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Franka Zlatic

Croatian in the UK. Franka is full-time PhD student at University of Nottingham, pursuing her degree in Sociology.

Capital vs Regional cities: the pros and cons of studying in London

In search for their new home, new university and new city, students often choose capital cities. And in the UK that’s London – sometimes called one of the world’s capitals as well.

London truly is great, in so many ways. But are you sure you want to spend the next few years living within 8 million people and spending a few hours a day commuting in a city that never sleeps? 

To help you decide, here are some pros and cons for choosing a capital city.

Activities and events

One thing is certain. Whoever announces they’re going on a tour, whether it’s Beyonce, U2 or Lady Gaga – London is one of the stops on the tour. 

That’s one of the big pros when choosing a capital city – all major world events happen in cities such as London.

Sports events, exhibitions, concerts, you name it. Sometimes it’s even hard for your budget to keep up with all the opportunities!

Pro: it’s big, busy and full of events and activities!

Con: it’s big, busy and full of events and activities!

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The bigger the better? 

Many people think major cities are better to live in as they provide opportunities that small cities cannot even compare with.

However, living in Nottingham means I can walk to my campus and arrive in the city centre in 15 minutes with a tram.

In cities such as London, taking the train for just a few underground stops can take almost half an hour.

Everywhere you go, you have to prepare for traffic jams and thousands of people going the same direction as you.

At first it’s exciting, but it can get annoying as you might just want to pop to the store but it would take ages.

Pro: There’s a lot more to see and explore in a big city. 

Con: Travel time, traffic and transport complications can make it difficult to get around.

Lack of space

Speaking of many people, living in a big city means living with physically limiting housing options.

Flats are often small and cramped, and the chances are you’ll live in a building instead of a house means no backyard (and no BBQs).

Another thing is, you’re not likely to be able to own a car in a city such as London, which means you have to completely rely on public transportation.

Living in smaller cities on the other hand often means living in a house, having your own parking and being able to afford a car (if you want to).

Pro: City living comes with a modern and urban lifestyle

Con: Living in capital cities can result in more cramped living arrangements.

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Cost of living

Big cities, and especially London, are significantly more expensive than smaller peripheral cities, but that can often reflect in a larger salary as well.

According to data released by the UK Office for National Statistics 2018 the average annual wage for people working in inner London is bigger than the average annual wage for the whole of the UK.

So, while London ranks 118th for affordability, it also ranks 3rd in the world for employment activity according to the QS Top Universities 2019.

However, being a student means you’ll have either a scholarship or a student loan or you’re self-funded, which makes it advantageous if you are living outside of big cities such as London, allowing you to make the most of your money during your studies abroad.

If you want to find out how much you can expect to spend on living costs based on your living arrangements, lifestyle and circumstances, you can use IDP’s Cost of Living Calculator to get a realistic and up-to-date comparison of the living costs between London and other cities in the UK.

Pro: Living in capital cities means having more opportunities if you’re looking to start a career in the same city of your studies after graduation. 

Con: London is very expensive to live in, making smaller cities a lot more affordable to study in.

Meeting different types of people 

If you're thinking of studying in London, then one thing is for certain – you’re not the only one considering moving to the capital. London is one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world!

London is also the top choice for students. According to the QS Best Student Cities Ranking 2019, London takes the #1 spot (again) as world’s best student city, beating Tokyo and Melbourne.

However, nowadays people can migrate everywhere so minor cities can have diverse populations as well. The first time I moved to the UK, I quickly realised that London is not the only multicultural city.

So theoretically yes, you will have a bigger chance of meeting fellow nationals in London, but everywhere you go there'll be people from all over the globe who share the same experience of studying away from home.

Pro: You’ll have a higher chance of meeting and mingling with your fellow nationals.

Con: You’ll experience a smaller but more intimate international student community. 

When you’re making the final decision about whether to study in or outside of London, I guess it all depends on what you prefer.

I love visiting London, but that’s it. I like to visit it and I don’t think I’d be able to live in such a large city for a very long time. In the end, I chose to study and live outside of London.

For me, it was the right choice. Living in Nottingham means London is just two hours away and I have my own peace and I live in a house with a back yard. The tram stop is close to my home and most destinations I visit are at a walking distance. But if you’re not like me and prefer crowds, noise and endless events – then the capital might be the place for you.

Did you find this article helpful?

You can explore more stories by international students in our blog.

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