About Birmingham and Student Life

If you are coming to Birmingham for the first time, the image you have of the city may depend on your previous research: either Birmingham is a bustling, ethnically-diverse city with a vibrant nightlife and friendly locals, the UK’s number one conference venue at the heart of the nation (the official version); or it is a motorway-encircled concrete jungle!

You may find that the truth lies somewhere between these extreme views. Birmingham is certainly multi-ethnic: its population of just over one million embraces a range of communities including Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Polish, Somalian, Chinese and Irish, a diversity reflected not least in the city’s burgeoning restaurant scene.

Culturally, the city is home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and there is a good range of theatres, music venues, arts centres, galleries and museums. Nightlife is centred around Broad Street and Brindleyplace - very convenient for UCB and the student halls of residence!  On the sporting front, professional cricket is played at Edgbaston, while the West Midlands is home to famous football clubs such as: Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Coventry City.

Birmingham is a major centre for conferences and live concerts, with impressive facilities such as the National Exhibition Centre, the Genting Arena, the International Convention Centre, Symphony Hall and the Barclaycard Arena, formerly known as the National Indoor Arena. It is also home to BBC local radio and television, ITV Television, a number of independent local radio stations and several local newspapers.

Visitors are always impressed by the number of trees and green spaces in the city. Indeed, it has more trees per head of population than any other town or city in Europe. The canals that thread their silent way through the modern centre, a reminder of the city’s industrial heritage, have become a focal point for the regeneration of the heart of the city. Just beyond the city boundary lie beautiful countryside, historic houses, interesting towns and pretty villages.

The famous Bullring is a popular shopping area providing a wide range of shops to suit all budgets. The nearby Mailbox complex offers further shopping outlets, including Harvey Nichols, and restaurants, some of which are in canalside locations.

Two impressive developments in Birmingham are Millennium Point, which houses the city’s Science Museum and other attractions including the IMAX Cinema; and the new Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square, which opened in September 2013 and houses thousands of books, journals and newspapers, a number of important collections, large reference sections, two gardens and an amphitheatre!  These are two thriving centres for education and culture close to the city centre.

Whatever your image of Birmingham may be, you are likely to find that the face of the city will change constantly during your time here.  Why not find about more about the city on the Birmingham Toolkit?

Not sure what to expect?

The traditional image of a Higher Education Institution is of a place away from home where you go after leaving school at the age of 18, study full-time and live in a hall of residence. You emerge three or four years later with a qualification which will set you up for a lifelong career.

Does this describe UCB accurately? Well, yes and no.

We have over 8,000 students at UCB, of whom around 70% join us direct from school. Around 50% of our students are under 25 when they start at UCB, and 10% are studying part-time. Many full-time students have part-time jobs.

Approximately 40% of our higher education students live in a hall of residence - yet, for almost half of our students, UCB is their local university.

We have 1500 international students from over 80 different countries.

So, is this a place where you can come and enjoy meeting lots of people - some the same, some different to you? Absolutely!

Adjusting to student life

It is increasingly true that our students bring with them a wonderful range of experiences and cultural diversity. However, whether you are coming straight from school, have just moved to Birmingham from another country or are returning to education as a part-time student, the best way to settle in is to take advantage of the support offered to you by the staff at UCB. Whilst we recognise that you will each have a different individual experience, we want you to get the most from your student life. For some it may be adjusting to a new culture, for others the work/life balance and the academic demands of the programme may seem daunting at first. If you feel challenged in any way, then talk to us – from this Handbook you may be able to identify the support you need or, alternatively, speak to your personal tutor.

During the time it takes to settle in to your studies, it is important to keep in mind why you decided to undertake this programme and how you saw it as a path to your future development. It is certainly true for all students that it will be worth the effort; your employment prospects will be improved and your life will change.