On 24th January 2018, London Higher invited six London students to come into our offices for pizza. These students were special because, unlike many young people who choose to complete their education at a London university, these students had grown up outside London and had made the challenging choice to leave their home region for the capital. What prompted them to eschew their regional university and seek out the bright lights of London? And how had they fared since they arrived here? Offering pizza seemed a great way to get the answers!
This student workshop was part of our London Works project. The ‘London Works’ initiative comprises a subset of seven HEI members of London Higher’s Marketing Directors group and aims to promote London as a study destination to UK-domiciled students who are from areas outside London. In conjunction with the Student Room, London works is developing an online resource for students considering applying to London institutions which is impartial and, more importantly, student-led.
The project was initially motivated by findings that many students from outside London and the South East, particularly young people in the North East, did not consider London as an option for further study or declined offers made. The reasons for this are complex. Many may not wish to move too far from home or it be a matter of simple institutional preference. Alternatively it may be motivated by particular module choices. However, a prominent factor appeared to be negative, and often exaggerated, perceptions of London. London is often portrayed as not being student friendly, and with many institutions not having the traditional campus atmosphere. London is also seen as prohibitively expense, dangerous or just too big. Prospective students, and their parents, are understandably anxious about what it may mean to study in a big city like London.
The irony, of course, is that many, if not all, these negatives are overstated. True, many central London institutions do lack a traditional student campus, but students themselves group into the surrounding areas – often living very near each other. Additionally, many London institutions outside central London are campus institutions anyway. The option is there: campus or non-campus. Other complaints, such as expense or perceived dangers must also be contextualised. London is expensive, but London students have a larger loan entitlement and there are also lots of free spaces and activities. London can be ‘dangerous’ but this is clustered around particular areas – mainly those with a lot of tourist foot traffic.
The London Hub on the Student Room seeks to expand on the information currently available to young people applying to university. Primed by current London students and recent graduates, the Hub provides genuine advice and guidance from the students’ own perspective. It is not an attempt to tell all domestic students that they should study in London and nowhere else, but rather to equip them with the knowledge they need to make an informed individual decision about where to study. Our aim is to:
- Give prospective students a realistic picture of what it is like to study in London.
- Counter the myths that prospective students might have about living and studying in the capital.
- Provide useful information to those students who are already living in London.
Why did the young people in our student workshop decide to study in London? The wide selection of institutions, the wealth of opportunity – from study to work, the diversity of London as an enriching personal experience, the rich cultural, arts and sports scene, and the opportunity to experience the capital with a significant safety net.
None of the students we met with regretted the choice they had made, and all offered encouraging anecdotes about living in London. Many even wanted to remain in the city after graduation. This goes to show that for those who make the leap, studying in London can be a positive life experience. Particularly when we’re offering free pizza!
The ‘London Works’ project will be developed further over the coming year – and is also a great example of the type of collaborative activity that we help to encourage and facilitate at London Higher. If you would like to know more than please get in touch.