Student Life in London: The Ultimate Survival Guide (for 2020)

Young students walking on the street.

Student life in London? We’ve got you covered. 

Which are the best universities to study, where to live, where to go out and more. 

You’ll find it all here.

Here’s what we are covering:

  • Which as the best universities (and why)
  • Where to live in London as a student (and why)
  • What is the cost of living in London for students 
  • How is it like to be working in London as a student
  • What is transportation like for London students 
  • How is the student nightlife in London (the good, the bad and the ugly)

Ready? Let’s get started!

Contents

Chapter 1: Best Universities in London

Chapter 2: Where to Live in London as a Student 

Chapter 3: Cost of Living in London for Students

Chapter 4: Working in London as a Student

Chapter 5: Transport for London Students

Chapter 6: Student Nightlife in London

Chapter 1: Best Universities in London

Students throwing their hats in the air on the their graduation day.
Image Source: Vasily Koloda on Unsplash

Being the largest city in England and the United Kingdom, London offers historic sites, notable art, exciting fashion and some of the top universities in the world. 

No matter what kind of studies or campus life you are looking for, the chances are high you will find the perfect match in London.

Let’s take a closer look at a few universities:

University of London

The University of London offers distance learning and flexible study options for university students that still want to work part-time. 

This university is actually made up of 17 autonomous colleges and 10 research institutes.

One of the major appeals of studying through the University of London is the many different study options they offer. 

Besides on-campus programmes, you can participate in distance learning in your free time or attend local teaching centres

The university is dedicated to making a unique contribution to learning and research-led scholarships through their unmatched network of member institutions, their global reach and reputation, and the depth of their high-quality innovative academic services.

King’s College London

King’s College London is located in the heart of the city and was ranked as one of the top 10 UK universities in QS World Rankings 2020. 

It is a very diverse campus, being a popular choice for international students.

The university offers four campuses by the River Thames, near iconic attractions like the London Eye, Tower Bridge and Big Ben, and one in south London. 

Choose from over 180 undergraduate courses or pursue a master’s or research degree.

From accommodation to career advice, King’s has resources to help get you through every stage of student life. 

London School of Economics (LSE)

The London School of Economics (LSE) is the UK’s only university specializing in the social sciences

Also, a great university for political and economic sciences, it is specifically known for its global role in pioneering subjects such as anthropology, politics, sociology, law and accounting.

This is another institution chosen by students from around the world. It is also located close to central London, in the Chancery Lane area.

They offer tons of student activities and support throughout your studies, not only during the first year but continuing through graduation and beyond.

University College London (UCL)

University College London (UCL) is a public research university and is currently ranked the highest of all London universities

As a multidisciplinary institute, it covers a broad spectrum of subjects which attracts a lot of international and postgraduate students. 

It is also located in central London, surrounded by the British Library and other leading London universities.

Join an institution whose research has changed the world.

Other Universities

These are only a few of the higher education options in London. 

View the rest of the top 10 universities in London or look into a vocational and technical school. 

From aviation cabin crew training to smart home technologies, there are so many different options for the types of courses you can take, the learning style you want and the campus life you are looking for.

Maybe the location is more important to you than campus size or history. Let’s take a look at where to live in London as a student.

Chapter 2: Where to Live in London as a Student 

Young woman sitting on her bed with her laptop.
Image Source: Nicole Honeywill / Sincerely Media on Unsplash

London is ranked #1 for the top ten best student cities but it is a large city so where exactly are they staying? Looking for a trendy part of town that won’t use your entire budget?

We’ve got you covered. Let’s break down a few areas:

North London

Students who attend a university in north London usually stay in Camden or Finsbury Park. 

Camden is very appealing because of its vibrant colours, cultural diversity and delicious food options.

It’s also a great area for shopping and is conveniently located on the northern line which gives you access to the West End or city centre in just 10 minutes.

Rent can be expensive but you can find good deals if you start looking early enough.

Finsbury Park also offers the main high street stores as well as independent vendors and has a beautiful park to relax in on nice days. 

Your commute will be a breeze because Finsbury Park is located on the Victoria Line, which is widely regarded as the fastest tube line in London.

This area is going through a boom, with new bars and pubs opening, offering live music and other events. 

This area is great for a fun night out but is also very competitive because of the popularity so if you want to snag a flat in this neighbourhood, we suggest starting your search as soon as possible.

East London

If you are a student looking to live or study in east London, look no further than Mile End. 

Mile End is just down the street from Liverpool Street and Aldgate and has everything a student would need from supermarkets to local eateries.

Since it is located on the Central Line, you can be in central London in just 10 minutes. Housing in this area will provide some of the most affordable options for students.

Another East London location to look into is the Stratford area.

This area has been heavily invested in over the last several years which has led to more modern accommodations popping up.

This is a great area because the rent is cheap, a lot of students already live here and you can access other trendy spots like Liverpool and Old Street in just a few stops.

South London

Brixton is a thriving south London community that is one of London’s most popular areas for renting and for its nightlife.

If affordable pricing isn’t enough of an appeal, the area also has several shops, bars and eateries. 

Another area in South London is Tooting, an up and coming community located on the North Line.

Tooting has its own unique vibe stemming from independent shops, world food stores and other supermarkets.

Rent is very affordable here which makes it a competitive area but if you start searching early, you will find the perfect accommodation. 

West London

Shepherd’s Bush has a large appeal to students. One reason being the Westfield Shopping Centre, the largest shopping centre in Europe.

There are also several supermarkets and convenient transportation links. Because of the area, competition can be high but like with other areas, if you start looking early enough, good deals can be found.

Hammersmith is another area in West London that appeals to students. Its appeal comes from the transport connections that will get you further into central London or to other universities. 

It’s located on three lines so your commute to school or work couldn’t be easier.

You can be located right around the corner from Kensington, Fulham and Shepherd’s Bush and be very close to Richmond, without the high cost of inner-city rent. 

This is a popular living area for students and young professionals so start your search early.

Author’s Note: As you can tell, some of the best places to live can be very competitive because of the location, rent price or both. Use every resource you can to your advantage. 

Post about your housing search on social media, see what resources your school offers and research on several different online platforms. 

Do plenty of research and don’t settle until you find the right housing option for you.

We prepared a list with the 26 best places to live in London right now. Check it out:

—> The 22 Best Places to Live in London

Chapter 3: Cost of Living in London for Students

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Image Source: Christian Dubovan on Unsplash

In addition to your university tuition, you also have to factor in your accommodation choice and lifestyle when calculating your cost of living. 

The government estimates that, not including rent and utility bills, you will need £104 per week for living costs.

There are many factors that will cause this to vary such as how often you eat out, your social calendar and even what drinks you order at the bar. 

Instead of trying to break down your entire cost of living in London, let’s just focus on the cost of your accommodation as a student.

How Much is Student Accommodation in London? 

The cost of accommodation in London can vary widely depending on a few things:

  • Are you living on or off-campus?
  • Are you willing to have at least one roommate?
  • Do you have any pets?

For students in London, the accommodation cost makes up for the biggest monthly spend, at an average of £840.

There are three main options you can consider when looking for your accommodation—University halls of residence, private student accommodation and rented accommodation.

Each one has its advantages and disadvantages so let’s look at them closer:

University Halls of Residence

This accommodation, owned by universities, is the most common for international and first-year students. The halls of residence are usually close to campus and are all bills included.

You have to apply for a room directly with the university. According to Study London, University Halls of Residence usually cost:

  • Standard room: £135 – £210 per week
  • En-suite room: £130 – £260 per week
  • Studio apartment: £140 – £340 per week

Other room types may be available. You will want to finalize the accommodation price plus all terms and conditions with your university.

Private Student Accommodation

Private Student Accommodation is increasing in popularity because of the flexibility it offers

You get a lot of the same perks as University Halls of Residence, such as utilities included, social events planned, and more but have the flexibility of lease lengths and the ability to choose several flats to share with your friends or an assigned roommate.

Private Halls can be a great place to meet people outside of your university because they are usually occupied by students from several institutions.

Study London lists private student accommodation as costing around:

  • Standard: £160 – £250 per week
  • En-suite room: £160 – £280 per week
  • Studio apartment: £280 – £500 per week

Rented Accommodation

Renting a room in a shared house or flat is appealing to many students because they see it as an opportunity to truly live independently. 

While that is true, there is a lot of responsibility and additional costs to factor in.

You will have to pay for all utilities separately, furniture is most likely not included and you will have to put down a deposit upfront. 

If you do go with this option, look for second-hand furniture to cut costs.

The price for rented accommodation can vary greatly depending on the type and area of London in which you live. 

For even more information on this, check out our full guide on finding a flat in London.

We broke down some of the most popular areas to live in across London and prices will vary depending on which location you choose but according to Study London, on average, a small studio apartment in London can cost from £120 per week to over £1,000 per week. 

A room in a shared house costs on average around £150 per week.

Author’s Note: If you need to move out or store your belongs during breaks and summer holiday, look no further than STORED for all of your needs.

Shopping & Eating Out

Besides your rent, most of your money will be spent on food and social activities.

Luckily, once you have a student ID, there are many student discounts available

Check your universities website for a list of retailers who offer a student discount or don’t be afraid to ask at check out. 

For social activities, use sites like Visit London to find free things to do.

Visit London also lists thousands of student discounts available for anything you need—from travel to books and cinema tickets to eating out. 

Your university publications are also a great resource for student activities as well as local happy hours or discounted events.

Constantly looking for student discounts and free events will help you manage your overall cost of living in London.

Chapter 4: Working in London as a Student

Young people working in a modern cafe.
Image Source: Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash

Whether you are trying to save up money or build your resume for your future career, it is important to gather work experience while you attend university

Luckily, there are many options for student employment in London.

Check with your university on what student employment options they have. 

Factor in the commute time and transportation costs when thinking about jobs outside of your university.

Here are job options for students in London:

  • Delivery driver
  • Waitress/Waiter
  • Barista
  • Social Media Assistant
  • Office Administrator
  • Babysitter
  • Tutor
  • Blogger
  • Security Guard
  • Many, Many Others

Besides using your university as a resource, there are plenty of websites out there to help you locate part-time and full-time positions. 

We’ve also created a separate guide on how to find a job in London.

Chapter 5: Transport for London Students

A street in London.
Image Source: Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

Navigating around London as a student has become more convenient over recent years. 

While the different options seem intimidating, it’s actually very easy to navigate the public transport in London once you understand it.

Travelcard

You can apply for an 18+ Student Oyster Card where you can save 30% on the adult rate for buses and trams. 

You can even receive a discount for a Railcard that gives you access to the tube, London underground, and other rail services in London. 

This will save you money as opposed to just paying as you go. Some of the main requirements for this discounted card:

  • You’re 18 or older 
  • Live in a London Borough during the duration of the card
  • Enrolled at a school, college or university registered on the TFL scheme 

For further information about the requirements and questions you might have, visit London’s Transportation website. 

City App

Citymapper will become your new best friend when you are trying to get from point A to B. Fill out your current and final destination and it will generate the best route to take.

The app takes into account Tube closures and also combines bus/tube routes to give you the quickest options. 

And for those rainy days, it even displays a rain safe option to help reduce your exposure to the rough elements.

Buses: Refer to your mapper app when you are trying to go somewhere new. If you’re getting around by bus, they have big numbers on the front and side so you can clearly see which bus is the one you need. After boarding the bus, remember to tap your Oyster card first and find your seat. 

Tube: Looking at the tube maps can seem a little overwhelming, however, you will get the hang of it after using it for a few weeks. Use your city mapper app to find out where you’re going and follow the easy steps. 

Chapter 6: Student Nightlife in London

Young people having drinks in a bar.
Image Source: Michael Discenza on Unsplash

London is boasting with iconic landmarks, historic shopping districts, legendary eateries and more but it doesn’t stop there. 

Londoners also experience some of the best nightlife, from wild freshers week parties to post-exam bashes and everything in between, you will be hard-pressed to find a weekend in London where there aren’t events going on.

Whether you are looking for a VIP club experience or something a little more low key for those on a budget, the London nightlife has something to offer everyone

On-Campus Events

Follow different pages on social media to see what events are happening at your university. 

This is the best place to start for those on a budget because university-sponsored events are usually free or very cheap for students. 

There will be campus-wide events that help you interact with a large number of people at once or you can find specific events for smaller groups, relating to your major or other interests.

Night On The Town

As for the actual nightlife on the town, each district has something different to offer. Chelsea, Covent Garden and Kensington are the more expensive districts to drink but you won’t be short on entertainment. 

Chelsea is where the cast & crew from the famous ‘Made in Chelsea’ hang out. 

If you are looking for cheaper options, try out Brixton or Soho. Soho is said to be “the spot” in the best city for nightlife. 

You will find a great balance between London prices and an incredible atmosphere.

Elephant and Castle and Shoreditch are great areas for younger students or anyone looking for a more odd vibe. 

The venues in these districts, especially Shoreditch, are not your typical London bars but are great if you enjoy live music, craft beer and hipster personalities.

For an even quirkier night out, check out some of the places in King’s Cross. 

One bar, Drink Shop Do, lets you do different activities like tie-dying clothes, learning the latest dance moves or candle making while drinking.

Author’s Note: Before your night out, see what area of town your friends would like to go to and then look up a few venues. Most websites will list happy hour specials and event details (including student events).

Before You Go!

London offers many exciting opportunities for students.

It can be competitive and costly to live in this great city but hopefully, this guide makes the transition easier.

Find the perfect university, accommodation and job and then enjoy your time here.

There are many hidden gems around the city and new events happening all the time. Take some time to explore and find your favourite spots.

Now it’s your turn:

What chapter of this guide did you find most helpful? 

Let me know in the comments below!

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

  1. The Complete Moving to London Checklist [For Those Moving to London in 2019]
  2. Moving to London: The Ultimate Survival Guide for 2019
  3. The 26 Best Places to Work Remotely in London
bySTORED. Head of Digital at STORED.

Author: bySTORED.

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