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Overseas university spotlight: Bangor University (UK)

Set between the mountains of Snowdonia and the Menai Straight in the northwest of Wales, Bangor University is perfect for an outdoor enthusiast looking to study in a 'college town' environment.


From mountain-climbing to wind-surfing to scenic walks, this region has it all.


And the university itself is quite unique, dating back to 1884 (the main building is stunning!).


Here are some of the highlights from my visit to campus in April 2023!


Main building of Bangor University

Bangor city


Although it appears a bit remote, Bangor is only about three hours on a direct train from London -- or a 3-hour ferry across the Irish Sea from Dublin!


With a population of around 18,000, it's also actually the oldest city in Wales.


The university is right in the centre, where you can walk everywhere; it is super easy to get around.


View from the main building of Bangor Uni facing the centre of the city
View from the main building of Bangor Uni facing the centre of the city

You can even reach the water within a 10-minute walk.


Garth Pier in the distance
Garth Pier in the distance

And within a 20-minute drive, you can reach the island of Anglesey, Caernarfon Castle, Llyn Padarn (a lake popular for swimmers and water sports), waterfalls and more.


Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle
View from inside the Caernarfon Castle
View from inside the Caernarfon Castle
Llyn Padarn
Llyn Padarn

Bangor University


Like the city in which it's located, Bangor University is on the smaller side when it comes to number of students.


In fact, its community of about 10,000 students accounts for almost half the city's population.


Made up of three colleges and nine academic schools, Bangor is perhaps best known for its courses in ocean sciences and the environment.


Given its location and the number of conservation sites and protected areas within reach, it's no surprise!


In fact, it's one of the only universities to have a dedicated School of Ocean Sciences; most universities teach it as part of a biology or natural sciences department.

Bangor's School of Ocean Sciences, however, has a team of 30 academics who teach across a broad range of topics (physics, chemistry, maths, psychology, history, politics, business, geology) and how they relate to the ocean.


School of Ocean Sciences
School of Ocean Sciences

There are 25 other UK universities that teach marine science, but Bangor is also the only UK university with a full ocean vessel.


This vessel is a great experience for students and goes out for 1-2 weeks at a time.


Algae tests in the School of Ocean Sciences
Algae tests in the School of Ocean Sciences

And the students are happy; this department consistently ranks in the top 5-10 percent for student satisfaction.


This could also be due in part to the small cohorts, the peer advising system and pastoral care.


For example, they do attendance monitoring to spot students who might be struggling -- not in an accusatory way, but rather as a concern for their well-being.

This is extremely rare for universities outside the U.S., where you typically have to ask for help if needed and won't be tracked down if you're struggling.


Science lab
Modern science labs
Modern science labs
View from science labs
View from science labs

And one of the more unique resources students have access to is the Natural History Museum, which has loads of full skeletons and specimens preserved in fluids, some of which are 2,500 years old!


On display are about 500 items of Bangor's collection of 40,000 pieces.


The museum is used primarily as a teaching resource and is not usually open to the public, which makes it all the more exciting for students.


Natural History Museum, Brambell Building
Natural History Museum, Brambell Building

Sir David Attenborough is an honorary graduate of Bangor and had this to say about the university:


Bangor University has a superb reputation in the study of environmental science. The world needs people skilled in the expertise needed to play a crucial part in solving the world’s problems.

Bangor also has one of the oldest sports science departments in the UK (about 45 years old), where students can study accredited sports science degrees, as well as more specialist topics like adventure sport science, extreme sport coaching, adventure tourism and outdoor therapy.


Students benefit from collaborations with Liverpool and Manchester City soccer clubs and a wide range of unique facilities.


Sports Science building
Sports Science building
Great views from the sports science department!
Great views from the sports science department!
View from the sports science department
View from the sports science department

Besides beautiful views, it even has a thermal environmental chamber and hypoxia environmental chambers to simulate hot and cold as well as altitude and oxygen levels.


The Altitude Centre for sports science students
The Altitude Centre for sports science students

The most beautiful building on campus, however, is the original one, which was completed in 1911 and formally opened by King George V.


Main university building
Arches in the hallway

It has magnificent archways and stunning stained glass windows.


Stained glass in the main building

It also houses the absolutely stunning library, a place I could definitely spend a lot of time!


The main library
The main library
The main library
The main library
The main library
Stained glass outside the library
Stained glass outside the library

Students no doubt have a lot of fond memories in this place -- and perhaps even more so because it also houses the beautiful hall in which they will later graduate.


Graduation hall
Graduation hall

Overall, Bangor doesn't have a 'campus feel' per se, as the buildings are dispersed within the small city, but almost everything is easily reached on foot.


Pretty flowers on campus
Bangor Law School
Bangor Law School

In fact, student housing is also conveniently located next to the student bar (Bar Uno) and the sports centre, so students can workout prior to having a pint!


One of the halls of residence
One of the halls of residence
One of the smaller rooms
One of the smaller rooms
A larger student room
A larger student room
Common area
Common area
Sports centre
Sports centre
Sports centre
Sports centre
Student bar
Student bar

In 2015, the university opened a new centre blending arts and culture, innovation, education and community called Pontio, which means 'to bridge' in Welsh.


Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre
Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre

The idea was to bring together both the communities of students and locals to eat, drink, hang out, learn and enjoy the arts.


It's home to the Students' Union -- as well as an elevator that can get you up to the main building if you are opposed to walking up hills!


Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre
Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre

It's also right next to the beautiful North Wales' Heroes Memorial Arch, commemorating the 8,500 men from North Wales who were killed in World War I.


North Wales Heroes' Memorial Arch
North Wales Heroes' Memorial Arch

Summary


To me, Bangor University is a hidden gem.


As someone who studied in a 'college town' environment, I could totally see myself here.


It offers a close-knit community and an extremely affordable cost of living, right on the doorstep of so many beautiful natural environments to explore on the North Wales coast.


Main building of Bangor University

Bangor is perfect for the kind of student who likes to get out of the classroom and learn in its many living laboratories -- and also have the kind of individual support they provide when times get tough.


 

Interested in applying for college or grad school abroad?



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G'day! My name is Sara, and I'm the founder of College Apps Abroad and a Certified Educational Planner (CEP), one of only 40 CEP's in California and 300 worldwide. I have more than 10 years of experience working in international recruitment and admissions, and I've studied and lived overseas myself in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Brazil for almost a decade. I've also worked for some of the world's top institutions, including The University of Edinburgh, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and The University of Western Australia (UWA)!

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