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Opinion: Pretty, Hilly, Expensive – Guildford – A Student’s View

Published on: 12 Jun, 2013
Updated on: 12 Jun, 2013

As often acknowledged, Guildford is not well connected to the University of Surrey even though it lies less than a mile from the High Street. Most of us rarely visit the campus and we probably rarely, if ever, think about it. But how does our town appear to the students who study there?

The University of Surrey

The University of Surrey

By Ellis Taylor

I had never been to Guildford or even heard much about it, but on my first visit three years ago I knew instantly that this was the town in which I wanted to spend three years of my life. I was a student and deciding which university to choose.

Guildford was pretty and didn’t feel too different from home, but close links to London made it a lot more exciting than my home-town of Exeter in Devon.

So in 2011 I made the move up here. It was terrifying. Suddenly, my open-day goggles were gone and I was in a town I didn’t know with people I didn’t know. For ages Guildford seemed like a very confusing place. I could not work out the layout of the town. Why there are two high streets running side by side (until we knew the names of the roads we referred to them as ‘little high street’ and ‘big high street’).

Contemporary architecture

The campus – contemporary architecture, on top of a hill

Also, open-day goggles had prevented me from realising how hilly it is here. On campus in particular it constantly feels like I’m going uphill but never downhill, this is no fun on a hot day. ?Another thing I soon realised about Guildford was the night life, or lack of it. The University of Surrey is incredibly tame compared to other universities, and the drinks are a lot more expensive.

There are a few good bars dotted around but for big nights my friends and I tend to stick to the student union club, Rubix. But if I’m honest I like that my university isn’t as alcohol heavy as others, it was relieving to come here and realise that it is okay to not want to get ridiculously drunk.


The student union club ‘Rubix’.

Expensive drinks are also a sign of something else in Guildford, very expensive student housing. Of course, student houses are never going to be heavenly mansions, but I must be honest and say that I was shocked at the standard of houses we have for students in Guildford.

My house-mates and I looked at thirteen houses before getting lucky and securing a university managed one. One house in particular will always stick in my mind, at £92 a week each (not including bills) with a very large deposit to pay; we were offered a house that had crumbling plaster due to damp, and a bathroom ceiling that had turned black with mould.

Single glazed windows would mean expensive heating bills and a kitchen so small only one person could stand in it at a time.  Obviously, Guildford is a pretty expensive area, but the low standards means that when I return for my final year I will probably move back into halls of residence which, despite being rather pricey, are much nicer than the houses that are on offer.

When I lived in halls in my first year, I was in the centre of campus in some of the more tired accommodation. However, the university and its campus are improving at a very fast pace. New halls are being built at Manor Park: from what I’ve heard they are rather lush.

You might have heard about our winning library. It is very large and well equipped. However, I do have two issues with it. Firstly, the hot drinks machine on level one makes tea that has a weird coffee taste. Secondly, the ceiling makes it look like a car-park.


The uninspiring library ceiling. ‘Looks like a car-park’.

Honestly, you’re sat in front of a computer (by the way, if you’ve managed to get one, congratulations) feeling inspired and productive, then you look up and see a sky of grey concrete. It is so depressing. If you get the chance to go in there make sure you look at the ceiling. You’ll see what I mean.

The university is improving academically, as well. We are now 8th in the Guardian University guide which is incredibly exciting. And if that’s not impressive enough, we also have two Starbucks on campus. Two!

I have now finished my second year of study and I’ve realised that Guildford is not the perfect place to be a student. The rent is high, the hills are so steep, and it is not a stereotypical drunken student setting. But the people are friendly, the shopping is great, and the university is growing.

In the end a university experience is as good as you make it, and I feel that there is still a lot of potential in the town of Guildford, and the University of Surrey. I wonder if I’ll miss it when I’m gone?

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