Bristol is a major student city in the south west of England that has around 50,000 enrolled university students from the UK and abroad.


Downtown Bristol

Bristol, England (South West)

Population: 428,100

University students: 49,610 (11.6%)


Bristol, University of the West of England

The major city in England's south west

Bristol is the unofficial capital of south west England. It has a city population of 428,100 and a greater urban population upwards of a million people. It is also a cultural centre, particularly with respect to film and music, and employs thousands of British industrial workers.

Bristol has strong credentials as a student city, with close to 50,000 university students studying at city campuses. Students tend to dominate community life in many parts of the inner city.

1. Geography, industry and climate

Bristol harbour is a popular place for the city's university students, with many attractions located in the area.Bristol HarbourBristol is on the Avon River near the Severn estuary, about 100 miles west of London. It is the leading port and chief commercial and industrial centre of the south west. Among its varied industrial activities are aircraft and engine construction, nuclear engineering, and ship building and repair.

The commercial Port of Bristol was originally in the city centre before port activities were moved to Avonmouth on the western edge of the city boundary. The economy is now propelled by creative media, electronics and aerospace industries, and the old docks have been regenerated as a centre of heritage and culture.

Situated in the south of the country, Bristol is one of the warmest cities in the UK. The average minimum is 8.3°C (46.9°F) and average maximum is 14.1°C (57.4°F).  It is also among the sunniest, with 4.2 to 5.2 hours of sunshine per day. The city is partially sheltered by the Mendip Hills but also exposed to the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel.

2. Accommodation

Students are well catered for, with both universities guaranteeing (subject to conditions) accommodation for new full-time undergraduate students during their first year.

The University of the West of England (UWE) houses 1,932 students at its flagship Student Village on Frenchay Campus, with rooms starting at £5,391 for 40 weeks. Residential fees are generally higher at the University of Bristol's campus facilities, with basic accommodation normally around £5,800.

3. Transport

Private car usage in Bristol is high and the city suffers from congestion. However, there are good links to other parts of the UK.


Public transport in the city consists largely of a bus network. Buses in the city have been widely criticised for being unreliable and expensive. However, UWE runs a subsidised bus service that connects campuses to the city centre.


Most locations in central Bristol (Harbourside and Old City areas) can be fairly quickly traversed on foot. There are plenty of attractive walking routes along the quay sides and in the pedestrianised central streets.

Bike riding

Bristol has plenty of bike paths and routes and is at the centre of the National Cycle Network.


Bristol Temple Meads station is about 15 minutes walk from the city centre and has regular inter-city and regional train services to Bath, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, London, Plymouth, Southampton, Swansea and York. It is the oldest continuously operating train station in the world. There is a second main railway station in Bristol Parkway, several miles north of the city centre that handles local commuting.


The centre of Bristol follows a one way city system, which can be frustrating and confusing for uninitiated drivers. However, with patience, practice and after circling around the same areas numerous times, it eventually becomes easier.

The M5 and M4 motorways intersect near Bristol and traffic is brought directly into the city centre via the M32, a motorway 'spur'. The M4 links London with Bristol and has a driving time under two hours.


Bristol Airport is 8 miles south-west of the city centre and offers scheduled flights to major European cities.


Because the city centre is built around a harbour, boats can be a good way of sightseeing and commuting. Ferry boats are busy on the harbour, with stops at various quays and also a direct commuter service between the city centre and main rail station.

4. Attractions

Bristol has many street stalls that cater to the student city's almost 50,000 university and college students.Bristol street cultureThe city attracts a regular influx of young people from surrounding areas, drawn in part by the social and music scene. It has produced musical artists that include Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky and Roni Size.

The floating harbour is Bristol's lifestyle centrepiece and many attractions are on or close to the harbour, including Blue Reef Aquarium. Other Bristol highlights are the Zoo Gardens, Clifton Suspension Bridge (the city's most famous landmark) and the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

There are also a number of markets in and around the city. St Nicholas Market in the centre, near Corn Street, is a permanent fixture and has stalls selling items such as jewellery, books and street food. There are a number of farmers markets (and similar events) held at venues around the city.


Pubs and clubs in central Bristol City come alive when the university students are not studying.Live music in a Bristol clubBristol has a huge choice of bars and restaurants. Many are positioned around the Harbourside and West End.

The 50,000 student population means that venues tend to cater to the student market and offer cheap deals. This only partly offsets the city's high cost of living. Popular areas become extremely busy during peak social times for students.

5. Recreation and sport

Bristol City Council operates a number of sports centres and swimming pools and there is the usual supply of gyms and fitness centres that you would expect from a large city.

For cyclists, the Bristol to Bath Railway cycle path runs on a disused railway line from central Bristol to Bath. It has gentle gradients and minimal road crossings along a 22 km stretch. At a leisurely pace, the journey to Bath is about 2 hours, taking cyclists through green suburbs and attractive countryside.

Bristol has a number of notable professional sports teams and a large number of active amateur sports clubs. Bristol City and Bristol Rovers are the city's professional football teams. Gloucestershire County Cricket Club has its headquarters in the city and the Bristol Rugby Club has a rich history.

6. Universities

The University of the West of England has more than 30,000 enrolled students, many coming from the south west region of England.University of the West of EnglandBristol is home to two universities, the University of Bristol - which has around 19,000 students - and University of the West of England (UWE) - which has more than 30,000 students.

The University of Bristol is strongly based in the city. Most of the main buildings are within a few minutes' walk of each other in a lively part of the city centre. They are about a 30-minute walk from the student residences in leafy Stoke Bishop.

UWE has four campuses around Bristol. The main campus is at Frenchay, about five miles north of the city centre. Other campuses are at St Matthias and Glenside in north-east Bristol and Bower Ashton in south-west Bristol.

Both universities are largely comprised of students from the region. Standard tuition fees for international students are £12,000 and £10,750 per year for Bristol Uni and UWE respectively. Graduates from the University of Bristol report a slightly higher level of course satisfaction, with a rating of 2.8 / 5.0 compared to 2.3 / 5.0 for UWE.