What is the University of York REALLY like?

What's the University of York REALLY like?
PC: By John Robinson - CC BY 2.0

This article was published by the Great British Mag content team on 3 January 2022 

Thinking of applying to the University of York as an international student? Then read our guide to get the lowdown on what the uni and city are really like.  

GB Mag Survival Service creative - 2021

What are the best things about studying in York?

The medieval city of York, in the North of England, is known for its quaint charm. From its cobbled-stone streets to the majestic towers and stone walls – York belongs to the past as much as it does to the present. Just check out the Shambles, which many claim to be the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley – a market street with higgledy-piggledy shops that date back to 1350. 

If you’re interested in history, then you’ll love discovering the medieval history of York (or Jorvik, as it was known by the Vikings). York was the Viking capital of England from 804–954 and legend has it that the city was seized from the Anglo-Saxons by the son of the infamous Viking hero: Ragnar Lodbrok. And the Viking influence in York can still be seen today – just check out the Jorvik Centre in Coppergate for a reenactment of Viking life using life-sized mannequins!  

And if you’re a chocoholic then just know that York is the chocolate capital of the UK. Both Rowntree’s confectionery company and Terry’s (of chocolate orange fame) started up their chocolate factories in York, and on a windy day, you can smell the scent of baked brownies and chocolate from Nestle UK factory on Haxby Road.  

What's the University of York REALLY like?
PC: Visit Britain and Andrew Pickett

And the not-so-great things? 

If clubbing is your jam, then you’ll struggle in York. Although there are more bars in York than there are days in the year, the city has suffered from a string of nightclub closures in recent years. Fans of alternative music or hip-hop are advised to pop to nearby Leeds, which has a much more sophisticated clubbing scene.  

York is also a small city, so if you’re looking for the anonymity and endless entertainment options of a bigger city like London or Manchester, then you won’t find it here. And due to the many joys (or errors) of medieval city planning, the layout of streets and passages are narrow in York, meaning that it can get pretty crammed in the city centre! And it’s worth mentioning the city centre is practically a no-go area on Saturdays due to the endless stream of tourists, as well as the hen parties and stag do’s (wedding parties) that flock to York for the thriving bar scene.  

Transport in the city is somewhat poor, which is ironic when York is known for its rather magnificent Grade II listed rail station (and adjoining railway museum). The bus service, in particular, isn’t great – and it even sparked a student campaign demanding it be improved because even though the University of York has a bus route that runs from the city centre to the campus, services often run late due to York’s over-congested city centre. 

Is York multicultural? 

Honestly – no, not really. The black and minority ethnic population is 5.7% in York – which is much lower than the 13% average across the rest of the UK and is particularly poor for a city that has two universities! Nevertheless, the student demographics at the University of York fare slightly better for diversity – with 29% of students coming from an ethnic minority background.  

There are limited numbers of international supermarkets in York, but the Makkah International Foods supermarket on Hull Road sells halal meat and a variety of international groceries.  

There are several places of worship in York, including a mosque, a Buddhist temple, and several churches, but if you’re looking to worship in a Hindu temple or a synagogue, then you’ll have to travel to Leeds – which is a half an hour journey by train. 

What’s York famous for? 

York is famous for its afternoon tea! Betty’s Tea Room on Helen’s Square is one of the most famous tea rooms in the UK. At any point of the afternoon, you’ll see droves of people queuing outside the tearooms for a bite of their famous scones and sandwiches. 

And York is also the home of the Yorkshire pudding wrap…Yes, that’s right, there is such a thing – and it’s delicious! Visit the York Roast Co for a Yorkshire pudding wrapped like a burrito, covered with gravy, and stuffed with roast meat and all the trimmings. 

But enough about the food! You can’t visit York without seeing the striking York Minster – the largest gothic cathedral in England.  

What's the University of York REALLY like?

Where does the University of York rank? 

The University of York is ranked 16th in the UK, and 133th in the world. And it’s particularly well-regarded for its Archeology department which ranks 12th in the world – and the English Literature department which ranks 22cnd in the world. 

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

Tuition fees start at £19,600 per annum for undergraduate degrees and rise to £24,000 per year for medical engineering. You’ll also need to factor in living expenses into your student budget too – the University of York estimates that students will spend an additional £7,898–£11,978 per year on accommodation, food, household items, and books. These living expenses are about average for students in the UK.  

Does it offer funding or scholarships to international students? 

Yes – there is a range of scholarships at York, including the “Be Exceptional” scholarships for international students and the Vice-Chancellor scholarships for high-performing international students.  

What’s the campus like? 

The University of York has two campuses––Heslington West and Heslington East––and unusually the main West campus is actually a nature reserve; boasting the largest plastic-bottomed lake in Europe. This massive lake makes the campus home to a wide range of aquatic life – including “Long Boi” – a duck with a peculiarly long stature that went viral on Twitter. Long Boi still lives on the York campus and has amassed 46,000+ followers on Instagram, if you care for updates.  

The West campus also boasts a library, many faculty buildings, a music-concert hall, and an art gallery, as well as lots of student accommodation. The East campus is home to student accommodation, as well as a start-of-the-art swimming pool and gym.  

What’s the student accommodation like? 

Honestly, variable! Student accommodation ranges from the brutalist architecture on the West campus to luxury accommodation on the East campus. The University of York does however provide accommodation for mature and postgraduate students, as well as disabled students.

The University of York organises its student accommodation into colleges, which provide catering facilities and social activities for its students – as well as round-the-clock porters and a campus wellbeing team. All of these colleges have slightly different cultures and feels to them. For example, Derwent College, which lies on the West campus, is known for its brutalist architecture but is well-regarded for its great social life. By contrast, Constantine College on the East campus has much nicer accommodation but does not have a great reputation for social life. 

If you would prefer to rent accommodation privately, then the popular neighbourhood for students is Tang Hall.

Does York have good nightlife? 

The city has a thriving pub and bar scene – The Courtyard on the University of York’s campus is a favourite amongst students, and there are some incredible cocktail bars too – like Evil Eye on Stonegate, which serve dessert cocktails that have eclectic flavours from apple strudel to mince pies. 

But avoid York’s nightclubs if you’re not into listening to Mr Brightside by The Killers for the millionth time.  

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

Yes, York is a major tourism hotspot (and in 2018, the most visited location in the UK after London) – meaning that there are plenty of part-time opportunities to work in cafes, bars and pubs. And if you’re looking for a job closer to home, then the campus regularly hires students to work at their canteen facilities and campus shops. 

What is the transport like? 

York is well-connected by rail. The train from York to London takes under two hours, whilst you can travel to Leeds in under half an hour, and to Manchester Airport in 2 hours. As there is not an international airport in York – students are advised to travel to Manchester Airport and then take the train into York.  

As mentioned, the buses can be a mixed bag in York, but luckily the city is small enough that everything is pretty much within walking distance. However, if you want to reach the city centre from the East campus, which is pretty far out from the city centre, then you’ll need to hop on one of the designated university bus routes.  

Students are advised not to bring their car to university unless renting privately in the York suburb of Fulford or Heslington, as there are limited parking spaces – especially around the city centre which is very congested!  

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What is the University of Oxford REALLY like?

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