Living/studying in London


Hi everyone,

I'm looking at PhDs starting next September, and all the advice I've been given seems to be that the best places for my field are concentrated in London. However, I've always been a bit apprehensive about living/studying in London - I have no experience of London other than trips/holidays there, as I'm from the north west of England, and went to university in the north as well.

I've always thought that living and studying there would be a hassle, in terms of getting about and having to live a long way outside the centre, finding somewhere to live that isn't "nasty" or stupidly expensive, facilities being overly expensive (I am aware that stipends can include a "London allowance", although not sure this is that much more), and it being a very unfriendly place full of people who are overworked and miserable.

I'm really looking for people who have experience of PhDs in London to tell me what it's really like, as I will admit I have no realistic idea myself. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!



======= Date Modified 11 Sep 2008 13:32:17 =======
London really isn't for everyone...if you have your doubts, then spend some time there over the xmas holiday in one of the halls of residence. I've moved out of London now...and I'm not relishing the thought of having to move back there for my career.

London is undoubtedly expensive, I ended up loaning additional money to my grant. Unfortunately, for my specialism, it's where I need to be.

Most people end up having a love-hate relationship with times it's a great place and then at other times it's bloody horrible. I never noticed it as particularly miserable or nasty until I visited lots of other world cities...I now have a hard time accepting people who say 'London is the best city in the world'.

I would recommend living in SW London...but it's v. expensive.


"and it being a very unfriendly place full of people who are overworked and miserable."

Bit of a sweeping assumption there! I don't think people in London are any more overworked or miserable than anywhere else. It's certainly not unfriendly!


I've lived in London for three years, and have just signed up for four more.

As you say you have no experience of London, do you have any friends you could stay with for a bit and explore the city? Or who studied at institutions where you would hope to do your PhD, who you could talk to?

I don't know if studying in London is "a hassle" as I've never studied anywhere else. It is expensive compared to a town in the north but it is also exciting and busy, never boring. I live centrally - there are bargains to be found. And the overworked, miserable people go back to their commuter towns in the evening leaving us party people to make the most of what London has to offer :-)


I agree with previous comments.. London appeals to some and not to others and it is definitely the sort of thing you have to experience for yourself.

I lived in london for 5 years when doing my undergrad and it took me a good 6-8 months to get used to the place.  I come from up north aswell and I found it a hard transition from country life to life in the big city. Coming from the north I did find people there rude and generally unfriendly.. it took me a while to get used to that but after a while it just becomes part of life.  After about a year I really started to love the place and I enjoyed my time there and like what was said before you do develop a love hate relationship. I used to take regular trips back home to give me a break from the hustle and bustle of the place as it can get a bit much.  There is always something to do there and you will never be at a loss of things to do and places to see, and if you do get fed up of the city there are good transport links to surrounding areas.

It is an expensive place to live and there is no denying that. Off the top of my head I think the london allowance is about £3k more on top of the stipend, its been a while since I have lived there now so I am nor sure if that would compensate for 'london life' 

All in all I did enjoy my time there but now I have left, the appeal of the place has now gone and I doubt I would ever live in London again. I like to go back every now and again to visit but that's enough for me!  If I was to move to a city now it would def be a northern one.

If nothing else.. it's hard to get a decent pint of decent beer in London!


I lived in London for a year while I did my masters at UCL, now I'm doing my PhD in the North East.

London is expensive (I pay basically half the rent now that I would in London, and my transport costs are zero). However, I'd definitely not say people are friendlier up north (no idea where that comes from at all, and it does annoy me a bit!). I lived in Archway, where I could get fantastic cheap food from my local grocery, which was run by a big Greek-Cypriot family, and there were a lot of community events going on, as well as loads of things to do (often free) in the city itself. I had AHRC funding with a London weighting, and I had money left over at the end of the year (although I'm not a big party animal!).

If you've lived in a bigger city before, then London doesn't really feel any different, it's just there's more to do. I'd love to move back there if I could afford it.


I'm from Liverpool, did my undergraduate degree in the north and I'm now beginning the fourth year of my PhD in London. I was apprehensive about coming here for similar reasons although I had been wondering about coming to London for some time since the industry I work in is based primarily here so this gave me a reason to finally make the move.

In terms of finances - yes it's more expensive but there are advantages of being a student in terms of council tax and travel - when I've been skint it's usually been my own fault! There are plenty of places to live that have good transport links for the place that you need to be or fast rail links (it's cheaper to live near an overland station than the tube and in my opinion a preferable way to travel). Having lived here I get frustrated about the public transport when I go to other UK cities and I've also found it really easy to get anywhere else in the UK or overseas since London is a destination for flights / rail services from most cities.

One thing I didn't realise is that London is made up of lots of smaller "villages." I socialise near to where I live (SW London) as well as going into the centre to meet friends who live elsewhere or go to a specific event/exhibition etc. I found my first flat share on

If I can answer any more specific questions, feel free to send me a message.


i am not fond of London- hate it in fact, far too busy for my liking. But I think it is mostly because i'm alone- if you socialise and have friends around you then the 'overworked and miserable' people can be tolerated i think. Expensive, yes it is but if you make up a budget etc then its ok. The people i find are unfriendly and short tempered as compared to other parts of the UK- which is understandable given that it is the capital but still it isn't pleasant.

But everyone is different and i'm sure you will be ok there- as long as you dont make the mistake of isolating yourself from other people. Being alone in a huge place like London, where people are constantly in a rush, can be very depressing.


I did things the other way round - grew up in South London and then moved to the NW of ENgland to do my undergrad degree. TBH I loved both places but there were som e differences. I don't think people in London are rude and unfreidly, they're just different. In the city i lived in the NW it's impossible to just go about your bussiness without random people talking to you. Yeah this is a sign of the friendliness of the north, but sometimes I just wantd to be left alone! London is also positive in that som mant people are not from london that you don't feel like an outsider. Certainly when I lived in the NW, despite having lived there for 7 years, and at the time planning to stay, I was never quite accepted. It was constantly assumed I was a student, even when I was working full time.
I've now moved back South, and I miss the north, but not really for the friendliness of the people. There are lots of nice people down here. I do notice the prices are A LOT more expensive and i have to socialise at hom more rather than going out, which I don't like as much. London wieghting should help a bit. There are cheap deals to be had if you share with people - try checking out for an axample of typical rent for one room in a shared house.


Odd. I just posted a reply, and it says I'm the last person to reply on the board homepage, but there is no sign of my words. Perhaps it was too long? I shall try reposting it in chunks. Should the original also reappear, apologies for clogging the thread.


As a life-long Londoner, I can't offer any useful advice re: how London compares with other places but...

However, I've always been a bit apprehensive about living/studying in London - I have no experience of London other than trips/holidays there

I'm sure you've figured this out already, but if your only experience has been as a tourist/visitor, then the reality of living there might not bear any resemblance. Tourist attractions are crazily busy - not everywhere is like that. A lot of people who don't know the city hop on the Tube to get everywhere. Whilst it is convenient, buses can be just as good, and actually a lot of places in the centre are dead easy to walk to and from - just choose your route well. For example, walking along Oxford St in the evening rush-hour = major hassle. Walking along the back streets that run parallel = a lot more pleasant and less stressful.

If you do move to London, I would recommend making use of Transport for London's journey planner ( and Walk It (


======= Date Modified 12 Sep 2008 11:38:47 =======

I've always thought that living and studying there would be a hassle, in terms of getting about and having to live a long way outside the centre, finding somewhere to live that isn't "nasty" or stupidly expensive, facilities being overly expensive.

1. Accommodation - definitely expensive compared with elsewhere. However, if you're a single student, you might be able to find a place in a hall of residence that is centrally located, thus saving on travel costs. If you're studying at the University of London, each college will have it's own halls, although you may need to apply quite far in advance. There are also some intercollegiate halls ( and some independent halls ( Finally, check out the Uni of London housing website ( which has a database of vetted private landlords, as well as adverts from people looking for housemates.

2. Journey - I don't know what people consider to be a reasonable amount of travelling time, as I've not been blessed with a 'walking distance' option since I was sixteen. All I will say is that because lots of people have to travel far, perhaps it doesn't seem so bad - you certainly won't be the only one. And commuting time can be good for reading. If you're looking for somewhere to live, do take into account travel when making your choice. For example, it can be better to live further out in zone 3, but with a really good transport link (e.g. just one tube journey) than to go for somewhere on the zone 1/2 boarder, but which is the wrong side of town and requires two tubes/buses. Journey time is not directly related to total distance. The Journey Planner site I mentioned above will help you suss this out. Also be aware that students are entitled to a 30% discount on travelcards, if you pay a fiver for the right photocard ( Well worth having.

3. Social life - London *is* expensive, but it's perfectly possible to live off a stipend, unless you have a really extravagant lifestyle. It's really a case of knowing how and where to save money and still have a good time. If you have the time (and I realise that's a big 'if' for a PhD student, there's no way that you won't be able to find things to do to amuse yourself cheaply. All the unis have loads of clubs and societies, but there's no need to stick to them. Lots of local stuff going on too. Just check out Time Out, or look up the sports clubs/other facilities in the area in which you live.


it being a very unfriendly place full of people who are overworked and miserable.

If you come to London and look for people who are overworked and miserable, you will see them everywhere. If you come and look for those who are totally nuts, you will see them everywhere. If you come and look for those who love it and wouldn't want to be anywhere else, you will see them everywhere. Essentially, you've got several million people. There are all sorts.

And don't think that people are unfriendly to the core. Just bear in mind that most of us don't do conversation in transit. The only way you can put up with the crowdedness of the commute is to be quite defensive of your personal space. If you try to strike up a conversation during rush hour, without good reason, people *will* think you're weird. But if you go along to something sociable, then the rules are different, and then there's no reason to expect that people are going to be unfriendly.

Good luck with your decision. I hope you aren't too put off by London - but then I am hugely biased in its favour! :)


Hey! I'm from the north west and am doing my PhD in London (start 3rd year next month). I have to say that I'm not a fan of central London, I find it unfriendlier than the north in my experience. Don't get me wrong, not everyone is the same and there are plenty of northerners here, but I think you will find it very different from the north west. Depends what you like. I'm from a busy northern city, but find London too busy and overwhelming. I find there are unwritten rules that you get used to once having lived there for a while. This particularly applies to walking in and around stations/busy streets. Also I find people aren't as "chatty". For example on public transport people tend to avoid eye contact (papers are a good tactic) and don't really talk to each other. However I must say that if I approach most people in London, they tend to be helpful and friendly enough. There are bad areas everywhere you go. Yes it is expensive but London allowance goes some way towards helping this. I actually live outside of London, in kent to be exact. The transport is more expensive but rent is cheaper and I live in the countryside, which I find more bearable. Its also very easy access to London (30 mins) and I get to travel overground (great as I don't like the smell of the underground, my journey to work used to take up to an hour on tube when I lived in central London), so thats may way of getting around living in London. Hope this is helpful, everybody is different, you may learn to love it! I don't so hopefully I'll be back up north or abroad as soon as my PhD is over.


London is the bigest shithole on earth. And doing an underpaid PhD there is even worse. Good luck to you, and god bless.