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THE UK: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Wales

Wales combines a rich heritage with the modern world in an exciting and energising environment for students. From some of the top universities in the UK to picturesque national parks, there are many reasons to choose to study in Wales.

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Wales is a picturesque, friendly, safe, and affordable place to live. The country is part of the UK and is well known for its stunning mountains and coastline. It’s even home to four UNESCO world heritage sites. 


Students love the fun and enriching learning environments that Wales has to offer. Over 135,000 students are enrolled across the country’s eight universities or at one of the several other higher education institutions.


The British country has supportive communities, internationally acclaimed research, and easy access to other parts of the UK. So, it’s easy to see why many people choose Wales for their student experience.


What is Wales like?

Location and demographics

You can find Wales connected to the west of England on the island of Great Britain. It’s a small country, roughly the size of two million rugby pitches. Around 3,135,000 people live in Wales. Most of the population is based in the bigger cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, or the South Wales Valleys and the northeast of the country.


Culture and history 

Wales has a rich heritage, inspiring stories, and plenty of adventures to explore. It was one of the first countries to include sustainability in its government legislation, and it makes a lot of effort to protect people and land.


You’re likely to come across one of the country’s many symbols or traditions when in Wales. These include the national dress, daffodil flower, leek vegetable or red dragon (seen on the Welsh flag). Almost a million people can speak the Welsh language, that is one of the oldest languages in Europe. The Welsh love a “cwtch” – the favourite word for a hug!


Many famous people come from Wales, such as singers Sir Tom Jones and Dame Shirley Bassey, actors Sir Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones and footballer Gareth Bale.


Discover the different types of British accents you may hear if you study in Wales.



What are the main cities in Wales?

The country is home to seven cities, including the smallest cities in the UK.


Cardiff – the capital city is located on the south coast. It’s an accessible, lively, and multicultural place where you can attend huge concerts and sports games.

Swansea – the second largest city, is also on the south coast. It’s a vibrant urban location that loves to celebrate the Welsh heritage.

● Newport – close to Cardiff and the English border, Newport is a fun industrial city with great transport links.

● Wrexham – in Northeast Wales, this historical city has one of the oldest football clubs in the world, co-owned by the American actor Ryan Reynolds!

● Bangor – this tiny city is located near the beautiful Snowdonia national park. It’s the oldest city in Wales.

● St Asaph – the country’s second-smallest city is based in North Wales.

● St Davids – the famous Pembrokeshire city, named after the patron saint of Wales, is the smallest city in the UK!


How much does it cost to live in Wales?

It’s generally cheaper to live in Wales than most places in the UK. Accommodation costs are one of the lowest in the UK. Eating out, entertainment and living costs are usually good value for money. Cardiff is the most expensive city, but it’s still cheaper than many other cities in the UK. You will generally need about USD 800 to USD 1,400 a month to live in Wales.


Welsh universities often offer good incentives to help international students. For example, Aberystwyth University provides accommodation to first-year international students at a discount or for free.


Get more information on the living costs in the UK.


What services are available for students in Wales?

You can easily get around Wales by most transport methods. The main railway line in South Wales leaves Bristol in England and connects Newport, Cardiff and Swansea to Pembrokeshire and other locations along the way. There are also lots of scenic roads and walks to explore.


Sport Wales has two major sports facilities – one on the north coast overlooking the isle of Anglesey, and the other in Cardiff. They provide high-quality sports services for top athletes, as well as the general public.


What post-study options are available in Wales?

Universities in this country tend to have a strong focus on graduate employability. After graduating, many international students take further studies in Wales or move elsewhere in the UK to work or study. Jobs are available in Wales, especially in bigger cities like Swansea and Cardiff. There are usually opportunities for recent graduates with relevant skills.


Find out what it takes to apply for a post-study visa in the UK.


What universities are in Wales?

Some of the UK’s best universities are in Wales. These include:


Cardiff University – a Russell Group institution and the 10th largest university in the UK, with the UK’s oldest journalism school. Cardiff ranks 166th on the QS World University Rankings 2023

Swansea University – a research-led institution which won the University of the Year at the 2019 Whatuni Student Choice Awards. It is also rated as top 300 global university by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.  Alumni include international rugby player Alun Wyn Jones.

Aberystwyth University – the oldest university in Wales and is ranked as one of the top 800 universities in the world on the QS World University Rankings 2023. Alumni include HM King Charles III.

● Bangor University – with one of the most beautiful campus locations in the UK, pioneering research into areas like therapies to help cancer and depression. The university is ranked in the top 500 worldwide by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.


There are also several colleges and other esteemed institutions, such as the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Alumni include the actor, Rob Brydon.


Discover more famous alumni from UK universities.


What are the main attractions in Wales? 

A lot of natural Wales is protected land. Around 25 per cent of the country is an area of outstanding beauty. There are three national parks: Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons, and Pembrokeshire Coast. 


Wales provides unbeatable opportunities to hike, bike or participate in other exciting outdoor adventures like zip-lining. Wales has more than 150 beaches and a long, beautiful coastline. Most of the land is countryside, and there are three times more sheep in Wales than there are people.



What must you see in Wales?

Rugby is one of the most loved sports for Welsh people. Go to the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff to watch an international rugby match, and you’ll have a thrilling experience. People of all ages and backgrounds come together to cheer for the Welsh team, making it a great day out.


Music is also significant, with the Welsh harp considered the national instrument. When in Wales, why not go to a traditional performance or contemporary music festival? Many are held throughout the year all over the country.


For most people, one of the best things about Wales is the friendliness of the local community. The Welsh are typically very warm and welcoming, making the international student experience a very pleasant one.


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