Share

Features

Europe’s 13 Best Surf-Friendly Universities

Don't let studying get in the way of shredding/drinking/racking up mountainous debts

BBC2’s University Challenge is hard. But university doesn’t need to be.  If you’re off to Uni, we invite you to challenge yourself to surf as much as possible, do a minimum of actual study/attending lectures and yet somehow still scrape a Douglas…or even a Desmond. They all count!

If you choose to further your education at any one of the following thirteen institutions, we reckon your chances of succeeding are reasonably solid. Especially if you’re there for a “study abroad” Erasmus year, where the work:play ratio is notoriously favourable.

Admittedly, our list is a touch biased towards British universities. Obviously, other universities than the ones listed here are also available. And yes, we’re really sorry if we didn’t include your university. It’s nothing personal.

Naturally, feel free to excoriate us for our various oversights in the comments section. Likewise, if you have something constructive to add, don’t hesitate to add your two penneth…or cents…or øre!

 

PLYMOUTH UNIVERSITY

www.plymouth.ac.uk

Biggest Uni in the South West (with 30,000 students) and 5th biggest in UK, renowned for courses in maritime business, marine engineering, marine biology, environmental sciences, and shipping and logistics. In October 2005, The Sun voted the University of Plymouth as having the most bizarre degree course in the country, the BSc (Hons) in Surf Science & Technology.

In the Complete University Guide’s 2016 rankings Plymouth places 90th in the UK.

Body swerve a lecture in Plymouth and you can be here, as well as any other break in England’s South West, within two hours. Photo: Greg Martin

Location:

South Devon on the border with Cornwall, about 3 1/2 hours from London by motorway or train. It consists of the main campus in the city centre, as well as affiliate colleges and institutions spanning the SW from Dorset all the way to Penzance.

Distance to the surf:

Breaks on the South Devon coast begin as close as 15-20 mins away by car, otherwise a few miles and a painfully slow ferry across the Tamar to Whitsands and adjoining south Cornwall breaks. For the North Cornish coast (more consistent), anywhere between Bude and Perranporth takes around an hour; about 2 hours up to Croyde or Lynmouth, and 2 hours in the opposite direction down to Porthleven.

Cost of living:

University halls of residence range from £91-£159 per week, bills included; if you’re renting from the private sector, as you probably will be after your first year, you’ll be able to find somewhere around the £90 mark. Cost of living is traditionally slightly lower than the southern England average, although these days you won’t get much change out of a 5 spot for a pasty and a pint.

Surf club:

The Plymouth Uni A team has been national student champions for about the last thousand years, with the B team often coming second.

Where to party:

Probably stick fairly close to Uni for studenty-type affairs, unless of course you fancy getting into a bit of naughtiness on Union Street, available nightly.

What’s cool about it:

Mildest winters in mainland UK. Although you’re in the city located inside a massive bay (Plymouth Sound) you can actually check south coast swell from vantage points all across the city (including upper floors of most Uni buildings) by looking south to the breakwater.

Accent:

From the local population you can generally expect to here stuff like, “Ere you twat, ow is eeeeeet?.” And “Going beach? Been beach?” (‘are you’ and ‘to the’ seen as very much surplus to requirement. ‘To’ is however deemed useful at the end of sentences, as a replacement for ‘from’, “Where’d ya get that to?”

Notable alumni:

Both UK pro surfer Sam Lamiroy and Surf Europe editor Paul Evans attended Plymouth Uni, which may or may not be why neither of them never ever really achieved much in life.

See also:

The University of Plymouth College Network, of which both Cornwall College and Truro and Penwith College form a part. There are campuses in Newquay, Penzance, Camborne, Truro and elsewhere.

UNIVERSIDAD DEL PAÍS VASCO, SAN SEBASTIÁN

www.gipuzkoa.ehu.es

Nestled in between some of Europe’s finest breaks, San Sebastian (Donostia in Euskera) and the Universidad del País Vasco offer a large array of possibilities. The university’s composed of three main campuses, located in the three main Basque counties — Álava (just south of Vitoria, no surf, forget it), Vizcaya (in Bilbao, 20-30 mins from Mundaka) and Guipuzcoa, in San Sebastian’s Antiguo.

The whole university hosts 15,000 students, and between the three campuses you can study more or less whatever you want. The San Sebastián campus offers Chemistry, Law, Architecture, Business, Nursing, Philosophy, Psychology, I.T. and Teacher Training; the Bilbao campus offers Engineering, Business, Nursing, Fine Arts, Science & Technology, Medicine, Teacher Training, Labour Relations, Economics, Law, Social Sciences & Fine Arts. Languages, Literature and History students will have to head inland to Vitoria, unfortunately.

Jason Griffith did his homework to score this fickle wintertime wedge. Playa Ondarreta, San Sebastian. Photo: Timo

Distance to surf:

Assuming you opt for the San Sebastián campus, you’ll be within walking distance of La Zurriola (average, intensely crowded beachie), 1 1/2 hours’ drive away from Mundaka to the west and 1 hour from Hossegor to the north. In between, both north and south of the border, are tiny to huge swell spots to the dozen.

Rent Prices:

Fairly pricey by Spanish standards — some of the most expensive in the country, in fact, not too far behind Madrid and Barcelona — but by British standards very reasonable. 300-400 € a month should find you a decent place in the Gros neighbourhood, which overlooks la Zurriola; even cheaper slightly further out of town.

Cost of living:

Besides digs, it’s not bad at all. And if you come from urban areas such as Paris or London, you’ll think life is dirt cheap. But if you compare it with the rest of Spain, then it’s fairly pricey.

La Concha (pictured) gets fun wedgey waves on huge swells, but la Zurriola, on the other side of the headland, is where you -- and every other able-bodied man and woman in San Sebastián -- will be surfing most often.

Where to party:

Start in the Parte Vieja (Old Town), get on the kalimotxo (red wine and coke) and pintxos (the Basque equivalent of tapas), and get amongst it. Atari, opposite the church, is a good place to start, and there are various discotecas that stay open more or less all night.

What’s cool about it:

Beautiful town, great Basque culture, pretty close to world class spots, consistent swells year round except in summer — and you’re a student so July/August you’re probably outta there anyway. Having said that, summer’s a glorious time to be in San Sebastián, the weather’s great and every week there seems to be some sort of festival going on — such as the excellent Surfilmfestibal (late June), or the jazz festival Jazzaldia (mid-July).

Accent:

Though distinct from the Madrid accent, the Basque accent is generally fairly neutral and easy to understand — in contrast to say the Andalusian accent. In addition to standard Spanish, however, the Basque Country does have its own language, Euskera, which is completely different from Spanish — completely different from any other language too, in fact. One of Europe’s oldest languages, it developed more or less in isolation and doesn’t derive from Latin, making it very difficult to learn. Don’t fret though: Spanish is the language of choice in the majority of social situations, particularly in cities.

SWANSEA UNIVERSITY

www.swansea.ac.uk

Swansea University claims to have the closest campus to a beach anywhere in the world — although this is rather a moot point as Swansea Bay itself isn’t home to too many waves. It also has nearly 12,000 students and offers over 500 undergraduate and 130 postgraduate courses in a wide range of subject areas, from American Studies to Zoology. “A strongly campus-based lifestyle; a stylish campus, near the sea, or city, or mountains; generous accommodation either on campus or in a student community close-by; a wealth of cultural activity on campus; lots of high-quality sports provision – and a sound academic reputation!” boasts the brochure. The Complete University Guide has it in 45th place in the UK, while in the National Student Survey it ranks 11th for student satisfaction.

Location:

Both of the university’s two campuses, Singleton Park Campus and Bay Campus, overlook Swansea Bay on the edge of the Gower Peninsula, the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Swansea is in South Wales, about 50 mins from the Welsh capital Cardiff, and 1h45 from Bristol.

Distance to surf:

Gower spots like Langland and Caswell Bay are about 15 mins away by car.

Cost of living:

The cost of living in Swansea is relatively low, and the university-managed accommodation is cheaper than at most of the traditional UK universities. Halls start at £86 per week per person (although shared rooms are available for slightly cheaper); private housing will be cheaper still.

What else:

As part of a coastal region, Swansea experiences a milder climate than the mountains and valleys inland. This same location, though, leaves Swansea exposed to rain-bearing winds from the Atlantic: figures from the Met Office make Swansea the wettest city in Britain.

Fatty’s Leg:

For a different take on Swansea life, don’t miss the hilarious 1997 film Twin Town.

Accent:

Hilarious — if you can understand it, which may prove a challenge for the visiting Erasmus student. As a general rule, those with Welsh accents are automatically 20% funnier than those without.

Notable Alumni:

Four times Welsh women’s surfing champ Renee Godfrey; Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards, who went missing in 1995.

Writer Kingsley Amis lectured in English at the university from 1949 to 1961, and his hilarious campus novel Lucky Jim drew heavily on his experiences there.

UNIVERSIDADE DE LISBOA

www.ulisboa.pt

The largest university in Portugal, home to almost 50,000 students, over 30,000 of whom are undergrads. In its present incarnation, the University of Lisbon is actually only a few years old, having merged with the Technical University of Lisbon in 2013. It’s now made up 18 colleges, and offers courses in all mainstream and many non-mainstream subjects.

A 40 minute drive north lies Ericeira, home to spots like Reef, where Tiago Pires is honorary tube professor. Photo: Alex Laurel.

Location:

The 18 colleges are mostly located in the “Cidade Universitária”, which is north of the Baixa downtown area. However, FMH — the Faculty of Human Kinetics, where all things sports-related are taught — is based in Cruz Quebrada, which while still in the district of Lisbon is really a 15-minute drive from town, halfway between Lisbon and Carcavelos.

Distance to the surf:

If you’re studying/living in the Cruz Quebrada area you’re laughing — surf will be a 10-minute drive away when the swell is pumping (Carcavelos), maybe 25 minutes on small days (Guincho), and there are even one or two spots east of Carcavelos that work on larger swells. If you’re coming from somewhere more central then add an extra 10-15 minutes.

No car? The Linha de Cascais train line links downtown Lisbon to Cascais via Carcavelos, hugging the coastline all the way. I’ve got no idea if you can take a board with you or not (anyone?), but I would guess yes if it’s a shortboard; otherwise make friends with someone who lives near the beach and leave it there.

Branching northwards, Ericeira is a mere 40 minutes’ drive away.

Rent prices:

Accommodation provided by the university, which is dotted all over the city, will cost you 130-50 € a month (and that’s without a scholarship!). Cheap as farrk, then. Outside of university residences, the uni itself reckons privately rented accommodation will cost you €200-350 a month, and it will be towards the cheaper end of that range if you choose somewhere outside of the city near/in the wave-rich Carcavelos area.

Cost of living:

You’re close to Lisbon so don’t expect any miracles, but as soon as you know your way around you’ll find the right spots to eat and go shopping. For a capital city it’s still pretty cheap — you can grab a quick lunch for 6 euros or so, and go to the cinema for the same price.

Surf club:

Like most Portuguese unis connected to surfing, there’s not a huge amount of activity when it comes to clubs, but it is improving every year. And there is the universities surf contest tour, a good way to prepare for the national tour or just for the pure fun of releasing your competitive instincts.

Where to party:

There’s great nightlife to be enjoyed in both Lisbon and Cascais.

Notable alumni:

Jose Mourinho, the Special One, studied Sports Science at what was then known as the Technical University of Lisbon back in the ’80s, after he dropped out of Business School on his first day.

What’s cool about it:

You’re close to the beach and the capital of Portugal. Nearly everyone is into sports so you’re bound to find a lot of surf buddies from day one. According to the latest figures, 66% of the student population are girls while just 33% are boys, the remaining 1% presumably falling somewhere in between. How do you like them apples?

FALMOUTH

www.falmouth.ac.uk/

www.exeter.ac.uk/cornwall/

Arguably the best place in the UK to further your education, assuming that regular wave-riding activity is integral to your idea of education. Falmouth University itself specialises in the arts, and is split between two campuses — one based in Falmouth town centre, the other in the nearby town of Penryn. This latter campus is shared with the University of Exeter, whose Cornwall Campus has been based there 2004 and specialises in Biosciences, Environmental Sciences, Natural Sciences, Geology etc., but also offers courses in Geography, English, Politics and International Relations, and Business Studies. Falmouth University proper offers courses in a wide range of disciplines, all with an artistic bent, including music & theatre, visual arts, architecture, design, fashion & textiles, film & TV, journalism and photography.

The Complete University Guide has Falmouth University in 70th place, although the Guardian has it as high as 31st.

Location:

In Cornwall, towards its south-westernmost tip. Falmouth is a smallish town of around 27,000 inhabitants; Penryn is even smaller with just under 10,000.

Distance to the surf:

The closest spots on both the north and south coast are exactly half an hour’s drive from the city centre. Add an extra 15 minutes or more if you’re heading further north to Newquay or further south to the Sennen area. Very occasionally, on either a huge SW swells or east swells along the channel, Falmouth itself can get a wave or two.

Rent prices:

University-managed halls of residence are all self-catered and cost from £75 – £126 per week, per person. Private-sector housing is likely to cost you in the region of  £85 – £105 per week, bills included.

Cost of living

A pint of lager will cost you somewhere in the region of £3.50 — but you’ll also be obliged to experiment with the local West Country cider, which is often cheaper, generally of uncertain percentage, and very occasionally mildly hallucinogenic. You’ll find loads of good quality real ale too — in fact the parents of hundred-time European and thousand-time British longboard champ Ben Skinner own the heavily decorated Skinners Brewery, based in nearby Truro.

Surf club:

The Student Union (FXU) is shared between Falmouth University and Exeter’s Cornwall Campus — as is the surf club, which is large and active and tends to do very well in the student nationals.

Where to party:

In the words of SE’s Falmouth correspondent, “there’s one real club but it’s horrendous, it has carpeted floors and is full of the worst people”. Sounds awesome. If that description doesn’t give you a semi in and of itself, bear in mind the large student population in what is a relatively small town — there’s bound to be fun stuff going on. At the more relaxed end of the spectrum, Falmouth boasts a thriving bar, pub and cafe culture.

What’s cool about it:

You’ll probably get more — and better — waves here than you would at any other university in the country. The coast is nearby, you’ve got heaps of options, and the water doesn’t get as cold as it does further north during winter.

Notable alumni:

Celebrated warbler Ben Howard studied journalism here, although he dropped out with 6 months to go to focus on his moosic.

UNIVERSITÉ DE BORDEAUX

www.u-bordeaux.fr

This big French university is divided into four faculties — Bordeaux University 1 (Science & Technology), with around 10,700 students; Bordeaux University 2 (Medicine), with 15,000 students; Bordeaux University 3 (Liberal Arts, Humanities and Languages), with 14,785 students; and Bordeaux University 4 (Law, Economy and Management), with around 12,556 students. The university is particularly well known for its studies and research in agriculture and nanotechnology.

Location:

The university is fairly spread around but mostly situated in Talence and the outskirts of town. Bordeaux is fucking rad. It’s also the 7th biggest city in France with close to 750,000 inhabitants.

Distance to the surf:

It’s one hour’s drive south to Lacanau, one hour’s drive to the quality waves of Charentes Maritime or one and a half hours to Hossegor (down the A63). The choice is yours.

Rent prices:

There’s obviously the university campus, if you don’t mind living out of a shoe box. It’s best to join forces with 3 or 4 other mates and find a big apartment. Or if you’re really strapped for cash, you can always just live in a van in the Uni car park (like I did).

Cost of living:

Fairly high like any city in France but plenty of cheap supermarkets and Maccas around. Note: You won’t find cheap student pubs like in the UK.

Where to party:

La Place de la Victoire in the centre of Bordeaux fires every Thursday night — or at least used to 15 years ago.

What’s cool about it:

Public transport is fairly efficient and you can also move around on foot quite easily. More importantly, you can start build your own impressive wine collection to wow the chicks and even bring a case or two for friends and family every time you go home. There are also a high number of Spanish students that come to study in Bordeaux, so it’s an ideal place for mixing up the vibe. Plus, Bordeaux is fucking rad. Did we mention that?

CARDIFF UNIVERSITY

www.cardiff.ac.uk

Cardiff University is composed of three colleges — Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; Biomedical and Life Sciences; and Physical Sciences and Engineering — and between them you can study all mainstream subjects. The university has long been renowned for the quality of the research carried out there, and as such is a member of the Russell Group, an association of 24 of the UK’s most prestigious universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. In the Complete University Guide’s 2016 rankings, Cardiff sits in 31st place.

Location:

The Welsh capital city — and what a fine city it is. Home to around 350,000 inhabitants, 800,000 + including the outskirts, there’s plenty of “buzz” and “ambience” and cultural activity to be enjoyed, and it’s not too far from the coast. The great bulk of the uni’s academic facilities are located around Cathays Park in central Cardiff.

Distance to the surf:

Porthcawl, Llantwit Major and various other decent breaks are within a 30/45 minutes’ drive. Alternatively, you’re only around 4 hours from the Wavegarden, which may or may not be working.

"This building's fucken lush..."

Cost of living:

Rent in the Cathays area, where most students choose to live, can start as cheap as £60-70 a week, plus bills, and generally speaking the cost of living’s pretty cheap all-round.

Surf club:

Yep, there’s an active surf club that organises regular trips and socials and whatnot.

Where to party:

The Student Union is huge: multi-storey, labyrinthine, and somewhat reminiscent of a Goldeneye level. I’ve been there twice and both times got very drunk and very lost, the second time so drunk and lost I couldn’t find my way out. My next memory was waking up sat on the toilet at my mate’s house, mid-poo, trousers round ankles, unsure how I got there. In the intervening period, there’s every chance I went to the legendary Caroline Street to enjoy a take-away and revel in the atmosphere of debauchery that prevails there of an early morning.

Accent:

We refer you to the sitcom Gavin & Stacey, set in the nearby town of Barry.

What’s cool about it:

A solid choice if you’re after all the benefits of a large city whilst still being able to surf on a regular basis. Or, as a friend of mine who studied at Cardiff put it to me: “Pints are so cheap, girls are up for it, everyone’s friendly as.” —BW

UNIVERSIDAD DE LA LAGUNA, TENERIFE

Tenerife’s university is a favourite study destination for surfers from all over the Iberian Peninsula. The best academic surfing escape available on Spanish soil, the Universidad de La Laguna is based on the biggest of the Canary Islands and hosts 20-something thousand students. There are 4 main campuses, Central, Anchieta, Guajara and Ofra, plus other secondary centres in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. As the Canaries are a long way from the mainland, you can basically find suitable courses and diplomas for everything: sciences, law, arts, economy, finance, philosophy, philology, history, geography and computing.

Location :

La Laguna (world UNESCO heritage centre) and Santa Cruz de Tenerife (capital).

Distance to surf :

From la Laguna, you can be at any spot on the north coast as far down as Playa del Socorro within around half an hour. Add an extra 15 minutes if you’re coming from Santa Cruz. For west coast and south coast spots you’re looking at about an hour from either. Heaps of options.

Rent prices:

You can score some good deals and room-mating is common but beware of tourist prices, holiday rental is a year-round business.

Jonathan Gonzalez never did a thesis on punting in Tenerife, but if he ever did, he’d probably get a first. Photo: Alex Laurel

Location :

La Laguna (world UNESCO heritage centre) and Santa Cruz de Tenerife (capital).

Distance to surf :

If you are in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, you’re a few minutes from…

Rent prices:

You can score some good deals and room-mating is common but beware of tourist prices, holiday rental is a year-round business.

Cost of living:

The Canary Islands are generally even cheaper than the rest of the country. You’ll like the living there as will your pocket. ‘Drink as much as you can’ happy hours in Las Américas are popular with both students and mucky, sunburned British ladies.

Where to party:

Las Américas, Puerto de la Cruz.

What’s cool about it:

Lots of tourists loving the surf vibe and looking for a good time. Canarian girls are so pretty you won’t believe it, it’s like going to university with an army of top models. You can travel easily by ferry to the other islands and enjoy world class spots such as El Quemao or Confital. And don’t miss the new boat trips organised to remote spots on islands such as Los Lobos or La Graciosa.

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER

www.exeter.ac.uk

A regular fixture in university rankings top tens, and of all the UK’s top tier universities it’s perhaps the most surf-oriented, in that it’s a short distance away from good surf on two coasts and tends to have a fairly large and enthusiastic surfing population. A member of the Russell Group, Exeter was ranked the 10th best university in the country in the Complete University Guide’s 2016 league table. Its overall student population is bordering on 20,000.

Location:

Midway into Devon, one of England’s very finest counties. The city is easily navigable, surrounded in all directions by lush countryside, and home to around 120,000 inhabitants. Streatham campus (humanities, sciences, business) is charming and pastoral, teeming with foliage and squirrels and suchlike, yet only a 15 minute walk from the city centre; it’s also undergone several zillion pounds’ worth of renovation in the last few years, the main product of which is a giant new forum (see below). St Luke’s (sports science, medicine) is less picturesque but equally central.

Distance to the surf:

South coast breaks such as Bantham are around an hour’s journey away, but although the south coast can be excellent, it’s inconsistent and tricky to figure out unless you live within easy checking distance. The north coast isn’t much further and is generally a safer bet. Beaches around Bude in Cornwall and the Puts/Woolacombe/Croyde triumvirate in Devon are more or less equidistant, and can be reached in around 1h15. For Newquay add another 20-30 minutes.

Cost of living:

You should be able to share a decent-ish house in between campus and the city centre for £80-100 a week per person, plus bills.

Surf club:

Very large — one of the university’s largest, in fact — and very active. Membership’s around £40 for the year; possession of a second home in Polzeath is preferable but not obligatory.

Where to party:

The student union, the Lemon Grove or “Lemmy”, is notoriously shite, although occasionally it hosts the odd band or DJ; the city’s main nightclubs (Arena, Timepiece, Mosaic) are lamentable but fun. Head to the Cavern or the Pheonix for a more alternative vibe.

What’s cool about it:

Rich girls. And rich boys. Play your cards right and you could be set up for life.

Notable alumni:

Last year’s national longboard champ Jenny Briant; JK Rowling; Radiohead’s Thom Yorke; royal family members Peter and Zara Phillips, who are only marginally posher than the average Exeter student. —BW

UNIVERSITY OF THE FRENCH INDIES, GUADELOUPE

www.univ-ag.fr

More or less all major subjects are taught here. The University has faculties on the islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique and even in the French territory of Guyane. In Guadeloupe, the university specialises in sports, medecine and politics. It’s perhaps not the best uni in France from an academic point of view, but nor is it the worst — and it’s in the Caribbean for fuck’s sake.

Location:

In Guadeloupe, the main university is located in Point à Pitre. There are around 450,000 inhabitants mostly spread around Grande Terre and Basse Terre.

Distance to the surf:

Being an island, it can take you from a few minutes to a couple of hours depending on where you want to surf. To reach the wave rich northern area of Grande Terre will take you more or less 40 minutes.

Rent prices:

There are some cheap places to rent but usually in pretty bad shape, otherwise accommodation is fairly pricey. Try to find something outside the city. But public transport is not reliable so you’ll need a car.

Guadeloupe, home to an OK uni and some pretty damn OK waves. Photo: Thierry Gilbaud

Cost of living:

If you can stick to eating local food and fruit then it’s cheap, but if you find yourself craving for imported foods you’ll soon be broke!

Surf club:

There’s no university surf club but plenty of associations around the island. The oldest and most active is the Arawak surf club close to one of the most consistent breaks on the island, Le Moule.

What’s cool about it:

Yes, it is part of France (so the university is well-equipped with wireless Internet everywhere) but with the relaxed vibe and warm weather of the Caribbean. Surf wise, Guadeloupe has a lot to offer, from easy reef breaks to dangerous slabs. You’ll probably end up boosting your surfing more than your academic career, seeing as most people leave Guadeloupe to study, not the other way round. But if it’s a year abroad type deal you’re after, well who actually did any studying on one of those anyway?

UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS

Perhaps not the first place that springs to mind when considering surf-friendly universities in the UK, but St Andrews is a beachside town and its two beachbreaks, which get some OK waves, are within walking distance of campus. It’s the oldest university in Scotland and the third oldest in the English-speaking world behind Oxford and Cambridge, and indeed at the latest reckoning both the Guardian and the Times had it in third place in their respective rankings, again trailing the two latter. As of 2016 the Complete University Guide has it in equal 5th. You can study most mainstream subjects there; academic fields in which it is particularly renowned include Physics and Astronomy, International Relations, Computer Science, Geography, Mathematics, Divinity, Middle Eastern and African Studies, and Arts and Humanities.

Location:

Scotland, of course, on the east coast, above Edinburgh but below Dundee. The campus is situated in the town itself, which is home to around 17,000 permanent inhabitants, plus a student population approaching 10,000.

Distance to surf:

Barely any distance at all. East Sands Beach, the town’s best break, is inconsistent but can get good waves, and is only a stone’s throw from campus. The two-mile long West Sands Beach, just to the north of town, is more of a beginner’s wave; it is also where the iconic opening scene in the movie Chariots Of Fire was filmed, and is adjacent to St Andrews’ oldest golf course — one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in the world, and probably the most famous. Potential for exploration nearby; very cold water in winter.

The traditional welcome for new students at St Andrews consists of a giant foam fight

Cost of living:

Pretty cheap actually. Prices for university halls range from just over £3,000 a year (self-catered), to almost £7,500 a year (catered, en-suite, personal butler etc.) — but bear in mind you’ll probably only be paying for a 9- or 10-month contract (ie. term-time only). Renting your own place with mates after your first year will probably cost around £80-90 a week plus bills. According to one recent study, it’s the third cheapest uni to attend in the UK, taking into account everything from rent to beer to gym membership.

What’s cool about it:

You’ll be studying at a world-class university steeped in history. And if you’re a golf nut, look no further. St Andrews Links is generally regarded as the home of golf, and at present the town boasts a total of seven courses, considered among the finest in the world; the best and oldest of them, “Old Course”, is a common venue for the Open Championship. “If a golfer is going to be remembered,” said Jack Nicklaus, “he must win at St Andrews.”

Plus, if you’re Scottish, you can go for free.

Accent:

While a thick Glaswegian accent may be all but incomprehensible to the non-native English speaker — and indeed to many who count English as their first language — the locals around these parts are more easily deciphered. And in fact Scottish students only make up around a third of the university’s intake; the rest (stereotypically, at any rate) are a mix of international students, of which there are many, and posh English people, who perhaps also count as international students. Generally, despite the plum in his mouth, the posh Englishman is easy to understand; if he has a dead pig’s testicles in his mouth too, slightly harder.

Notable alumni:

Former first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond; multiple Olympic gold medalist Chris Hoy; Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge; radical journalist and influential figure in the French Revolution Jean-Paul Marat; King James II of Scotland, who in 1457 introduced a ban on golf because he thought people were neglecting their archery skills. And quite right too!

Also consider:

Edinburgh also has an excellent, if not quite so prestigious, university. It’s a rad city, but you’ll be almost an hour away from the nearest decent waves, which are just north of the Anglo-Scottish border. A better option might be Aberdeen, home to a solid top-50 university and several OK breaks, with further options nearby. Better still, the University of the Highlands and Islands, composed of various colleges spread all over Scotland, has a campus in Thurso — part of North Highland College — that offers courses in Engineering, Environmental Research, Business, Accounting, Administration, Computing, Sports Science, Equestrianism, Gamekeeping & Veterinary Nursing. Other nearby campuses offer further options, and there are also colleges based in the Outer Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands.

UNIVERSITÉ DE NANTES

www.univ-nantes.fr

This is the second biggest French university (32 000+ students) and it is spread geographically over three different cities: Nantes and Saint Nazaire in the Loire Atlantique region and Roche sur Yon in Vendée. You can pretty much study all branches of learning, St Nazaire offers more science based degrees, Roche sur Yon offers literature, languages & law degrees, while the main university in Nantes offers everything else. There’s also a foreign exchange progamme with 3,500 foreign students coming every year.

Location:

Nantes, the 6th biggest city in France (population: 860,000) is located in the south part of French Brittany.

Distance to the surf:

Saint Nazaire has a few breaks really close by (Govelle or L’Ermitage), Nantes is a bit more inland and it will take you 25 mins or so to get to the nearest quality break.

Cost of living:

Nantes has a super efficient modern tramway which makes life easier and cheaper. Campus accommodation is plentiful and again rent in this region is lower than in Paris.

Surf club:

They organise regular weekends away to Les Sables d’Olonne with surf lessons if you need them.

Where to party:

There are plenty of options from the high-end bars of Caroussel & Castel to the former LU factory (the famous biscuits) now known as Lieu Unique.

What’s cool about it:

Nantes is a dynamic city with plenty of sports, music and cultural activities. As one of the least polluted cities in France, there are lots of leafy areas and a sense that the ocean is nearby. In fact, many students head that way for an evening apéro at the beach.

DURHAM UNIVERSITY

Another Russell Group member, Durham is one of the UK’s very top universities, always figuring in the league tables’ top 10 and often in their top 5. It’s a “collegiate university”, which is to say it’s composed of various semi-autonomous colleges — 16 in Durham’s case — in the manner of Cambridge or Oxford. Unlike those at Cambridge and Oxford, however, the Durham colleges have no academic function, but are merely the organising principle of domestic and social life, sport, and pastoral care. Wikipedia informs us that there is “great deal of intercollegiate rivalry”, and no doubt this results in large quantities of “top banter”. The 16 colleges are spread across two campuses, Durham City and Queen’s, which between them comprise a 223-hectare estate, containing one ancient monument, 5 grade-one listed buildings, 68 grade-two listed buildings, and part of a UNESCO world heritage site.

Location:

The North East, just south of Newcastle. The smaller Queen’s Campus, where Medicine, Pharmacy, Accounting, Business and Finance, Applied Psychology and Primary Education are studied, is located just outside the city in the town of Thornaby-on-Tees.

Distance to surf:

It’s 30 minutes to the nearest break. Beware, the east coast is fickle and unpredictable, but it can be very good. “I’ve had numerous super early dawneys only to rock up at the beach and find that it’s flat,” says SE’s North East correspondent. “Easy to spend a whole day driving 100s of miles looking for the ‘right spot’ and find nothing. But if you’re committed and keen to search then when you’re rewarded it makes it all worth while! Potential for really quality uncrowded waves and it helps having the prevailing wind offshore. Mixture of heavy reefs and beach breaks with the odd point break.”

Another mate of mine who went to Durham befriended a few of the locals, who took him with them to a couple of secret spots… but not without blindfolding him first.

Scotland’s easily doable for a weekend trip too.

Cost of living:

For rent you’re looking at about £100 a week, sharing a place with friends. Prices for halls range from £4,773 a year (self-catered) to £7,104 (ensuite, catered).

Where to go out:

“Klute is a dump but pretty hilarious and cheap!”

Surf club:

It’s “sick”, apparently.

What’s cool about it:

The water. It’s probably the coldest anywhere in the UK during winter, as it doesn’t get enjoy the Gulf Stream wrap-around effect like Scotland’s east coast does. Expect water temperatures of 5 degrees in winter.

Accent:

On the one hand it’s the northeast, so if you’re an Erasmus student, good luck understanding anything at all. On the other, it’s not quite yet Geordieland, so it could be worse.

Notable alumni:

TV presenter Gaby Logan; radio host Jeremy Vine; Nasser Hussain and Andrew Strauss, two former England cricket captains; Will Carling, former England rugby captain; triple jump world record holder Jonathan Edwards.

Also consider:

Newcastle University — slightly cheaper, good (though not quite as good) academically, a similar distance from the coast (though half an hour further north), based in a bigger city.

University College Cork

A constituent university of the University of Ireland, UCC was recently named Irish University of the Year by the Sunday Times — for the fourth time since the turn of the century. The prospectus is reasonably broad, offering courses in all major subjects, but the university ranks particularly well for Pharmacology, Law, Biology, Medicine, Electrical Engineering, Languages, History and Environmental Studies. Home to just over 15,000 students.

Location:

Cork, obvs, near the south coast of the Republic of Ireland. Cork has a reputation as a charming city, and its centre is just a short walk from the equally charming campus.

Distance to surf:

You’re around half an hour to an hour from a number spots on the south coast of varying quality, plus the potentially excellent waves of Co. Kerry and Co. Clare are within a two-hour drive. You can double that (at least) for Counties Mayo, Sligo and Donegal.

Cost of living:

University accommodation starts at about €110 self-catered. Renting with mates will cost you about €85 – €100 a week plus bills.

Where to party:

For pubs, An Brog is a favourite haunt of students, offering drinks at excellent prices and plenty of atmosphere. Meanwhile the Franciscan Well is one of Ireland’s very finest micro-breweries.

Notable alumni:

Actor Cillian Murphy and TV presenter Graham Norton, although ultimately neither of them graduated — too many long weekends charging Mullaghmore, no doubt.

Also consider:

Galway also has a solid university — likewise part of the University of Ireland — offering a wide range of courses. Though situated on Ireland’s west coast, it’s still around an hour and a half away from breaks in the Doolin area to the south, and County Mayo to the north. Heading north of the border, Ulster University is just a few minutes from the fickle but quality waves of Portrush, home of inspirational ginger Al Mennie. It’s a decent university too (the Complete University Guide has it in 66th place), and offers a comprehensive academic program.

Share

Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.

production