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THE UK: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Birmingham

What is it like to live and study in Birmingham? We explore this dynamic city and what it has to offer international students, from attractions to accommodation.

Colourful illustration of some of the taller buildings in the centre of Birmingham

It's the UK's second city, but what is it like to live there? Ask any of the thousands of international students Birmingham welcomes each year, and you'll hear the same thing: there's a lot going on! With lively nightlife, a wealth of restaurants and shopping options to suit everyone, this vibrant city has grown from its origins in manufacturing to become a national hub for culture, industry and education.

So if you’re interested in studying in the UK, Birmingham is an appealing option. Celebrated for its diversity and friendliness, it's a truly unique study destination, as our guide to the city shows.


What is Birmingham like?

Location and demographics

Home to over a million people, Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK and one of the most ethnically diverse. It is also known as the youngest city in Europe. Not because of its age – rather, the age of its inhabitants – more than 40 per cent of its population are aged under 25, perfect for that student lifestyle!

Only 100 miles from London, Birmingham is situated in the West Midlands region of England, ideally positioned for day trips to other cities and nearby areas of natural beauty. But travel certainly isn’t necessary. As a city with stunning architecture, a network of canals longer than Venice’s and over 500 parks, you’ll find plenty to admire on your doorstep!



Culture and history

Birmingham is a city proud of its roots. Historically famed for being a centre of manufacturing and engineering it is home to many factories even to this day, including Jaguar Land Rover and Cadbury’s.

These days, Birmingham is known for far more than just industry. It holds national acclaim for its food scene and vibrant nightlife, while on a broader scale it has had a far-reaching impact across all the arts. Living in Birmingham will put you in good company: over the years, the city has been home to several influential figures, from J R R Tolkien to Malala Yousafzai.

Need some more inspiration? You can discover some of the famous alumni who studied at UK universities.


What universities are in Birmingham?

The University of Birmingham is ranked 91st in the QS World University Rankings 2023. With famous alumni in arts, sports, and politics, it is easy to see why this might be a top university choice for any prospective student.



Another option is Aston University. This institution ranks in the QS 2023 top 600 and in 2020 won the Guardian newspaper’s University of the Year award. Don’t forget that you can also check how universities in the UK rank by using the Complete University Guide League Tables 2023.

If neither of these seem quite right for you, but studying in Birmingham has caught your interest, it’s worth looking into these other institutions in and around the city:



Read more about the top universities in the UK.


What does Birmingham offer students?

What is transport in Birmingham like?

Birmingham is one of the UK’s great transport hubs. Residents here have a great choice of travel options. For shorter distances, many people choose to walk or cycle. But in bad weather or for slightly longer journeys Birmingham boasts an efficient tram network, as well as plenty of buses and trains. You can buy tickets on the day or purchase a pay-as-you-go Swift card which offers discounts for students.

If you’re looking to travel outside of the city, Birmingham is enviably well-connected. With such a central location, it offers extensive train and coach links to other cities and even has its own airport from where you can catch a direct flight to over 150 destinations worldwide.


What about entertainment and food?

Perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear that Birmingham boasts a vibrant culture and entertainment scene, ideal for an exciting student lifestyle. With bustling bars and modern nightclubs, the city hosts several festivals annually and is also home to plenty of museums, galleries, and theatres.

As for food, aside from being the proud birthplace of the Balti curry, Birmingham is renowned for its great selection of eateries serving global cuisines. From chain establishments to luxury restaurants, there’s something for every student’s budget.

Investigate the different types of British accents you’ll hear if you choose to study in the UK.


What is the accommodation in Birmingham like?

You’ll find yourself with a range of accommodation options as a student in Birmingham. For your first year, the most common choice is to live on-campus where there’s usually the option of halls of residence or a shared flat.

The University of Birmingham, for example, has more than 6,000 rooms available for student accommodation, typically costing between GBP 150 and GBP 175 a week.

There are also plenty of options available for renting privately, though be sure to research carefully. Many students choose to live in a house or flat share, especially after their first year. It’s also not unheard of to rent a place alone. Private halls of residence are another option. Speak to your university to understand your options.



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


Are there public services for students?

Your university will offer a range of resources and services for its international students through its international office. They should be able to assist you with general queries relating to everything relating to immigration – from visas to settling into the Birmingham lifestyle.

Discover more about how to apply for a student visa in the UK.


How much does it cost to live in Birmingham?

The general cost of Birmingham

Birmingham is one of the cheapest student cities to live in in the UK, so is a great option for international students wanting to keep costs down. But of course, as with any city, you’ll need a budget in place.

Get information on how much tuition fees in the UK cost.


Student budgeting in Birmingham

As an international student in Birmingham, you can expect a few up-front costs, for example, a deposit on your accommodation. But once these are paid, the University of Birmingham suggests a weekly budget of around GBP 170 to GBP 320.

Find out more about the student cost of living in the UK.


What are Birmingham’s main attractions?

Birmingham is a city full of attractions well-suited to a student lifestyle. If you like art and culture, why not head to one of the city’s many museums or galleries? Or take a trip to the library: it’s the biggest in Europe, so absolutely an asset for your studies. Meanwhile, keen shoppers won’t want to pass up the opportunity to visit Birmingham’s world-famous Bullring shopping centre.

As for sports, Birmingham has plenty of options whether you’re a player or a spectator. As the proud host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, a great deal of funding has gone into the city’s sporting infrastructure in recent years.

Food-lovers: you’ll want to check out Birmingham’s endless selection of famous eateries. And be sure to pay a visit to the Balti Triangle, a district famed for its curry houses, all serving Birmingham’s most famous dish: Balti.

As for evening entertainment, Birmingham has no shortage of venues for concerts, theatre, and comedy: The Hippodrome, The Rep, Town Hall, and Symphony Hall all have global renown.


Birmingham has much to offer international students. A vibrant lifestyle, diverse community, and excellent universities. Don’t forget that you can find your ideal study path using our course matcher tool. You never know, it could lead you to Birmingham.

Study in the UK


'Study in the UK' eBook

Enjoy what you’ve read? We’ve condensed the above popular topics about studying in the UK into one handy digital book.

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