So the time has come for you to decide which universities should be in your top five, ready for those dreaded UCAS applications.
I’m an ex-Plymouth University student and I’m here to offer you as much information as I can on what it was like to go to university in Plymouth, England – just in case you’re thinking of including it in your top choices.
As the University of Plymouth is home to tens of thousands of students, the campus is large and has a lot to offer. Most lecture theatres are modern, comfortable and easily sit hundreds of students at a time. And a couple of the lecture theatres are in really cool buildings – such as one that is in a converted church… that was always a cool novelty to have lectures in there.
The library is large and packed with everything you’ll ever need to complete assignments. You can even book private rooms for free, which provide you with a great option for when you need to either focus on a complex assignment, or work in small teams without distractions.
When I attended university here from 2009-2012, there was a baguette shop on campus (just opposite the library). I believe it’s called Loafers now, but I’m not sure if they still sell their baguettes. I hope they do because not only were the baguettes large and cheap, they were seriously tasty. I recommend the chicken and bacon one if they do still sell them.
The campus is also really central to the rest of the city. The Drake Circus shopping centre is just next door, and Plymouth’s train station is a short 15 minutes walk away.
And finally, I only have good things to say about the University Medical Centre. The doctors here were the first to establish that I’m at high risk of a stroke, which is related to medication I’d been on previously for over two years. I’ll never forget the help they gave me here and only wish I’d been able to find doctors just as good now that I’ve left uni.
Although the university isn’t super high on UK league tables, this shouldn’t put you off from finding a course that suits you. I’m a firm believer in your university life being about more than just classes. The city is going to be your home for the next 3 or 4 years, or maybe even longer, so you need to think about all aspects of your home life.
That said, you’re going to be investing a lot of money in your education, so of course, you want to pick a good university.
And hey, your mind should definitely be put to rest when you learn that the University of Plymouth was recently rated as one of the top 30 universities, in the 2016 Whatuni Student Choice Awards.
I studied Marketing originally at Plymouth, which was pretty good. I do find it a little strange that we were required to study Accounting and Economics in our first year – I mean, how is that going to help a Marketing professional? But that said, these modules lay a great foundation for life beyond university. I don’t think I’d be working for a Business Management Software company now if I didn’t have a good understanding of more general business-related issues and theories. And Plymouth’s business school is certainly worth all of the investment they’ve put into it over the years.
Aside from business courses, Plymouth is certainly renowned for its biological sciences, particularly Marine Biology. So if you’re opting for one of those courses, Plymouth’s definitely a good place to come to study.
But those are just a couple of examples of reputable courses. For a full run-through of what else you can study here, check out the university’s official website.
And for more info on what the university is like to study at, this guide from Which? Is pretty good.
Let’s be honest – university life is largely dependent on the nightlife that’s on offer.
As Plymouth has such a large university (30,000+ students), the city has been moulded over the decades to accommodate for this.
Not only is Freshers Week a hit when it comes to local bars and clubs getting involved, but there are a number that host ‘student’ nights, which are great fun!
Oceana (now called PRYZM) and Revolution were particularly great nights out. PRYZM has several rooms, each with a different theme, such as Disco and DJ. You can also book VIP booths for birthdays, stag dos, hen parties and other celebrations. I’ve gone in the booths a number of times now, and they’re super fancy with champagne included (depending on the package you choose). Revolution is another great option – their 2 for 1 cocktails are incredible, which are available when you buy the Revolution Card for £3 (so worth it!)
The Students’ Union is also a great night out (especially during the weekend), and is the better option if you’re looking to mix with different year groups rather than just other first years.
And finally, North Hill, right on the campus’s doorstep is awesome for bar crawls. There are a number of bars along here, so you can literally start at one end and work your way up or down the hill all night!
Plymouth as a whole is very modern and I would say a great city to live in. Not too busy, yet plenty going on…
Plymouth has a large shopping district. Drake Circus is the indoor shopping centre, and then there’s the high street and old part of Plymouth, which is still bustling with lots of shops, restaurants and cafés.
Bonfire Night every November is epic and celebrated down at ‘The Hoe’, Plymouth’s waterfront. The fireworks are always sent from the middle of a jetty, which makes it look like they’re being launched in the middle of the bay. And throughout the night, lots of food stalls and funfair rides spring up, which are great fun.
There’s so much to do in Plymouth. Whether you fancy something simple like heading to the cinema, or bowling, or something more exciting like riding jet skis or kayaking. Being a seaside city, time spent in and on the water is one of the best ways to spend your time here. I’d also recommend the aquarium – it’s huge! And when the weather’s good, Central Park is definitely worth it. It’s a huge park and is a hit with local dog walkers (you know, in case you’re missing your pooch from back home). Plus, there are a number of trees that are easy to climb up – just don’t try this when you’re drunk or hungover!
Driving in Plymouth
As Plymouth is a city that doesn’t get overly busy, driving around doesn’t take much effort. The only thing you’ll need to be aware of is the vast number of one-way roads dotted around the city.
In fact, Plymouth’s such a great place to drive in, that it was where I first learned to drive and took my test. It offered a bit of everything – dual carriageways, one-way streets, hill-starts, city roads, roundabouts and even country lanes as it doesn’t take long until you can be out in the beautiful Devon countryside!
The university’s halls of residence is where you’ll likely live in your first year. There are a number of different ones, each with different facilities and price brackets.
Although it’s possible to get accommodation on campus, you’ll end up paying a lot more for these ones. Instead, I’d recommend scouting out the Robbins, Radnor or Pilgrim halls. They’re off campus, but they’re literally a 5 minute walk across the road and a lot cheaper than on-campus halls!
Once you hit your second and third year, you’ll need to start looking for your own accommodation. The university have their own directory you can use for private landlords that offer student accommodation, and you’ll find so many places in and around the city.
My advice would be to start looking early as you may find it difficult to agree on somewhere that all 4, 5, 6 or even more of you like. And the places closer to campus get snapped up pretty quickly. So once you come back from Christmas break in your first year, this should be when you start your searches.
We found a great house along Clifton Place that had room for five of us (4 doubles and 1 single), which was fairly modern inside and came with two showers (always a bonus when embarking on a house share!) We liked it so much that a few of us stayed there for two years, rather than just one. And from 2010-2012, we paid roughly £300-350 per month plus bills.
In hindsight, I would have definitely opted for somewhere that has bills inclusive in the rent price. Although you might end up paying a little more in rent each month (more like £400-450 per month), you’ll save yourselves the drama that can come with people not paying their share of the bills on time (or at all). Sadly, I’ve been there and done that in a couple of house shares – it’s never fun and can cause big fallouts between friends.
So my advice in a nutshell is:
- Start looking for accommodation once your Christmas break ends
- Try to find somewhere close to campus to save on travel costs
- Choose somewhere with an extra bathroom if possible
- Always opt for rent that is inclusive of bills!
Sports & Clubs
The University of Plymouth has a very active Students’ Union, which also helps to set up sports teams and various clubs you can join for a small, annual fee (e.g. £20 for the year).
You’ll hear all about these during Freshers Week, but to highlight a few, there’s archery, karate, cheerleading, scuba-diving, horseriding, you name it, Plymouth has it!
There’s also a gym on-campus, which is pretty cheap to join. It does get busy in there though so you may need to go in the late evening or early morning to miss the crowds. And once you’ve joined the gym, you can sign-up for exercise classes (including yoga) and are able to have free use of the sports halls.
Travel & Day Trips
Let’s face it, I wouldn’t be a very good travel blogger if I didn’t tie this all back to travel, now would I?
Although you may not be able to afford lots of overseas trips as a student, you can definitely make the most of Plymouth’s location.
For a start, popular seaside resorts and surfing destinations in Devon and Cornwall are just 2 hours away by train. Grab your young person’s railcard and these trips won’t cost too much at all!
If you can manage a trip to St Ives, definitely head there for a day out or weekend away – it’s beautiful!
For trips abroad, it’s really easy to get a ferry from Plymouth to take you to the Channel Islands, France and even Spain! Return trips (even in the height of summer) will set you back about £100-200 so this can be a great way to see Europe (even as a student).
And within Plymouth itself, you can hop on a cheap ferry to Mount Edgcumbe with the Cremyll Ferry. Costing just £1.50 each way, this is an awesome day out and a great way to relieve some stress before heading back home to continue writing assignments.
So what can you find at Mount Edgcumbe?
As one of Cornwall’s finest country estates, you’ll find fallow deer, an old manor house, coastal walks, landscaped gardens and the best views across the River Tamar and Plymouth Sound.
It’s also the quickest, easiest and cheapest way for you to hop across to Cornwall (for when you want to tick off as many of the UK counties as you can). Well worth a visit, I’d say.
In fact, I’ve written an entire blog post dedicated to Mount Edgcumbe as I loved visiting so much!
Right then, I think that’s about as much information and advice I can give you for now regarding studying at the University of Plymouth. Are you excited? Do you think Plymouth might make it on your list of top 5 universities? What are you hoping to study?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…
Looking for even more advice? Here’s a great article from Huffington Post, which contains loads of advice and info from other Plymouth University students!
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