Commuting vs. Living Near Uni for PhD study


Hi everyone,

I'm getting to the point now where I need to begin looking for accommodation for next year, prior to beginning a PhD.

I do not yet know what my partner may be doing after undergraduate degrees finish (Both in our final year), and there is a chance they'll find something close enough to allow for us to move in together.

I was just wondering as to whether any of you have had any experience of commuting into university regularly for a PhD (5 days a week on the train), or at all, and what your experience of it was? Do you wish you had lived closer? Were there any times in which you were at a major disadvantage for work?

Thank you in advance for any replies!


What kind of work will you be doing? Lab work, field work, library-based, only computer-based? It has a bearing on how inconvenient or otherwise living a distance may be.


Hi HazyJane, thanks for your reply.

The majority of work will be library-based or computer based. Once a week I will also need to commute further to visit my industrial partner. One final point to consider is that the DTP I am on are heavily focused on "personal and professional development" etc, so I will most likely be visiting university quite regularly for these also.


My personal feelings are that students that live far from university have a somewhat reduced experience. It means they are less likely to participate in university activities because they have limited time and want to focus on work, and are less available for spontaneous nights out and so forth.

I live 20 mins walk from uni and I love it on the weekends when I can just pop in the car and I'm there in 5 mins. It makes a big difference to me. I'm not likely to pop in on the weekend to set up a 5 experiment ready for Monday if I had to make an hour round trip for example.

Most students I know like to live as close as possible to uni.


I only live about 7 miles away but commutes into a large city means that takes me roughly 1-1.5 hours each way so 2-3 hours out of my day each time I need to go in. I can't be very flexible either because of it and can't stay too late. It's a pain. I have no choice though as I have a family and children at school. This means I didn't get the social life I was sort of looking forward to and instead I'm hoping I can spend less time at uni and more time at home in year 3 so I don't loose so much time to travelling when I should be writing!


My round trip to uni takes 4-5 hours and I go there as infrequently as I can. My type of research means that's possible and I work from home most of the time, but it definitely means I don't take part in anything other than work-related stuff at uni, and I do feel less connected to the department as a result. I'm in my 40s and I think if I was any younger it would have bothered me a lot more.


I'm a part-time student so I've rarely had to commute into uni 5 days a week. I live in a London suburb and commute into the centre once or twice a week. Commuting by train can be very expensive if you have travel at peak time. It can also be hell if you can't get a seat and the train is very crowded. I either leave very early or wait till after 9.30am to miss the worst of the crowds. I have noise cancelling headphones (which don't leak sound and annoy other people) to block out other people's music and phone conversations, and I find that I can really concentrate on reading academic books and articles, so commuting time is quite productive. I agree with Tree of Life that the further you live from uni, the less likely you are to participate in social activities and evening seminars etc. It's not so much a problem in London but it might be where trains are less frequent and the last train leaves relatively early in the evening.

Avatar for Mark_B

I used to commute from Gloucestershire to South Wales as a PhD student. This included leaving the house at 6AM and driving over the Severn Bridge to teach a 9AM seminar on Victorian Literature twice a week. I made damned sure those students cared about Tennyson ;)

... I'd agree with some of what other folks here have said. You *can* get on with a lot work involved in a PhD project remotely (in certain disciplines, at least) but there's also a lot to be said for getting involved with the research community around your university - workshops, socials, etc.


I agree, I have an hour or so commute each way so I try and go to Uni as infrequently as possible. It's fine because I'm computer based, but I don't see my fellow students as often and miss do some things.


Hey there,

As others have suggested, it is probably better to be closer rather than further from the uni if you want to get involved with events/professional development.

I commuted throughout the PhD as I lived quite a ways a way (well 35 minutes if using toll roads, but with traffic it could be anywhere from 1-2 hour drive).

However, I'm quite introverted and had a close circle of non-academic friends that I enjoyed being with when I wasn't working on my studies, so this suited me as I worked mostly from home. I was also doing volunteer work outside of uni, so didn't become completely embedded in the university lifestyle.

I think this was helpful, for me at least, to maintain some distance from academia/be able to separate myself from it in my personal life. It also meant that I didn't feel the strong 'competitiveness'/comparing myself to other students that may have impacted my self-esteem and productivity. By working on my own (social science) I was able to concentrate and get high-quality work done.

This didn't impact me too negatively. I finished within my allotted funding period of 3.5 years and passed with a very strong result. I'm now working at this university on a full-time contract as an academic.

I still commute to this same uni for a full-time (contract) job 4 days a week and try to work from home 1 day. Because of traffic, I work very long days, I'm up at 5:30 and at my desk by 7am; leave around 4-4:30 and home by 5-630 depending on traffic.

Commuting does take its toll, I'm shattered at the end of each day, but because I go in most days, I can effectively 'leave my work there' which you can't do when you work from home. Unless its absolutely essential, I do not take my work home with me, which is doing wonders for my relationships :)