By Study UK

14 September 2020 - 09:24

A view of Belfast's City Hall, one of many things to explore in Northern Ireland's capital.

Northern Ireland is the UK’s smallest nation, with a population of 1.882 million. It shares a border with the larger Ireland, and is situated across the Irish Sea from Wales and the rest of the UK. But don’t let its size mislead you. Northern Ireland is a cultural and educational powerhouse, and a place for you to have enormous fun.

There are many higher educational institutions across this beautiful nation, and three universities which have their campuses in the capital city of Belfast . The oldest is Queen’s University, a member of the prestigious Russell Group and ranked in the world top 140 for Graduate prospects. You could also study at Ulster University, which has one of the highest further study and employment rates in the whole of the UK, and where over 92 per cent of graduates are either in work or further studies six months after graduation (in no small part, this is down to the exceptionally strong links that Northern Ireland’s universities have with industry). Belfast is also home to the Open University in Ireland.

Many of these universities lead on new technologies and play a defining role in shaping the modern world (that’s hardly surprising when you consider the eminent mathematician William Thomson, often considered ‘The Father Of Modern Science’, was born here). At Queen’s University, the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) is host to the UK’s Innovation and Knowledge Centre for cyber security and its Centre for Wireless Innovation is internationally respected for groundbreaking work in Telecommunication Engineering. Ulster University receives the same levels of global recognition for its work in Information And Communication Technology, and for its focus on important areas such as social renewal, community health and sustainability (in fact, 72 per cent of Ulster University’s research activity in these areas is judged to be ‘world-leading and internationally excellent’).

These universities have also helped to lead a cultural renaissance in Northern Ireland over recent decades. In fact, Belfast is sometimes referred to as the ‘Athens of Ireland’ because of its commitment to culture, education and academia. It’s also home to some brilliant annual events, such as Belfast’s International Arts Festival - a world-class programme of theatre dance, music, film and literature, as well as the very best in visual and digital arts. Every year, the annual Northern Ireland Science Festival brings together leading scientists and thinkers in a fascinating programme of talks, films and presentations. Or if you’re looking for something away from the city, then the Stendhal Festival  could be for you - with an eclectic mix of poetry, music, comedy, dance, theatre and contemporary and traditional arts, all set in the beautiful woodlands and countryside of the Roe Valley, in County Londonderry.

Northern Ireland is also home to one of the world’s leading tourist attractions , the Titanic Belfast. The story of the RMS Titanic continues to capture the imagination of millions (including Hollywood) and in this state of the art museum, you can discover everything about the world’s most famous (and perhaps infamous) ocean liner from the very spot that it was launched, back in 1911.

With one of the youngest populations in the whole of Europe (53 per cent of people in Northern Ireland are under the age of 40) you can expect to find a warm welcome and fun experiences wherever you go. And when you also consider how safe and easily accessible Northern Ireland is, it’s no wonder why students from over 120 countries choose to study here. 

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The incredible natural wonder of Giant's Causeway is easily accessible to visit when you study in Northern Ireland.
Explore the glorious views of Northern Ireland, such as this picturesque trail near the town of Antrim.
The cattle roam freely in White Park Bay, a beach along the North Coast. ©

The Universtiy of Ulster

Another compelling reason is the nation’s outstanding natural beauty. You can’t miss the breathtaking Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the idyllic Fermanagh Lakelands in Enniskillen or the bewitching Mourne Mountains - which inspired the Belfast-born writer CS Lewis to create his world-famous ‘Narnia’ stories.

And Lewis isn’t the only one to have been inspired by Northern Ireland’s stunning landscape. ‘Game of Thrones’ is filmed at various locations across this beautiful nation. So if you’ve ever wanted to set foot on the grand Kingsroad or visit Winterfell then here’s your chance!

Visiting all of these natural wonders is easy, as Northern Ireland is exceptionally well connected. In fact, you can drive from city to coast to countryside in less than an hour. Trains and buses are extremely affordable, with the cost of tickets starting at just a few pounds. There are regular flights and ferry crossings to the rest of the UK, and from Belfast International Airport you can fly to a wide range of global destinations. You can also visit neighbouring Ireland and its capital Dublin in two hours by train or bus from Belfast.

As a 16-25 year old student, you'll be eligible for discounted long-distance train travel if you buy a Young Person’s Railcard. This costs £30 and gives you a 30 per cent discount on trains across the entire UK network (so not just in Northern Ireland). You can find many more discounts with a National Union of Student (or NUS) card, which is free once you start your studies.

People from all over the world have made Northern Ireland their home, and that’s reflected in a diverse and interesting way of life. On the high street, you’ll find everything from Irish to Mexican to Japanese meals and plenty of choice, and there are many specialist food shops and supermarkets which sell international ingredients, as well as foods to suit vegan, vegetarian and specialist diets.

What’s more, it’s an extremely affordable place to study, with an average monthly living cost (without rent) in Belfast of just £572 per person. For accommodation, you can expect to pay around £300 per month for a room in a shared house, and even less should you live outside of a city centre. A three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant will cost about £20 per person, with takeaway meals and other options costing a fraction of that price.

Wherever you choose to study in the UK, you’re sure to discover the very best in yourself. Could Northern Ireland be the perfect place for you?