within one area and students will usually spend most of their time in this space.  

A city university will have a a central hub but then many of its buildings will be scattered around the city and surrounding area, meaning that students will often have to travel across town to attend lectures.

Such universities often also have multiple campuses throughout the city or even the country, but usually one of those will be considered the main hub campus where the administrative buildings are located.


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Accommodation and facilities 

Campus universities tend to provide accommodation to students in their first year, especially in the US and the UK. These halls of residence will be within easy walking distance to many of the amenities on campus such as lecture halls, classrooms, laundry services, medical offices, exercise facilities and restaurants or catering halls. 

City universities also offer accommodation for students but this is often located throughout the city, rather than in one central place. Sometimes these rooms will have other features such as a kitchen, washing machine and space to study or socialise. Students will have access to libraries and buildings that are part of the university but may need to use public transport to travel between them.

Cost 

Most shops, restaurants and bars located on campus will charge lower prices than those outside university grounds. Accommodation is also cheaper and offered only to students who are attending the university.  

Sports facilities offer membership at a discounted rate and events that take place at the student union will be cheaper to attend. If you are a student on a budget, you will find it easier to make your money last longer by attending a campus university. 

Using these same facilities off campus can often be more expensive. Establishments will charge their standard prices and although some places may have student deals or offer student discounts, it is not guaranteed.

Student life 

Campus universities aim to provide students with everything they need in one place, which means they can spend less time travelling and are closer to university-led events and social activities. 

There are usually regular events taking place on campus, such as concerts, parties, comedy gigs and social gatherings, which are easy to attend whenever you have free time. Classes, lecture halls and libraries are all within walking distance, which removes stressful travel or the need for a car. 

City universities have societies and clubs that students are welcome to join. However, events can span all the locations linked to the university and it can sometimes be harder to meet new people because everyone lives in different areas.

However, a big pro for city universities is their proximity to everything else; you will be surrounded by shopping centres, local history, nightlife and eateries.

Personal choice

Choosing a university is a personal decision and it depends on the type of person you are. If you thrive in a busy environment, you are independent or want to challenge yourself to live alone, a city university might be the best fit for you. However, if you prefer a more relaxed environment with an additional level of safety and support, a campus university may be the right choice. 

Whatever you choose, you will find university an enriching experience where you learn new skills, make new friends, and begin to transition into graduate life.

Summary: pros and cons 

CAMPUS UNIVERSITIES CAMPUS UNIVERSITIES

PRO 

CON 

Accommodation is on campus 

No space to host visitors or family 

Easy to socialise with other students 

Rooms, kitchen, living spaces are often shared 

Facilities are all within walking distance 

Facilities are shared with other students 

Less expensive, easier to budget 

Restricted destinations for events 

More relaxed environment 

Slower transition to fully independent living 

Medical facilities on site 

Students must travel to see local surroundings 

Student union-organised events 

 

Close to classes 

 

A gradual change to more independent living 

 

 

CITY UNIVERSITIES CITY UNIVERSITIES

PRO 

CON 

You have the opportunity to get involved with the local community

Can be further away from campus 

You can host friends and visitors at home 

It is harder to socialise with other students 

Surrounded by city sites and destinations 

Some facilities such as medical centres or libraries may be further away

You learn to budget quickly 

It can be expensive 

Busy and independent environment 

Students need to be organised 

Students get to know the city around them 

 

Students become independent quickly 

 


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