What’s the Difference Between a City and a Campus University?

16 Jun, 2023 | University Preparation

Choosing between a city university and a campus university can seem like an easy choice for some, but for others it can be really daunting. If you’re struggling to choose, then this is the article for you!

You’re probably already leaning towards one or the other, but you might be struggling to make a definitive choice. Should you prioritise the city nightlife or studying on the grass ahead of finals? A variety of restaurants or a strong sense of community?

It’s normal to feel quite a bit of pressure when making an important decision like this, so take a deep breath and let us help you make an informed decision!

Campus Universities

Let’s start off with a quick definition. A campus university will have all of its buildings in the same location. This will typically include student accommodation, lecture halls and seminar rooms, a gym and sports area, a student union (SU) and some entertainment venues.

Campus unis feel a bit like a self-contained ‘student town’ – you’ll be in an environment that revolves almost entirely around the university experience.

What are the pros of campus universities?

You won’t be a part of the dizzying morning commutes of the city, and you’ll have a smaller and calmer environment to explore.

Campus universities are usually based in a rural setting or just on the outskirts of a town so if you’re worried about feeling overwhelmed in a large city, this might be ideal. Campus unis also have the benefit of 24/7 security onsite which can help to put your mind at ease as a new student.

What are the disadvantages of campus universities?

This close-knit academic bubble has lots of great benefits but often only lasts one year. 

At the majority of campus universities, you’ll have the benefit of student accommodation onsite for the first year, and then the nearby town is where most students will live in second and third year. Universities tend to offer buses to and from the campus, so you’ll avoid the regular commute, but you’ll still have to travel to get to classes, the library, the SU and any societies that you join.

Lots of students also find that campus universities are sometimes restrictive in what they offer outside of academia. If you’re after nightlife, museum visits, a mix of restaurants to choose from, and a chance to get to know the locals, then a campus university might not be for you. 

However, there are plenty of city universities of various sizes to choose from!

City Universities

City universities are, as you might have guessed, spread out across a city rather than on a self-contained site. You’ll find university buildings dotted amongst the regular shops and businesses. You’ll probably find yourself mingling with students from other nearby universities, as well as young professionals, as everyone goes about their lives in one space.

What are the perks of a city university?

City universities tend to have a vibrant nightlife and more choice of how to spend your time outside of studying. There’s a larger variety of  restaurants, clubs, museums and galleries, allowing you to better experience the city you’re living in.

City university buildings will also tend to be close together. It’s common to have the important student facilities such as the student union, the library, and possibly a gym, close to a main site. You might see the word ‘campus’ on a city university website, which will refer to this small cluster of buildings, so we recommend that you visit this hub on open days to make sure you’re applying to the type of university that you’d like to attend for three or more years.

Are there any downsides to city universities?

As you might have guessed, there are disadvantages to consider for city unis as well. It’s likely you’ll get lost more than once when you first move, for one thing! If you’re not from the city, it can be quite difficult to find your way around initially.

Cities can also feel quite isolating if you’re new to the area. If you’re an introvert, make sure you sign up for some societies, attend the events that your department puts on, and maybe even join a language class or sports team outside of your university. This is applicable to both city and campus universities, but some students can find city life more isolating. 

Finding housing in a city can also be challenging. It’s likely that your first year will be spent in student accommodation close to your university, but your second year is often spent in privately rented accommodation. It’s a great idea to start looking for housing half-way through your first year so you have plenty of time to secure everything ahead of exam season.

Two Oxford Scholastica Academy students experiencing city university life.

Looking for a taste of city university life?

If you’re keen to trial life as a student at a city university before you apply, you might be interested in the Oxford Scholastica Academy’s residential Oxford summer courses. You’ll experience finding your way around a new city, meeting new people from around the world, and the balance of academics and cultural events.

Final thoughts

We hope this article has been helpful. Of course, there are benefits and drawbacks to both types of universities but it’s ultimately a personal choice dependent on the type of experience you’d like to have. 

Good luck and we hope you love your university experience!

Looking to boost your university applications?

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