Life in the UK as a student will give you plenty of opportunities to deepen your knowledge as universities have plenty of resources and facilities to help you in your studies. But there are public resources to explore, particularly if you are focussing on niche areas of study, or are looking for more options.  Here’s a guide to get you started.

Public libraries

Our first recommendation is to hunt down your local library in the town you’re living in.

The UK has over 3,500 public libraries according to 2019 figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).  This service is provided under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 that requires local authorities in England and Wales to offer an efficient and comprehensive library service.

These services are delivered through thousands of facilities namely – mobile units, local branches, youth or community centres.   Campaigners for local libraries want libraries to remain in operation as a vital public resource.  And with many reading sources going digital, it gives the chance to those with limited access to technology to access physical books and references.

Although library visits have shown a decline in recent years, there is still keen interest in these physical facilities for students and members of the public.  CIPFA noted 215 million visits across 2019 and 2020.

Your university campus should have extensive library facilities, but if there is a title or journal that is hard to find, feel free to access the one in the town near you. Student memberships or discounted loans may be available to you as a UK student.

If you’re able to access the British Library, sign up for a Reader Pass to access the library’s collection, order imagery, archives and have materials delivered to you in the Reading Room.  Rare works you can view here include Shakespeare’s First Folio and the Magna Carta, as part of the library’s collection that is made up of more than 150 million items.

Museums and art galleries

Art and culture may be your area of study so try to visit the many museums and art galleries for a first hand experience of great works. Always check the access and opening hours of these places as there may be Covid-19 restrictions in place. Here are a few we’ve highlighted for your first visit:

Natural History Museum: This is not only for visitors to the UK, but holds a whole world of knowledge in one of the most iconic buildings in London. Stay in touch with the museum to find out the latest exhibitions and events.

Imperial War Museum: As history buffs, students may be fascinated with the award-winning galleries spanning from World War 1 to the present day. There are collections and galleries of over six floors with all things military-related – from vehicles to weapons, right up to lifesize aircraft on display.

Tate Britain and Tate Modern: Tate Britain is home to a wide range of classic British paintings. There may be tours or workshops, or even talks dedicated to different art work on a regular basis. Meanwhile, you can view modern and contemporary art at Tate Modern, which has free galleries and thought-provoking exhibitions.

The Design Museum: If you are an architecture or design student, explore this museum in Kensington. Exhibitions focus on graphic design, digital art, fashion and architecture.

Victoria and Albert Museum: Those keen on robotics, calligraphy or even leather-making, this design museum will give you tips in workshops to deepen your skills. Students are welcomed in the study rooms and will have access to the reference collections.

Science Museum and London Transport Museum: These museums are a boon to science and engineering students. You can explore more than 15,000 objects in the Science Museum as well as the new Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries, home to one of the most significant medical collections in the world. At the London Transport Museum, there are interactive galleries for check out and a chance to join the Hidden Tour of secret locations and disused underground stations across London.

Public resource centres

For more niche areas of study, there are public resource centres that provide guides on how to set up campaigns, fundraising initiatives and offer information to raise awareness on various causes.  This may be a go-to option if you have to work on a specific case study or research project relevant to your course.  Topics cover public health with a special focus on Covid-19, social justice matters and human rights issues.

Going online

As resources increasingly switch to virtual spaces, there are a host of resources students can access to supplement course work.  We have listed a few relevant ones here:

Oxford University Press: This site offers a platform to search for titles or publications and tips to search in libraries across the UK and US.

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre: Here you can find case studies and information about businesses and their human rights track record.

Public Health England:  This is a free site to access resources to do with public health, with its current emphasis on Covid-19.

Secondhand books

You may prefer to pick up your own copy of reading resources, and want to save some money doing so. There are many budget options, and a simple internet search can lead you to Used Books Online Search or  Abe Textbooks. Other options you could check out are at charity shops such as Oxfam where proceeds go to a worthy cause.  There may be local secondhand book shops in the town near your campus, so go ahead and explore.