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Overseas university spotlight: University of South Wales (UK)

Most students wanting to study film in the UK immediately think of London, but the University of South Wales deserves some serious consideration.


USW said they can't graduate students fast enough to go into full-time jobs in film or animation in Cardiff, where production is booming.


In fact, around 40 USW graduates worked on 'His Dark Materials', a series on HBO.


But it's not all about film at USW, a comprehensive university with three campuses and 26,000 total students.


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


University of South Wales

Cardiff city


Cardiff is very much a young person's city.


With a population of 350,000, about 20 percent are students from across Cardiff's three universities.


It's often described as a big village - because it's very easy to bump into people you know wherever you are.

This helps make students feel at home and part of a community.


I have to say that the amount of green space in the city also really surprised me.


Alexandra Gardens
Alexandra Gardens
Alexandra Gardens
Alexandra Gardens

And whilst Cardiff is the capital of Wales, Wales just happens to be the castle capital of Europe.


In total, there are more than 600 castles, and many students will be delighted to know that there is a massive castle right in the heart of Cardiff as well.


Cardiff Castle
Cardiff Castle
Cardiff Castle
Cardiff Castle

This castle is not only just for tours though; it often hosts concerts or events in its grounds as well, getting a fair amount of modern-day use.


Cardiff is also famed for the iconic Principality Stadium, just a stones' throw from the castle, in the very centre of the city.


The stadium has played host to many a world-leading sporting event, including European Champions' League finals and WWE Wrestling clashes.


It has also been the venue for shows by artists including Beyoncé, Foo Fighters and Bruce Springsteen.


Cardiff Castle

To me, Cardiff has a kind of cool, alternative vibe, and there are lots of nice pubs and coffee shops.


It's a lively city, but it's all on a manageable scale, and the people are approachable and welcoming.


One of my favorite aspects is just the walkability of the place; you can really get just about everywhere on foot.


Womanby Street
Womanby Street

Speaking of coffee, after trying a fair amount of places around the city, I have to say my favorite would be Uncommon Ground in the Royal Arcade.


It's also a great place to get some study or reading done, as they (deliberately) don't offer Wi-Fi!


Uncommon Ground coffee

Inside the Royal Arcade is also where you'll find a student-favorite sandwich shop called Fresh, but make sure to get there early to avoid the long lines at lunch!


Royal Arcade

In terms of industries, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that TV and film production is booming in Cardiff right now.


It's the second largest center for screen industries in the UK and one of the largest in Europe, with 32 major TV and film series currently being produced in the area.


If you've ever watched an episode of Dr. Who, you'll likely have seen some of Cardiff already - the show has been filmed there since its relaunch in 2005.


It also has the highest number of media jobs outside of London, attracting many London defectors on account of its livability.


University of South Wales


USW's creative campus (the Atrium) is in Cardiff, with 6,000 students studying everything from film to fashion to games and design.


Atrium campus at USW
Atrium campus at USW
Student cafe at USW

Here, the emphasis is on practical experiences and preparing students for the workplace.


Fashion classroom
Fashion classroom
Fashion facilities
Fashion designs by students
Theatre set
Theatre set
Another theatre set

The actual classrooms are set up strategically.


For example, graphic design students sit at round tables because it's essential for students in this field to learn how to work collaboratively.


Digital media classroom
Digital media classroom

And with so many alumni who have stayed in Cardiff to work in the industry, USW is able to really leverage these connections with current students.


In fact, one of their most successful courses is TV & Film Set Design, which is one of only three in the UK.


Set designs
Set designs
Some set designs
Some set designs

Their facilities are also outstanding; they have one of the best green screens in the region, which is used by visual effects students.


Green screen facilities at USW

Their philosophy regarding use of state-of-the-art equipment is that they don't want technical aspects to hold students back from maximizing their creativity.

This campus also houses the Gus Dudgeon Suite, named after the record producer who oversaw some of Elton John's most acclaimed hits.


Gus Dudgeon studio
Gus Dudgeon studio

After Dudgeon passed away tragically in a car accident in 2002, USW purchased his original mixing desk from the '70s, which students can now book out to use themselves!


Gus Dudgeon studio
Gus Dudgeon studio

USW's largest campus is in Pontypridd, about a half hour on the train north of Cardiff in the heart of the South Wales valleys.


It is green, mountainous and basically like a mini student village, with a sports centre, Students' Union and student housing, where every room has its own bathroom and shower.


There, students can study engineering, computer science, English, law, psychology, history and more.


It even has two aircraft hangers for its programs in aerospace and aeronautical engineering.


Finally, the third campus is in Newport, also a half hour on the train.


This campus is right in the heart of Newport city, and their program in cybersecurity is one of the highlights (USW was named Cyber University of the Year at the National Cyber Awards four years in a row).


Summary


As a city, Cardiff is a lively place and one of the most walkable cities I've visited.


And right in the heart of it is USW's creative campus, with outstanding facilities and an emphasis on practical experiences.


Hundreds of USW alumni now work in Cardiff's booming film and production industry, and it's no surprise.


USW provides excellent preparation for the workplace in an affordable, friendly, artsy community.


Cardiff city centre
Cardiff city centre
Cardiff city centre

 

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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