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How to choose a university

Choosing a university can be difficult. You’re committing to a university for three or four years of your life, so it’s important to consider where you’d feel most at home. Frankie Wilkinson, Student Recruitment Assistant Manager, lists things to think about when choosing a university to help make that decision easier for you.

How to choose a university - Durham has a collegiate system with 17 different colleges to choose between.
University College


Do you want to be close to home? Or as far away as possible? Look at universities in the area you’re considering, and go to their websites to check they offer the course you are interested in. Think about how likely you are to get homesick, and how long it would take you to get back home if you suddenly longed for a weekend where you didn’t have to think about doing your own laundry. Sometimes location can be enough to narrow down your list a little.

Campus or city university?

Campus universities have all their student accommodation, buildings, and facilities in one area, almost like a student village. City universities have their buildings spread out throughout the city. Durham is a city university, but as a compact city, everything is within walking distance, this can give it a campus feel.

Some campus universities are far away from the city and it’s a good idea to think about whether this would be a problem for you, or you’d be happy to get a bus into the city for a night out, or to go shopping.

League tables

It’s not just about the position of the university you’re researching, but also the position for the degree you want to study at that university. However, a word of caution, don’t rely on league tables without looking at what they assess – is it considering an aspect of university that perhaps isn’t important to you? Does it omit something which you think is imperative to your decision? Despite this, they can certainly be an aid when making your choice.


If you go to a relatively large sixth form college or school, you may be used to being around a lot of people and not knowing everyone. However, if you’re used to knowing everyone’s name, perhaps a smaller university is the right place for you? Also, it’s worth considering how larger universities can create a community feel. Durham is a medium sized university, but its colleges are much smaller communities which you belong to right from your first day, meaning it’s easier to make friends and to get to know more people.

Current students

As much as speaking to university staff can be important, if you’re going to university Open Days, the best information can often come from their current students. They are currently experiencing life as a student at that university. They can tell you what the course is like, what sports, societies, clubs, and associations you can get involved with, and where the best place to go for a cup of coffee is. Although the latter may not make or break a university decision, getting information straight from the horse’s mouth is always worthwhile.

Can’t make it?

If you can’t make it to an Open Day, lots of universities have students on Unibuddy, so you can chat to a current student without even leaving your house. You can connect with a current Durham student via our website. You can event chat to some of our academic staff on there too.

Although not an exhaustive list of things to consider, hopefully this is a good place to start. Of course, although research is important, nothing ever quite replaces visiting universities in person and just getting a feel for the place, so don’t forget to book your place on an Open Day to help you finalise that shortlist!

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