‘Walking into a cafeteria, it would be filled with students frolicking and chatting with sticky notes, journals and laptops sprawled about with steaming cups of coffee.’
A university town can be a state, city or just a neighborhood where the academic institution is the most distinctive feature and it’s dominated by the student population. These towns are known by the universities that are there and the local residents are generally the students and people who are employed in these institutions. The primary economic activities and institutions too revolve around the university structure such as having budgeted restaurants, libraries, printing shops, student housing and societies, etc.
In Europe, university towns are categorized by the presence of an ancient university. These are few notable university towns across the globe:
1. Delft, Netherlands
Also known as the ‘water city’, Delft is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands that has water canals passing throughout the city. While walking through the city one can get acquainted with the tree-lined picturesque bridges and canals, monumental buildings and impressive buildings. Being a university town, Delft University serves as the landmark of the city people resonate with.
The streets of the city are a reflection of the student life with the new roads running parallel to the canals as people cycle and walk by. The sidewalks are also littered with outdoor cafes that are filled with students throughout the day.
2. Oxford, England
Oxford, also known as the ‘City of dreaming spires’, a term coined by poet Mathew Arnold, has long served as an inspiration to artists, writers, students and dreamers. The city is known for its university with world-class infrastructure along with the Victorian streets and sprawling pre, post-war estates.
Housing the second oldest university in the world that is still functioning, Oxford is a young city with one-third of its population under the age of thirty and hence the streets are filled with theatres, pubs and restaurants creating a vibrant and cosmopolitan community. The city is an amalgamation of history, modernity and knowledge. C.S. Lewis wrote in his poem about Oxford:
“ A clean, sweet city lulled by ancient streams,
A place of visions and of loosening chains,
A refuge of the elect, a tower of dreams.”
3. Uppsala, Sweden
Uppsala is accredited as a 15th-century university town as it houses one of the oldest universities in Sweden i.e. Uppsala University. The city also has one of the largest, historic Scandinavian churches i.e. Uppsala cathedral along with a number of museums, hospitals and universities.
Gustavianum is the oldest building of the university which was built in 1622 and has been renovated over time. It’s still functioning as a part of the university along with a university museum which also houses relics that represent the history of the university and the town.
4. Manipal, India
Once a barren hill with trees located at the rocky hinterland of the Malabar coast, the area was developed as a town by the coming up of various university campuses. The university town today boasts of more than 20 colleges with about 25,000 students coming in every year. It not only has a number of student hostels and cafeterias but also lakes and green pockets. It’s also surrounded by a number of small intimate beaches which are mostly frequented by students of the town for recreational purposes.
5. Cambridge, England
A city etched in history, it’s interesting to see how the coming up of various universities have today made this city as a university town where various historic buildings now house student functions; from the King’s College Chapel to dining halls located in old gothic buildings to student residences in turrets of Caius and Gonville, etc.
River Cam which runs through the city is a great source of water transport which allows one to traverse through various universities and colleges the river runs through or encircles.
6. Berkeley, California
Being a university town, Berkeley is one of the most socially liberal cities in the United States. Berkeley was open land with farms and ranches until the construction of the University of California began which led to the coming up of residences, markets in the vicinity and gradually it developed into a city. Being a university town, Berkeley is quite quintessential with hiking trails, galleries, museums and gardens.
It provides for both indoor and outdoor spaces for recreational activities allowing for the city to grow.
7. Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton is a culturally and historically rich town and is ranked 15th in the list of 100 best places to live in the U.S. Despite being a university town, there is a strong sense of community in the residents of all the age groups. Along with the young population who are students many old people also come and settle in the town due to its liveliness and various amenities and facilities.
8. Valparaíso, Chile
Valparaiso, a UNESCO world heritage city is synonymous with its funicular railways, cobbled streets and hills. The city is known as being a university town due to the presence of huge university campuses but at the same time, the city has been developed in a way that allowed for the economy to grow based on these institutions. The city allows for students to traverse freely on the roads, stopping by at cafes or going all the way up to the upper city using the railways. The charm of the city lies in the enigma it provides to explore and meander.
9. Madison, Wisconsin
The strong presence of educational institutes in Madison has had a significant impact on its demographics, culture and economy. The various university campuses are sprawled in the city which further extends out in the form of public libraries and parks. Located on an isthmus, surrounded by four lakes, the city always provides for picturesque views along with a multitude of recreational activities.
Being a university town, there are a number of car-free zones and eco-friendly commutes that encourage people to walk and cycle within the city.
10. Athens, Georgia
The small college town is home to the state’s first university i.e. University of Georgia which was founded in 1785. The city is known as the ‘Live Music Central’ as it has a number of outdoor venues for music and performing arts. As the first college building was set up using logs, the town started to grow adjacent to the building.
The city is also known for the number of start-up companies and businesses which have been started by the young population of the city who are essentially alumni of the universities. The city also boasts of abundant jobs, transportations, lower living costs and communal spaces.