This is a guest post from James Rice, Head of Digital Marketing at WikiJobs.
According to the annual QS World University Rankings published in November, London is the third-best city in the world to be a student (behind only Paris and Melbourne). Not only that, but it came first in the categories for university rankings and employer activity, with the maximum possible score.
The good news
There is little doubt that London’s premier universities are world-class. Or that London is the UK’s hub of employment – with burgeoning finance, construction and tech sectors – and is leading the country’s economic recovery. The capital’s economy is set to increase by 15% over the next five years, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, contributing almost a third of the UK’s growth.
All this bodes well for students and graduates, who stand to benefit from exposure to internships in London, and from the extra vacancies created by the city’s growth. But is the road to London really paved with gold? Should it be the automatic choice for all London graduates?
The not-so-good news
What the QS report also highlighted was where London really falls short compared to many other university cities. For desirability, based on indicators of liveability, safety, corruption and pollution, London came 28th. The air pollution problem in London is well-known: the city’s atmosphere is among the most polluted in Europe, and Oxford Street has higher levels of nitrogen dioxide than Beijing.
London performed even worse for affordability – which will come as no surprise to those students currently living there. Of the 50 university cities ranked in the QS report, London came at the very bottom, behind even Copenhagen and Stockholm. Average living costs for London students is typically in excess of £1,000, not including tuition fees. There’s no doubt it’s a squeeze, especially when you consider that the average graduate from Queen Mary will earn £24K six months after being in work, according to this study, and the average cost of renting a home in London is now over £1,400 per month.
London has many attractions: the job and internship market is healthy; the salaries are usually higher than elsewhere in the UK; the entertainment and restaurant scene is very vibrant; many of your friends may be working there already. In some industries, London may well be the only realistic location when starting out your career. But that won’t always be the case – and after studying in London, you could find yourself hankering for a change of scene (as well as a chance to save money a bit more effectively).
Looking outside of London for graduate jobs may throw up opportunities you hadn’t previously considered. Competition in regional offices will be less pressing, for one thing, and opportunities for career development may be more favourable. Your commute will almost certainly be less painful. And your quality of life might surprise you.