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The basics
THE UK: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to South West England

From dynamic cities to beautiful coastlines, the South West of England has much to recommend it. Known for its quality of life, excellent educational institutions, and reasonable cost of living the region is a great choice for international students.

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The South West of England is one of the most picturesque rural regions in the country. You can study in a range of environments, from lively urban Bristol to the peaceful Cornish coastline.


More and more people are moving from London to live in the South West because it offers a great quality of life. The region boasts low crime rates, a growing economy, and several globally esteemed universities.


If you’re looking for a friendly and relaxed pace of life, with access to the sea and stunning countryside, the South West England could be the destination for you.


What is South West England like? 

Location and demographics 

South West England – also known as the West Country – is situated at the bottom-left side of England, with close links to Wales and the South East.


It’s the largest region in the UK, covering around 15,000 square kilometres. However, it has one of the smallest populations of all regions, with almost 5.3 million residents. This means that the natural landscape is relatively unspoilt.


Find out why studying in the UK is so unique. 


Culture and history

There’s plenty of history and tradition to discover in England’s southwestern region. For example, in Cornwall, a few hundred people can still speak the ancient Celtic language of Cornish. It’s a vital part of the location’s cultural identity.


People love to explore the region’s vibrant past by visiting the ancient Roman baths in Bath, the prehistoric monument Stonehenge, or Glastonbury for its pagan culture. The natural landscape is also important to the local people. Think beautiful countryside, farmland, sandy beaches, coastal paths, nature reserves and more.


In the South West, you can enjoy many local delicacies and traditional foods such as cheddar cheese, cider, Cornish pasties, gin, seafood, and cream teas (a light afternoon meal with scones, clotted cream, and jam served with tea).


Famous people from the region include:


● Baking superstar Mary Berry

● Racing driver Jenson Button

● Game of Thrones actor Maisie Williams

● Children’s author Dame Jaqueline Wilson

● Coldplay frontman Chris Martin

● British Olympian Tom Daley.


Read about some of the famous alumni from UK universities. 


What cities are in South West England?

South West England is home to eight counties. Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, the Isles of Scilly, Somerset, and Wiltshire. Within these counties are eight cities.


● Bath – tens of thousands of tourists visit Bath each year. It’s well-known for its thermal Baths and stone Georgian buildings. 

● Bristol – the biggest city in South West England is centred around a harbour and has a vibrant creative and nightlife scene. It’s famous for being the home of Banksy, the street graffiti artist.

● Exeter – this cathedral city has many historical buildings. It’s easy to get to the coast from Exeter, and Dartmoor National Park is nearby.

● Gloucester – in the northern part of the region is Gloucester, which is full of old architecture and museums, and is close to the Cotswolds. Part of the Harry Potter movie franchise was filmed in Gloucester Cathedral.

● Plymouth – the port city has a long maritime heritage. It’s home to a natural harbour and is the base for the Royal Navy.

● Salisbury – based in Wiltshire, the historic city has welcomed visitors since the 11th century.

● Truro – the popular Cornwall location is a small and friendly city with access to beautiful sandy beaches.

● Wells – this is the smallest city in England. It has a large and impressive cathedral, a cobbled high street full of independent shops, and Europe's oldest residential street.


Find out more about some of the best student cities in the UK. 



How much does it cost to live in South West England? 

Much depends on where you live. Bristol is one of the most expensive cities for students in the UK, whereas Plymouth is one of the cheapest. The region of Somerset is affordable, whereas places in Cornwall can be very costly to live in. On average you will need between GBP 550 and GBP 750 per month to live and study in the South West. 


Several universities in South West England offer financial support and scholarships dedicated to international students.


Get more details on the cost of living in the UK. 


What services are there for students?

There are several different ways to get to and travel around South West England. Especially around Bristol and Bath, the public transport network offers good road, rail, bus, boat, and air links. In addition, Bristol International Airport can connect you to destinations worldwide, and you can get a ferry from Plymouth to France or Spain.


Going deeper into Cornwall can mean longer journeys and fewer regular transport services. That said, there are still lots of transport options. What’s great about this region is that there are countless working farms. You can access tasty local fresh produce, including organic fruit and veg, fresh meat and seafood.


Get information on applying for a student visa in the UK. 


What are the post-study options? 

If you want to stay in the South West after your studies, you should be able to find career opportunities. Many large businesses are based in the region, especially in the cities. Employers are often on the lookout for new graduates with appropriate skills.


Discover what you need to apply for a post-study visa in the UK. 


What universities are in South West England?

There are 12 universities in South West England, and several other colleges and educational institutions. Universities include:


University of Bristol

Established in 1876, the research-intensive institution is based in the centre of Bristol. Alums include author JK Rowling, novelist Angela Carter, magician Derren Brown and actor Simon Pegg. Bristol is ranked 9th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings in 2023. According to UBI Global in 2019, it has the best business incubator in the world.


University of Bath

This university is known worldwide for its teaching, research, and sports excellence. It has one of the UK’s safest campuses and was one of the first universities to be given a national police-approved security award.


University of Exeter

The Russell Group university has four campuses and teaches various exciting courses. It ranked 13th in the UK in the most recent The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide. It was also runner-up for the University of the Year award.


Falmouth University

If you want to study by the sea, Falmouth in Cornwall is an excellent option. With a history of over 120 years, it teaches technical and creative skills that help students thrive after graduation. The university made was the biggest climber in the UK in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023, going up 44 places. Other universities in the South West include:



Find out how you can apply to study in the UK and explore more about the top universities in the UK. 


What are the main attractions in South West England? 

You’ll never be tired of things to do in the South West. With 1,130 km of coastline, Devon and Cornwall provide quality surfing and other water-based experiences. In these counties, you can get completely immersed in outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling. Or you can be swept away by the pretty towns, tiny fishing villages and other unspoilt areas of natural beauty.


If you prefer a livelier time, you can enjoy the nightlife and shopping in Bristol, Bath, Exeter, or Plymouth. There are delicious cafes, restaurants, and pubs to discover throughout the entire region.



What must you see?

We’d recommend visiting archaeological sites like Stonehenge and Avebury to discover fascinating myths and legends. Stonehenge is 5,000 years old and, according to folklore, was created by the wizard Merlin.


Bath is a wonderful place to go to as a student or even as a tourist. The city is a World Heritage Site and home to historic Roman baths. There’s even a thermal spa you can relax in yourself.


If you love the great outdoors, take a trip to the wild and beautiful Dartmoor National Park, Exmoor National Park, or the Jurassic Coast.

Study in the UK


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