Belfast City in Northern Ireland is home to more than 55,000 Irish and international university and college students.


Belfast, Northern Ireland

Population: 579,276 (Belfast urban area)

University students: 55,980 (9.7%)


Ulster, Queen's University Belfast

Belfast City

Northern Ireland's student capital

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland not just in terms of politics and culture but also education. It has two large universities and a major further education college.

Despite the city's long-standing history of religious-based tensions, riots and other violence, it is a relatively safe city as measured by crime statistics and as reported by residents and visitors. Avoiding trouble is as easy as staying out of political conversations and not wearing the wrong football jersey in the wrong place. Campus locations are in neutral areas, including the central part of the city.

1. Geography and climate

Belfast is at the mouth of a river that is surrounded by hills. As with the rest of Ireland, it has a temperate climate, often windy conditions, and rainfall throughout the year. Temperatures range from an average minimum of 6.0°C (42.9°F) to an average maximum of 12.7°C (54.8°F).

2. Accommodation

Student accommodation in Belfast is available close to campuses due to local students often commuting from outside the city.Belfast student accommodationDemand for student accommodation is eased by Northern Ireland's small size, which allows a high proportion of students from the region to commute. Students choosing to live close to campus are generally able to find accommodation - university provided or private - that is within walking distance of classes.

A large number of students are housed on or close to the Golden Mile, which is the stretch of streets, houses, shops and drinking establishments between Belfast City Hall and Queen's University.

Accommodation is fairly cheap by UK standards. A basic self-catered residential package costs around £3,280 at Queen's University. Ulster University charges students around £3,750 for apartment rooms in the main Jordanstown campus, which is seven miles from the city.

3. Transport

Students often choose to walk in Belfast city because it is compact and has limited public transport.Belfast streetsThe city offers bus services but most locals choose to drive rather than use public transport. It is relatively car-dependent by European standards. The centre of Belfast is small enough to be explored on foot. There are no buses or trains running during the night (except to the airports), leaving taxi services as the only non-walking option.

Belfast is served by two airports: George Best Belfast City Airport in the city, and Belfast International Airport 15 miles west of the city. Flights are available to many European cities, with the journey to London taking about an hour.

Cross-border train services run from Belfast to Dublin and back up to eight times daily. The journey time is around 2 hours.

Belfast is also a major port, with commercial and industrial docks dominating the Belfast Lough shoreline, including the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard.

4. Attractions

University students enjoy nights out in Belfast at pubs and clubs concentrated in the student dominated parts of the city.Belfast students at an arena concertThe area around Queen's University where many students live is a cultural hub of the city. The Queen's Quarter (one of Belfast's official districts) in south Belfast was named after the university. It hosts the annual Belfast Festival at Queen's - a wide-ranging arts festival - each autumn. It is also home to Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Museum.

Some of the best bars and restaurants in the city are to be found along the Golden Mile leading to Queen's University.  It comes alive between October and May due to the influx of university students who, when not studying, take to the bars, clubs and bistros. Pubs and bars typically close around 11:30pm but many located in the city centre and around the Golden Mile routes stay open until 1:00am.

5. Recreation and sport

Belfast has over forty public parks and an abundance of forest parkland, encouraging many locals to go for a picnic, stroll or a jog when the weather suits.

Watching and playing sports are important elements of Belfast culture. Close to six out of ten adults in Northern Ireland regularly participate in one or more sports. Belfast has several notable teams in sports that include rugby, cricket, football and ice hockey. The Belfast Marathon is also a major annual event.

Gaelic football is the most popular spectator sport in Ireland and Belfast is home to over twenty football and hurling clubs.

6. Universities and colleges

Queen's Univeristy Belfast is one of the larger universities in the UK and a key part of the Belfast city culture.Queen's University BelfastBelfast has two universities. Queen's University Belfast is one of the largest universities in the UK with 29,410 undergraduate and postgraduate students. It is spread over 250 buildings dotted across a number of public streets in central and south Belfast.

In addition to the main institution, the university has two associated university colleges, St Mary's and Stranmillis. Although offering a range of degrees, they primarily provide teacher training courses of study.

Graduates rate the quality of courses from Queen's University highly, with an overall satisfaction rating of 4.2 / 5.0. The standard annual tuition fee for international students is £11,500.

The University of Ulster is a multi-centre university with around 26,500 students. It has a small campus in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast. Other campuses are Jordanstown (seven miles from Belfast city centre), Coleraine (about 55 miles from Belfast city), and Magee (about 70 miles from Belfast).

Ulster University's graduate satisfaction score is 3.4 / 5.0, which is well above average among UK universities. Tuition fees for international students are set at £9,500.

Belfast Metropolitan College is a further education college with several campuses around the city. It has over 53,000 students enrolled on full-time and part-time study courses, making it one of the largest vocational colleges in the UK.