Student cities: studying in Manchester
Manchester is famous for its musicians, its football teams, its left-wing activism, its LGBT scene and MediaCity UK, where a huge chunk of the BBC’s empire now lives. It’s a massive hive of university activity too. Manchester likes to feel it sets the trend in student life.
Manchester’s three universities are in the heart of the city. The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) have city-centre campuses. MMU’s other sites are in south Manchester, and in Alsager and Crewe in the neighbouring county of Cheshire. The campus for the University of Salford is one mile from the centre of Manchester.
Manchester could be a good fit for you if you don't like to be too conventional: the city makes the TARGETcareers top five universities for Bohemian life. However, there's also masses to do if your tastes are more mainstream.
Student areas in Manchester
Most students in Manchester live in the south of the city, around Withington and especially around the Ladybarn Road and Mauldeth Road areas of Fallowfield. There are seven halls of residence in the University of Manchester’s Fallowfield Campus. The area is packed with cheap and cool bars, venues and cafes.
The University of Manchester also has eight halls at Victoria Park, which is leafier than Fallowfield and is between it and the city centre. Victoria Park is very handy for a biriyani as it’s next to the Curry Mile.
Chorlton-cum-Hardy may sound like it’s a comedy sketch set in WW1 but it is probably the poshest suburb of Manchester where you might find students. Chorlton – as it’s known to locals – has an organic foodie, laid-back vibe. You’ll rarely find bouncers on the doors of its bars.
Free and cheap stuff to do in Manchester
Depending upon your tastes, a free trip to watch The Jeremy Kyle Show live at Granada Studios is or isn’t a treat. Regardless, it’s a popular outing for Manchester’s students.
Elsewhere on the Mancunian free trail are a trip to People’s History Museum (which charts the rise of democracy in Britain), the Museum of Science and Industry and the National Football Museum. There’s no admission charge to the IWM (Imperial War Museum) North either or the nearby art galleries at The Lowry. Additional zero-cost highlights are the dinosaurs and mummy exhibitions of the Manchester Museum and the works of famous painters at Manchester Art Gallery.
If you like Victorian architecture, Manchester Town Hall and the Corn Exchange are beautiful examples, inside and outside of the buildings.
For an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet at student rates, head to China Town. Or you might want to check out Sunday’s £4 open mic night at the Comedy Store, which is located among the new waterside bars of Deansgate Locks. Beat the Frog is an open mic night at rival comedy venue Frog and Bucket, in which the audience can vote performers on or off stage. The event has helped launch the careers of Peter Kay, Johnny Vegas, John Bishop, Jason Manford and Sarah Millican and is free with student ID.
According to its organisers, University of Manchester Student Union, Pangea Festival is the largest student music festival in Europe. Such is the scale of its ambition it’s been named after the prehistoric supercontinent that covered 60m square miles. Pangea is not free but is priced in a way that’s friendly to students’ bank accounts.
But in Manchester and nearby you’ll find the following summer festivals which are entirely free or which have some free shows as part of their events:
- Manchester Histories Festival, early June: bike rides, plays, music – all celebrating Mancunian life through the ages
- Barnaby Festival, Macclesfield, middle of June: ten days of arts, culture, music, walks and political debate
- Manchester Jazz Festival, last week of July
- Rochdale Feel Good Festival, third week of August: food market, battle of the bands and a few bigger name acts – all for free
- Manchester Food and Drink Festival, end of September and first two weeks of October
- Manchester Science Festival, October.
Moving up the price scale, Big Weekend, which is part of Manchester Pride at the end of August, is a music event costing around £20. You pay the same amount to get into Manchester Pop Fest, Salford (third weekend of August), which specialises in cutting edge and experimental indie bands.
The full-price summer music festivals include Parklife, Forest Live and newcomer Moovin Festival, which is a dance festival that books top-name reggae, hip-hop and rave acts.
Shopping in Manchester
Manchester’s main shopping complexes are the Trafford Centre and the Arndale. Take your NUS card with you to the latter to get discounts in its massive branch of Primark.
But if you’ve a bit more cash to splash it’s well worth taking the short stroll to the Northern Quarter. This is a quirky warren of independent traders and one of its best bits is Afflecks, a multi-storey bazaar selling everything from fudge to top hats. It’s a glorious place for fancy dress shopping and if you’re a fan of retro music such as 60s ska and reggae, 70s prog rock and 80s punk it has a couple of good record shops staffed by fans who know their stuff. The Northern Quarter is also really buzzy at night.
Popular markets include Longsight, Arndale, Wythenshawe, Church St/Northern Quarter, New Smithfield, Gorton and Harpurhey.
Finding somewhere to eat is never a problem in Manchester. This is especially so around Rusholme (otherwise known as the Curry Mile), which has the highest density of Indian, South Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants in the UK. It’s heaving with people, especially at weekends when you can dine until 3.00 am. There are off-peak curry sampling hours too. These cost around £5 for a buffet.
Dotted throughout Manchester are numerous cinemas but arts venue HOME is particularly good, with five screens showing independent films. HOME is also great for theatre, and you’ll find plenty of drama elsewhere in Manchester too. There’s an eclectic range on offer, from the showbiz musicals at the Palace Theatre to Contact, which looks like a fort from a Mad Max film and is home to original performances (theatre, comedy, circus and more) and workshops aimed at teenagers and young adults.
Manchester’s music scene is still a force of nature. MEN Arena, Manchester Academy and O2 Apollo are the major gig venues. But for the excitement of discovering hot new live acts, head for Night and Day, Deaf Institute and The Ruby Lounge – or Satan’s Hollow for metal bands.
The city’s nightclubs are lively. FAC251 is a popular student destination that plays everything from indie to drum and bass; other busy spots include Funkademia, LoLa Lo, Ark and Tiger Tiger.
Manchester has over 400 pubs and café bars. These range from the futuristic (Fab Café has a resident Dalek) to the very traditional (Marble Arch). Lammars is one of the go-to establishments in Manchester’s Gay Village. Read up on go-to Manchester venues with our guide to top universities for brilliant pubs and bars.
If you’re looking for work experience
Many international businesses have their UK headquarters in Manchester. There’s a very wide range of industries and professions represented in the city’s economy including digital and creative, biotech, manufacturing, law, finance, property, retail, tourism, education, health and local government.