The best universities for people who love the great outdoors


Universities are much more than just a place to earn a degree. They’re somewhere you’ll spend three or more years of your life, making new friends and gaining a wealth of invaluable life experience. The decision of where to study is not something to be taken lightly.

It doesn’t matter what you study, no student spends all of their time sat in lectures or locked away in the library. It’s important to find a healthy balance between academia, extra-curricular activities and a social life.

Maybe you’re an adrenaline junkie who loves to go rock climbing or canoeing, or perhaps you just want to be able to take a leisurely stroll in a local park after a day full of lectures. Either way, having easy access to the great outdoors can be an important factor in your decision.

We’ve looked at 25 of the best universities in the country, ranking them on a number of different factors. Using data supplied by Ordnance Survey, we were able to measure the amount of green space on and around campus. We also looked at the number of outdoor societies on offer, as well as the average weather patterns of the local area.

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Leeds University came out on top as the best place to study if you enjoy the great outdoors. Students have access to 2,682 acres of green space on and around the campus, with an impressive 7 outdoor societies on offer – the highest number of any institution on our list – including horse-riding, hiking, mountaineering and more.

Despite having no outdoor societies on offer, Birmingham came in second place in our ranking, thanks to the vast amount of green space to be found around the university – a whopping 6,659 acres.

Third place goes to Oxford, with students able to enjoy a wealth of stunning green space on their doorstep, including University Parks, a Grade II-listed space covering approximately 70 acres in the centre of Oxford. Students also have access to Wytham Woods, a 1,000-acre site just three miles east of the city centre, which have been part of the university since 1942.

No matter where you decide to study, you can still benefit from access to the great outdoors. Even those studying in city centre locations can still find green space on their doorstep – you just need to know where to look.

Data sources: Ordnance Survey, Met Office, Guardian University League Table and university websites.

Acreage of green space was measured within a 2.5-mile radius of each university.

‘Outdoor Societies’ included any university societies that are primarily conducted outside, excluding sports teams.

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