Local or commuting students

Each year, around a quarter of students across the UK choose to live off-campus with their family, partner, friends, or by themselves. Staying local or commuting to university may not be seen as the typical situation for students, but many find it to be a better option for a variety of reasons.

A commuter student is classed as a student whose term-time address is the same as their home address - for some, this means travelling very locally to campus from Birmingham, whilst for others it means a longer commute from a nearby town or city, or even further afield. Each student’s journey is entirely different, and each has its own advantages and challenges.

For many students, commuting offers them a chance to save money and the benefit of knowing the local area means that it can sometimes be an easier transition to university life. However, commuting can also come with certain challenges; a significant part of your day will be dedicated to travelling, and you may lack the immediate and quickly established friendship groups that those living in shared accommodation often experience. Although this can mean a degree of extra work, it will absolutely not stand in the way of you having an exciting and fulfilling student experience – it just means it’ll be unique to you!

Commuter Students' Welcome Day

On Sunday 22 September, during Arrivals Weekend, the Commuter Welcome Day will take place in the Guild of Students. Parents, guardians and families are invited to attend the Parents Welcome Addresses, whilst you can meet other local and commuting students, socialise, attend relevant talks, and grab some freebies to take with you.  More information and how to sign up to the event can be found on the Commuter Students' Welcome Day events page. 

Tips and Advice

Read our tips and advice on how to get the most out of your experience as a commuting student.

Travel advice for commuters

  • Make sure you know the best way to travel to the University for you. You might want to think about back up plans or routes in case there are issues with public transport.
  • If you’re planning to drive, then see if you're eligible for a student parking permit, and sign up to our car share scheme - you can search for like-minded people to share the commute with, and it’s good for both the environment and your wallet! 
  • If you’re planning to travel via public transport, then there are a variety of passes you can get to help mitigate the costs. The Network West Midlands Student Card allows unlimited bus, train and tram travel across the Network West Midlands area, and can often be a cheaper option if you’ll be using more than one method of transport.
  • If you travel solely by train, then a 16-25 Railcard (also available those over 25 who are studying full-time), will allow you to save a third on rail fares throughout Great Britain. Unfortunately, this cannot be used to save on season tickets, so take the time to work out which is better suited for your needs. The University of Birmingham has its own train station, only two stops (8 minutes) away from Birmingham New Street, which means you can travel directly from home to campus and the local area.
  • If you’re planning to take the bus, then both the Network West Midlands Student Card and the National Express Student Bus Pass can give you a great deal on your transport per term. There are eight local services (1A, 61, 63, X64, 76, X20, X21, X22) that directly serve the University, and provide links to the Vale, the City Centre, local train stations, and residential areas, including Solihull, Kings Heath, Kings Norton, Harborne, Bearwood, and Cotteridge.
  • If you’re lucky enough to be able to cycle to campus, then there is an array of resources in place to help you. The Worcester & Birmingham canal allows easy access right into the heart of the Edgbaston campus, and the National Cycle Network: Route number 5  goes very near to the University too. Cyclestreets.net is also a great place to look for a route. You can get a free D-Lock to secure your bike when you register it with BikeRegister, the national cycle database approved by the police. Find out about cycle racks, cycle lockers and showers on campus, and further information and support for cyclists on campus.
  • In case of emergencies, it’s worthwhile to have the number or apps for local taxis on your phone – especially when travelling back from nights out, this can help make sure that you get home safely. Why not try and travel home with a friend from your local area, or see if a friend who lives near the university might let you stay over?
  • Download the UoB Campus Maps app to your phone! Not only is it great for finding your way around campus, but it also has a travel section to show the nearest bus stops and train stations, as well as the departure boards for both. The Network West Midlands apps, and Google Maps can also be extremely helpful, as they can show you the best way to get from place to place, as well as live times and updates. They can be also be useful to plan your journeys if you are planning on staying at university late.  
  • As a commuter student, travelling will soon become an integral part of your student experience, and whether you drive, get the train or use public transport, it’s important that you try to make the most of it. Reading (not whilst driving!), catching up on notes, listening to podcasts or lectures, making lists, or even just thinking through your plans for the day can often be done whilst travelling, and it means that you’re using your journey time to your advantage. Likewise, taking some time to relax and reflect can be excellent for your wellbeing, and means that you’ll be fully energised and ready to start your day!

Practical tips for commuters

  • The University campus has a wide array of facilities available, and many can be particularly useful to commuter students. The Main Library has a small selection of lockers available for day use whilst you’re studying, so it can be helpful if you don’t have anywhere to leave heavy textbooks. Likewise, if you don’t want to bring a laptop into campus every day, the Main Library has loanable laptops you can use in the library.
  • There are microwaves available in the Guild of Students, whilst both the Aston Webb Study Lounge and the Alan Walters building have a microwave and hot water taps available – bring your own lunch and a reusable coffee cup to save money (and the environment)!
  • There is a wide variety of food and drink on campus. There are also lots of supermarkets and cafés in Selly Oak - less than a ten minute walk from campus - as well as the two Spar shops in the Guild and University Centre.
  • Occasionally there will be an unavoidable situation that results in a lecture being cancelled. Obviously this is particularly frustrating if you’ve had to travel a long way, but connecting your student email to your phone and downloading the Canvas app (available on iOS and Android) might help you catch any last minute notifications and enable you to plan your day accordingly.
  • Just because you’re not based on campus, it doesn’t mean that your wellbeing isn’t our top priority – if you find yourself struggling in any way, we have a whole range of student wellbeing services to support you through your time at University.

Creating a commuter student community

  • There is sometimes a perception that by choosing to live at home throughout university you might find it harder to make friends or fit in, but this doesn’t have to be the case. The Commuter Students Association aims to be a support and voice for those students whose home and term time addresses are the same by hosting socials, and acting as a friendly point of contact. They put on a variety of events, both throughout Welcome and beyond; keep up with them via their social media to learn more.
  • The Guild of Students also has a part-time Commuter Students’ Officer, who represents you and your interests to the wider University. Find out how to get in contact with them, or meet them during Welcome Week at some of the Commuter Students Association events.
  • Although lectures for most courses do not officially start until Monday 30 September, it’s extremely worthwhile to make the journey to campus during Welcome Week. Most courses have inductions and social events throughout, and it’s your first chance to meet other like-minded people through societies – with over 300 groups to choose from, this is a great way to make friends when you’re not living with other students! There are a wide variety of events going on throughout Welcome, create an account on the Welcome Timetable to help you plan your week.
  • Take advantage of all the time you spend on campus; although it can be frustrating to be left with a long gap between lectures, it can still be extremely useful and really serve to enhance your experience of student life. You could potentially get a membership to the Sport& Fitness Centre, or you could visit the library or another study space to get ahead on your assignments.
  • Getting some careers or work experience on campus could also help you feel more involved. Use the Careers Network to get some advice about your CV or interview skills, sign up with Worklink to find out about the paid part-time work available on campus, or discover different volunteering opportunities. This can also be a great time to get involved with societies. Talk to groups at the Societies Fair and see if there are any that interest you.

 

Sam Lee

Third Year Biomedical Science

“Commuting every day can be stressful at times and it forces you to put more energy into the social side of university life. However, compared to where I was as a person before university, I feel far more confident, experienced, proactive, patient and relaxed – and I believe that commuting has had a great deal to do with this.”

 

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