Liverpool University is the archetypal redbrick1 university. Indeed, one story has it that the term 'redbrick' originally refers to the Victoria Buildings, an early university site on Victoria Street. It offers a solid range of courses and a respectable academic reputation, as well as one of the best music and night life scenes in the country and plenty of cheap accommodation. It shares the city with two other Universities, Liverpool John Moores, formerly known as Liverpool Polytechnic, and Liverpool Hope University, the newest of them all, only gaining the power to award degrees in 2004 and university status in 20062. It is a popular place to study, with around 19,000 students and 4,500 staff at the last count.
History and Academia
Liverpool University was founded in 1881 as a pan-northern institution, covering Manchester and Leeds as well. As the towns grew in economic might, they could soon sustain their own seat of learning so Liverpool University was given its own charter in 1903. Famous alumni include Jon Snow (Channel 4 newsreader)3, Steve Coppell (football player and manager), Chris Lowe (the moodier Pet Shop Boy) and the actress Patricia Routledge. The University summarises its own history rather well. The university has its own website and the students' union has a website as well.
To summarise: solid. It isn't top of the class, but is a member of the Russell Group of research intensive universities and performs especially well in tropical medicine, veterinary medicine (one of the oldest faculties in the UK) and some of the scientific faculties. It has a shiny new cancer research centre. The law faculty runs some innovative courses which give access to a French or German legal qualification, but is otherwise quite conventional. The languages faculty is a bit meagre.
You can also do an MBA in Football Studies at Liverpool, and the lecturers are often quoted in various media analyses of the beautiful game and where it is going.
Finally, it is one of the largest providers of online courses in Europe.
Living in Liverpool
Housing and other essentials of life
Liverpool has to be one of the cheapest cities in the UK in which to be a student. The city has suffered a long economic decline4, which has lead to a decrease in population, and hence plenty of spare housing for rental. Much of this is at student prices, making it one of the few university cities where you can stroll in a few days before the start of term and still find something5. In addition, there are lots of discount supermarkets, launderettes, cheap curry houses and pubs.
The University also has a reasonable range of properties - halls out in the south of the city for first year students, and self-catering in the centre of the city which is basically for mature students, foreign students and those returning from a year abroad.
Other University facilities
The Student Union is an enormous rambling building, with all sorts of strange facilities all over the place. These include what must be one of the largest sets of urinals in the world6. There is a gentleman's barber in the basement, strange bars all over the place, dusty committee rooms; it's well worth an exploration.
It also owns a property for climbers/walkers/canoeists etc to use in Deiniolen near Llanberis, in the heart of a Welsh Nationalist stronghold. Be careful about which pubs you drink in though...
The best solution is the ubiquitous Liverpool bus. After deregulation a number of competing companies were set up, leading to the bus wars and aggressive tactics on popular routes including from halls to the campus. Manic overtaking to get to the stop first and waiting until the bus is completely crammed before leaving are the more annoying features of this. Taxis are still fairly cheap, and much more sensible than walking home after a club through Toxteth to get back to your first year accommodation, for example. Best way to move around the region is by train - there are plenty of services from Liverpool Lime Street. Incidentally, if you're not sure how to get to the University as you come out of the station - just head uphill - that will take you up Brownlow Street, and right up to the campus.
Town and Gown
Depending on the area you live in, relations between students and locals can range from mutual incomprehension but tolerance, to student bashing and mutual contempt. Student populations tend to congregate in poorer areas of the city, where some of the indigenous inhabitants have little understanding of the utility of going to university, whilst at the same time end up being exposed to the irritating side of student life (week-night drinking, noise and so on). Amongst students there is an unfortunately quite widespread view of the local population as 'scallies', looking for the smallest opportunity to steal your bike or start a fight. On Smithdown Road, where there are thousands of students mixed in with an economically deprived local population, things can occasionally get nasty. Kensington is another area with a big student population that can also be quite dangerous.
Drinking and dancing
The university is a really good place to go if you want to socialise. As well as the Student Union itself, which is cheap and runs many events of various kinds, there are loads of different venues, many of which aim themselves at a student population on weeknights. On Friday nights, the whole town seems to get dressed up and launches itself at the nearest pub, followed by a club and a kebab. Queues and tough entry policies exist for the trendier places.
There are two excellent modern art galleries - Tate Liverpool and the Walker Gallery. There are lots of different musical options, and plenty of student participation is possible. If you want a cathedral they have one to spare, as well.
Sporting facilities at the University are not bad - a slightly crowded sports centre, but conveniently placed, and plenty of teams for a wide range of sports and levels of competence.
Outside of the University, you can watch two Premiership teams and first division cricket in Aigburth when Lancashire play there. You will have to leave the city for Rugby League and Union, though.
Outside the City
Liverpool is very well-placed for a range of outdoor pursuits as a student. Far enough away from the activity sites7 to have flourishing climbing, canoeing, walking and caving clubs, but near enough to make day and weekend trips worthwhile. Obvious destinations include the Lake and Peak Districts, Snowdonia and the Pennines, but there are interesting areas that are even closer if you seek them out - you can rock climb on the Wirral and at local sandstone quarries near St Helens, for example.
There is also the option of the beach. Don't laugh, the Sefton coast just north of Liverpool is a unique ecosystem, and largely unspoilt at that. There are also traditional seaside resorts quite close. Formby and Ainsdale beaches have Blue Flags, symbols of cleanliness. Finally, the University runs impressive botanical gardens on the Wirral.