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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

    Grace McCabe's avatar

    Grace McCabe

    Content Writer, THE Student
    July 7 2022
    Group of students


    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.


    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 




    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 






    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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