What studying at Birmingham really teaches you

Sadly, not how to do your taxes

Getting a world class education, at one of the UK’s best universities is most people’s priority when they enrol at Birmingham. Some students get excited about the prospect of studying and partying in the UK’s second best city, where the alcohol is cheaper than London but the night life is still as cosmopolitan and diverse. For the most part, their impression is correct (as long as they avoid Players).

Whatever your reasons are for choosing Birmingham, there are unavoidable lessons you will learn from studying here. While your lecturers will teach you Plato to postmodernism, it’s the social side of living on campus that sets you up for the wider world.

Here are the most valuable lessons studying in Birmingham will teach you.

The class division

The halls of residence are a microcosm of wider society. One very quickly learns that it is the bourgeois in Mason who will be owning our asses in the future. Just like daddy has paid for them to have a nice halls of residence, he also has a neat little number set aside at his company for when they graduate.

Meanwhile, those in Shackleton follow their Mason overlords around, hoping they too can secure employment at said company. Shackletonians glare longingly out of their Cold War bomb shelter onto the gilded Scandinavian wood-plated halls of Mason, wishing that they could have afforded just that little bit extra to live there.

The peasantry of Tennis Court, including myself, may live in flats that have mould growing on the roof and ovens that don’t work. However, we are pretty happy with our comfortable lower middle/working class lifestyle, situated in the leafy suburb of Edgbaston.

Tennis Court was a mad one

Tennis Court was a mad one

And after all, we are just grateful that we’re not, and never will be a ‘Maple Skank.’

The Vale student experience is not all its cracked up to be

I think it’s much better to live in Selly Oak – even in first year. You’re in the middle of all the bars, pubs, supermarkets and that Shisha place.

You are also much more likely to be closer to uni, even if you live at the top of Tiverton.

Living in Tennis Court was lovely with the leafy surroundings, but a lot of the time I also felt like I was living in the nether regions. The closest supermarket was Costcutter in Shackleton, and The Duck and Scholar was probably the worst idea of a night out I could imagine.

Now I live 5 minutes from campus and The Goose is across the road.

It’s always marketed that the Vale is the ultimate student experience, and those living elsewhere are losing out. It’s a lie. You may have fun living there, but I’d imagine you’d enjoy it just as much in Pritchatts Park.

As with everywhere in life, the experience teaches you that it’s much less about the place, and more about the people you’re with.

You’ll be amazed how cheaply you can cook for yourself

Especially, if you were on meal plan in first year. The £50 a week allowance bought me just about two meals a day during the week, meaning I had to subsidise it with my own shopping and buy my own food at weekends. Most facilities aren’t open at weekends either.

Now £50 gets me about two and a bit weeks worth of shopping from either Aldi or Tesco, including alcohol. And by alcohol, I mean the good stuff – not Glen’s Vodka.

I've gone up in the world since coming off meal plan

I’ve gone up in the world since coming off meal plan

If you want a good night, you have to head into the centre

We are at a bit of a disadvantage being a campus uni, on the outskirts of Birmingham. Still, a train into the centre is only £1.90 return with a Railcard and taxi fares are around £2 each if you go in a group. Its a small price to pay, if you want to avoid a mediocre and repetitive night at Fab.

Just don’t go there. The music is crap and you’re bound to bump into someone you don’t like.

Selly Oak is ok, and I’ve had good nights in The Pear and Urban Village. However if you want a night that differs from drinking cheap cider and playing pool the centre is where it’s at.


New varieties of bars and clubs are opening up in Birmingham all the time. You’ll be amongst a diverse range of people, young and old- instead of just being surrounded by chundering students. The alcohol isn’t even that much more expensive than on campus and in Selly.

Birmingham is a nice place to live

Living and studying here will break down that nasty preconception many people have – that Birmingham is still the concrete shit-hole it was 30 years ago. Being a student at the University, you get to live on a very nice side of the city. Harborne and Edgbaston have everything you need for when you want to escape the business of the city centre, or the loudness of Selly Oak. It is a city that has the best of both worlds.


Who knows, you may even want to stay here after you graduate. Around 40% of graduates currently do. Living in Birmingham doesn’t mean you’re an uncultured pleb – quite the opposite.