Keele University, The University of Birmingham + Resources for Studying Internationally

The last two universities on the Explore England college tour included two vastly different universities each with their own strengths. Keele University, tucked in the countryside reminded me of a small, liberal arts university. The campus itself is more medium size, but the student body population is pretty small surrounded by a ton of green acreage. The University of Birmingham by contrast is a large, green campus in Birmingham a larger city after London. Check out the highlights below and if you haven’t read the first three recaps of the Explore England college tour check them out on the links here: 

Keep in mind as you read: I always advise to go directly to the website to explore a more specific major or course of interest, learn about specific requirements, etc and to get the most up-to-date information. Sign up to receive automatic emails whenever a new blog is posted including more tips on applying, resources and exploring international universities. Learn tips for navigating admissions. For example; In contrast to American universities, these universities will for the most part admit based on academics. The essay portion needs to be academically focused showcasing your experience, interest and direction in the specific course you’re looking to gain admission to.

Keele University 

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A student would fly into the closest airport (about an hour away) and take a bus to campus, a rural, small university of about 11,000 students, nestled in a beautiful green space. Great for a student looking for a specific strength in program and is okay with a quieter campus. For its size Keele is pretty international which is a plus and has strong student support services with an emphasis on student centered learning.

We arrived and were blessed with beautiful weather and headed off to dinner. We walked through High Street, which I later learned that is in most towns and is the main street with all the shops. A town center if you will. They were setting up for the farmer’s market the next day. The next morning before our campus visit I headed out for an early run into town and stumbled on this walkway path that ran behind homes and around an open Rugby field. Because it does rain so much the clear morning was filled with endless green. I felt at peace here. For someone who lives in Los Angeles the calm of the morning is often unseen. However, for me I love the bustling bigger city. Then again, that’s not for everyone, so even more the reason why it’s essential to visit different types of campuses and experience not only a tour but the surrounding community.

Another tip is I noticed on the Instagram stories there was one for the local town Newcastle Under Lyne (one of the town second and third year students tend to live) which showed me a smattering of locals, students and anyone who had checked into the location of them hanging out, eating dinner, etc., a quick way to get a sense of what people are actually doing! A ton of universities are on Snapchat as well, so if you can’t make the trip, search for it.

Quick facts about Keele:

  • 11,000 students representing over 120 different nationalities
  • The university is rooted in interdisciplinary liberal arts and keeps its liberal arts feel (remember don’t let liberal arts fool you, some of their biggest strengths are in the sciences!)
  • Can add a language to any discipline your studying (this is a highlight as I think it can be a great resume booster that can separate you!)
  • Research led and student focused in its teaching
  • Small classes, peer students help get you settled in from the airport and connected to groups
  • Students can live on campus first year, after that will live in surrounding towns (note it is rural!)
  • Have the ability to study one single subject or a combined dual degree (no dual degree for medicine)
  • Strength in medicine*, nursing, health sciences, physiology, criminology/forensics *if interested in studying medicine in England, please see bottom asterisk for important considerations.

Check the full list of courses, admission requirements and the university student services at their full website here: https://www.keele.ac.uk/

University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham reminds me of a very traditional campus feel within a more urban environment. While the University of Manchester’s buildings are more integrated throughout the city, Birmingham has it’s own campus 3 miles from the city center of Birmingham. Today was actually the first and only day we had rain on the Explore England trip, which is kind of amazing because Northern England can tend to be rainy and just a tad cloudier than what we experienced. I like to think us Californians brought the sun so we’ll just go with that! It was good to experience in more traditional weather and trek across campus with umbrellas and grab onto teas and coffees when we dried off and got warm inside.

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Students can fly into Birmingham with a layover or direct depending on where you’re flying from and take a train or bus straight to campus from the airport. Birmingham itself is a fun city with various cuisines and these endless water canals winding throughout the metropolis creating this romantic juxtaposition with the city buildings. We grabbed some Indian food the first night (which was pretty delicious might I add, and headed off to campus the next day for a full tour.

Quick facts about Birmingham:

  • Over 33,000 students, 7,600 international with 30% of the teaching staff coming from outside the U.K. Founded in 1900 a “red brick” university on a 276 acre green campus with botanical gardens, historical collections, Geology museum on campus shops, banks and markets.
  • 95% of students will complete their degree program on time
  • Ranked in the top 20 of U.K. universities, a part of the Russell Group (similar to Ivy League)
  • Strength in Sports Exercise, Physiology, History, Chemical Engineering, Philosophy, Physics, Creative Writing, Modern Languages, Drama/Theatre
  • Over 250 clubs and societies, competitive sports
  • Barber Institute of Fine Arts (students have opportunities for cultural placements in museums, special collections, etc.)
  • Shakespeare Institute giving access to Shakespearean resources, books, materials
  • Research happening across various fields
  • Unique course in liberal arts and sciences where students can essentially create/mold a course intermixing disciplines with a compulsory year abroad integrated into the total four years. The major is a competitive one to get into, but a gem for students wanting to really focus their degrees to their liking and get incredible support and experiences along the way
  • Strength in Career Services and Student Support with staff specifically targeting international student populations.

The University has everything from Arts and Law, Engineering and Physical Sciences to Social Sciences, Life and Environmental, Medicine and Dental. For a full list of detailed programs and requirements, please visit: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/index.aspx

Overall, the University of Birmingham is a large, competitive, academic university that highlights research, employability and student satisfaction. I could see Los Angeles students (or students wanting a bigger city, just not London big) quite enjoying this campus, especially because it does have a clear campus.


General information about studying abroad and why international universities are something to consider will be coming! In the meantime I leave you with one of the BEST resources for families and students even slightly considering international universities and that is the National Association for College Admission Counseling Guide to International Admissions. Download the guide HERE and it literally breaks up countries, their requirements, resources for each, fees, when to apply, etc.

Oh and finally, we graduated! After seeing 5 universities in 7 days and not only touring and getting to know each individual university, but also learning a targeted piece to studying in England we earned our certificate and “graduated” from the program. Ceremony and all!

Happy exploring everyone! Never be afraid of what you don’t know. It’s only becomes scary when you’re too afraid to try.

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*Something important to note about studying medicine in England. Currently the state of international student admits to medicine is in flex as set studying fees and the amount of international students that will be considered. Request more information from your admission officer or check https://www.medschools.ac.uk/ for any new updates.

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