What is the University of Manchester REALLY like?

The outside of a university of Manchester building
The outside of a university of Manchester building

This article was published by the Great British Mag content team on 10 September 2021

If you’re considering applying to the University of Manchester as an international student, you probably have some questions. What is the city like? Is there good student culture? What can I expect from the uni and its accommodation? We’re about to give you all the answers in our insider’s guide to the university and its city.

What are the best things about studying in Manchester?

Manchester is a large, vibrant city that’s packed with character and has many different faces – from the sleek, contemporary sprawl of shops and bars in the centre to the historic buildings and canals that nod to the region’s prominent role in the Industrial Revolution, and the small, quirky neighbourhoods.

It’s a city brimming with culture – music venues, art galleries, night clubs and theatres are in no short supply here – and it has one of the most vivacious LGBTQ+ communities in the country, with a collection of super-popular gay bars. The city is no stranger to a festival either, with a busy diary of events including the likes of Pride and Parklife.

The locals are laid-back and friendly and the living is affordable too.

With around 100,000 students studying at five different universities in the region, Manchester has one of the largest student populations in the whole of Europe, which means it promises great student culture.

And the not-so-great things?

If you’re not after a big, bustling city, then you might want to think twice about this urban hub. It gets pretty busy in the centre and is often packed at the weekend, which can feel quite intense. Also, because of its size, you might be quite reliant on public transport.

It’s certainly not the warmest region of the UK weather-wise – it’s located in the north where temperatures are often much colder when compared to southern regions.

A landlocked city, Manchester’s probably not ideal if you like to be near to the sea and, while there are parks peppered across the area, you’ll need to travel to get to any substantial open green spaces or stretches of countryside.

As you’d expect with such a big city, some neighbourhoods are considered less safe than others and there’s a higher rate of crime than in some comparable areas elsewhere in the UK.

Is Manchester multicultural?

Wherever you’re from in the world, you’ll likely find a little piece of home in this diverse and inclusive city, where there are almost 200 different languages spoken.

Manchester’s China Town – which is lined with Chinese restaurants and Asian supermarkets, and sees regular events taking place in its streets – is the second largest in the country, while the famous Curry Mile is all about South Asian and Middle Eastern food and shopping.

The city has a calendar full of events that celebrate its multicultural character, from Manchester International Festival to Caribbean Carnival and the UK Jewish Film Festival.

As for the university, it has more than 36,000 full-time students, 41% of which are from overseas (160 countries are repped here), so there’s a real mix of cultures and backgrounds.

What’s Manchester famous for?

Even if you’re not a football fan, we bet you’ve heard of Manchester United. This world-famous team, which was formed back in 1878, competes in the English Premier League and has won more trophies than any other team in the country.

It’s based at Old Trafford, which sits just outside the city proper and is a bus journey away from the university. This is the largest club football stadium in the UK with over 74,000 seats. If you’re not able to go and watch a match in person, then head to a local pub that’s screening one of Man United’s games and soak up the atmosphere. Be ready for things to get rowdy!

There are several universities in the city, the best-known being the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and Salford University.

Where does the University of Manchester rank?

The Times Higher Education rankings for 2021 put the University of Manchester at number 51 in the world, and eighth in the UK.

In the same year, the university became the first UK institution to top the Impact Ranking table, which is judged by how well unis deliver the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – which include the likes of gender equality, good health and wellbeing, quality of education and climate action.

How much does it cost to study at the University of Manchester?

Annual fees for the three-year undergraduate degrees here start at around £19,500 and go up to £46,000 for medical courses. When it comes to one-year postgrad courses, they start at around £20,000.

Outside of tuition fees, the uni expects students to spend roughly £10,000 per academic year, which includes accommodation, food, clothes and travel as well as other bills and expenses like phone bills and books for studying.

Generally, Manchester is considered to be pretty affordable when it comes to the cost of living and is considerably cheaper than more southern areas – especially London.

Does it offer funding or scholarships to international students?

Yes – there are a range of scholarships for undergraduates and postgraduates designed specifically for international students. While some are based on academic achievements, others are more focused on supporting students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

They partially cover course tuition fees and vary in value.

What’s the campus like?

The campus is clustered around a main artery of the city for students – Oxford Road – which stretches towards the city centre in one direction and the student district in the other.

It’s full of impressive and historic architecture, with grand old buildings rubbing shoulders with modern, purpose-built constructions. A lot of the newer additions have been added as part of a 10-year, £1 billion investment project, which is due to be completed in 2022.

As well as buildings for lectures and learning, there’s an impressive library with over four million books (as well as the main site there are a few specialist libraries scattered across campus too) and several cafés, coffee shops and bars. There’s even a sizable park on-site, which was opened in 2018.

What’s the student accommodation like?

The university guarantees accommodation for international students so long as they meet the criteria, such as coming to the UK alone and applying for accommodation by the deadline.

There’s quite a lot of choice, too: 8,000 rooms are spread out between 19 locations, all of which are within two miles of the main campus, although most are a lot nearer. All rooms are private – you won’t be bunking up with anyone else – and some have en-suite bathrooms (in others, the facilities are shared).

There are both catered and self-catered options, and some halls have libraries, social areas and even sports facilities.

As well as university-run accommodation, there are plenty of private rentals available too, ranging from houses to apartments and halls.

Does Manchester have good nightlife?

This northern city is well known for its nightlife – in particular its live music scene. There are always gigs happening at venues across the city, from bars like the Deaf Institute to more purpose-built venues like Manchester Academy (part of the uni’s SU) and the AO arena. The latter sees huge names in music and comedy take to the stage – from Snoop Dogg to Alicia Keys and Elton John.

When it comes to bars and clubs, different neighbourhoods promise different vibes. Fallowfield is the city’s well-known student area, so as well as accommodation it’s home to watering holes that are mostly frequented by people studying at one of Manchester’s universities as well as young professionals.

The bohemian Northern Quarter promises more edgy vibes with quirky, independent bars and a mixed clientele, while the Spinningfields area has a polished, crowd-pleasing range of hangouts including venues from recognisable brands like The Alchemist and The Ivy.

There are plenty of nightclubs to really let your hair down at and dance until the early hours, too. For indie music, Fifth is a favourite among students, as is 42nd Street – a friendly, casual joint playing a mix of alternative genres like Indie, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and funk and soul.

Will I be able to find a part-time job in Manchester?

Many of the students who come here to study work part-time – there isn’t any shortage of jobs. Lots of young people pick up shifts at some of the countless bars and restaurants across the city’s different neighbourhoods, working evenings and weekends around their courses.

There are plenty of options when it comes to retail, too – lots of big-name high street chains can be found in the city centre, and they not only look for people to work on the shop floor but also in their huge stock rooms.

What is the transport like?

Students are likely to spend most of their time travelling up and down Oxford Road, going between their accommodation, the uni and the town centre. These routes are well-covered by buses, day and night. There are free buses around the city centre and University of Manchester students can also travel for free on the 147 Magic Bus between the south and north parts of the campus.

There’s a tram system too and several train stations, of which Piccadilly is the main one, in the city centre.

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