Living in London
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Studying at the RCA places you at the heart of a city internationally renowned for its creativity, culture and diversity. Here’s our guide to living in London – the world’s number one student city (QS Best Student Cities 2023).
Home to established galleries, independents and pop-up art spaces, there’s no lack of creative inspiration when it comes to living in London, and many museums and galleries offer discounted entry for students.
RCA students are eligible for National Art Fund’s Student Art Pass, which gets you 50% off entry to major exhibitions – including at Tate Britain and Modern, the Science Museum, Design Museum and Barbican. For those who want to explore further, the Art Pass also gives holders free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and historic houses across the UK. The Royal Academy of Arts also offers free exhibition tickets for students studying visual arts, history of art, architecture and applied arts – you just need to show your student ID.
“There is so much creativity. There are so many [fashion] brands you haven’t heard of before, you see more presentations popping up everywhere. London is incredible... creatively, I think there’s no other place I would like to be.”Director, LUEDER
As well as visual culture, London is famed for its live music scene and is home to a wide range of iconic, genre-spanning venues like the Roundhouse, Alexandra Palace and the Royal Albert Hall, as well as festivals such as All Points East, Field Day and Cross the Tracks. London Ears is a great resource for popular gig and concert listings, while The Bishopsgate Institute runs a series of free classical concerts every lunchtime.
Whether you want to catch some theatre or take in a drag show, nightlife in London caters to all tastes. Time Out London is your go-to for listings and publishes a weekly round-up of club nights and events. Free yearly events like Notting Hill Carnival (which takes place every August bank holiday weekend) and Pride (a month-long celebration leading up to the iconic Pride in London parade in July) exemplify the city’s rich and diverse cultural tapestry.
London is the perfect city to develop your creative career in. RCA students enjoy opportunities to collaborate with industry, volunteer with local communities and display their work at some of London’s most prestigious exhibition spaces.
Students from the School of Design have a long history of showing work at the London Design Festival, while students from across the School of Arts & Humanities have had work exhibited at Saatchi Gallery as part of the gallery’s endeavour to showcase London’s emerging art scene in their London Grads Now show.
As the creative capital of the UK, London is ripe with opportunities for employment post-study and RCA students have gone on to work in an impressive variety of roles in the city and beyond.
While studying at the RCA, you’ll also encounter opportunities to work with local communities and collaborate with peers, and many RCA students attest to the lifelong connections they make at the College.
“London to me is a city where everything is possible. It provided me the opportunity to be exposed to a truly multicultural and open environment. Through the RCA Community Engagement programme, I volunteered at Katherine Low Settlement centre to start making a positive impact in the community around me. This experience profoundly shaped my studies and my way of creating art and design today.”MA Interior Design, 2020
London provides a great base to continue your practice after graduating. For international students, a graduate (post-study) work visa enables you to stay in the UK for two years after graduation. Start-up visas and global talent visas also offer other routes to stay in the UK. You can find out more about each visa and eligibility requirements here.
London is one of the greenest cities in the world for its size – housing nearly as many trees (8.3 million) as it does people (8.9 million).
The city's green spaces are a great way to explore its different neighbourhoods – from London Fields and nearby Broadway Market in Hackney, to wild swimming in Hampstead Heath or the tranquillity of Holland Park’s Japanese-inspired Kyoto Garden. At the RCA, two of the city’s flagship green spaces – Battersea Park with its riverside promenade and the iconic Hyde Park – are right on your doorstep.
“We have a saying ‘London is a village,’ because we’re always bumping into someone we know. It’s actually more like a series of villages with every neighbourhood having a totally different vibe. The RCA is a microcosm of London, with each department feeling like its own village; Textiles being the Columbia Road of the RCA, and Architecture the South Bank. The communities within each department feel akin to the overall diversity of London too.”
If you want to venture further afield but not stray too far from the city, you can spot wild deer in Richmond Park, or be transported to other parts of the world through Kew Gardens’ botanical collection. London is also a great base for exploring the rest of the UK and Europe, with rail links to Edinburgh and Paris, and short flights to the wider continent.