Advice to Students

If you are considering studying at Royal Holloway then you probably already know what subject you want to read and have visited the websites of a number of universities to compare courses and facilities.  You may have also checked out accommodation in the vicinity of the universities on your short list and even visited the university for a campus tour.  What you can’t possibly understand at this stage though, is what it’s really like to live in the vicinity of a university such as Royal Holloway or how the local communities view Royal Holloway and its students.  So, to help you, we’ve set out a few notes here in the hope that they will give you a better insight before making your final choice.

University of London?

First, what’s in a name?  Royal Holloway likes to call itself ‘Royal Holloway University of London’ or RHUL for short.  Don’t assume though, that you will be studying in London with all the attractions that offers, because the university’s main campus is actually in Egham, Surrey.

Egham is a small town with a population (including the population of Englefield Green) of just under 26,000 and is dominated by the university which claims to have about 12,000 students.  Driving to the centre of the West End of London would probably take just over an hour and you would need to pay the Congestion Charge, so if London is attractive to you and you were hoping to pop into one of London’s many art galleries or trendy shops between lectures, then you should really consider enrolling at one of the true London universities and you can find a list here.  This is a list of the top 10 London universities and Royal Holloway, University of London, is not on it!

How you affect socio-demographics

As you may have already noticed, the number of students in the community is extremely high relative to the resident population and this brings us to the next problems.

Over the last 10 to 15 years the university has rapidly expanded in terms of enrolled students and well beyond the accommodation facilities that it has made available for them.  As a result, many private landlords have seen the financial attraction of buying up houses intended for family use and turning them into student accommodation: Houses in Multiple Occupation or HMOs.  This, in turn, has noticeably changed the character of many of the streets of this small community and, unfortunately, most of these changes have been detrimental to the community as a whole.  The influx of a disproportionate number of students has also resulted in many families being affected by the anti-social behaviour (ASB) of a small, but significant, number of students living in the community and also the chronic parking problems created as many students, university staff and visitors compete for parking spaces in the residential streets surrounding the campus.

All of these problems were predicted by the community when Royal Holloway consulted on its expansion plans but the university simply ignored the residents and ploughed on with its plan to increase student numbers.  The university now appears to refuse to acknowledge these issues and this has led to resentment in some quarters towards both the university and students.  This is only likely to get worse as the university now wants to increase student numbers by a further 25% to 15,000!

Will you be safe?

The endless problem of anti-social behaviour caused by some students has been recognised by Surrey Police for nearly 15 years and yet despite announcements of various initiatives over the years, none of the authorities – including the university – has managed to deal with the issue effectively.  Surrey Police have even described the problems caused by students in the vicinity of the university as an ‘ASB Hotspot’ for them.  Unfortunately, the lack of effective interventions by the authorities has led to many residents taking matters into their own hands and there have been many incidents of altercations between students and residents – some of which have ended in physical assault.

Clearly, not all students are a cause of ASB and the vast majority are well behaved and hard working.  One would think then, that Royal Holloway would tackle the badly-behaved minority for the sake of the reputation of the majority and, indeed, the university’s own reputation.  In reality though, it doesn’t seem to want to do this even though it has been directly requested to do so by the community.  This has only added to the animosity that can be felt by some students even though they have done nothing wrong themselves.

Animosity from the community is not the only threat that students may feel though: in 2021 representatives of the Students’ Union met with the local Member of Parliament and representatives of Surrey Police, Runnymede Borough Council and the university to raise a number of concerns affecting the safety of students.  Royal Holloway conceded that many students walking along the A30 (the main road that runs between the two sites that make up the campus) late at night did not feel safe.  The Students’ Union added that the results of a survey showed that while students felt safe on campus, the numbers dropped off in the local community.  Walking home was making students feel less safe because of street lighting conditions and there had been transphobia and shouting at women the Students’ Union claimed.  To help evade such dangers, the university recommends that students try to avoid walking home along during the hours of darkness and to carry a personal safety alarm which it makes available to students free of charge.

A good place to study?

Assuming that you feel safe enough to live in the community, you may still wonder about the quality of your education.

Earlier this year we published an article about the decline in Royal Holloway’s world ranking as measured by the acknowledged experts at Times Higher Education.  It may be no coincidence that Royal Holloway’s marked decline has occurred over the same period as its rapid expansion and one can only speculate on whether the university’s focus has been on increasing financial revenue through the enrolment of more and more students rather than the quality of its teaching.


Many of the problems described here can be seen as the direct result of the university’s apparent strategy for growth at any cost: cost of its own standards and reputation as well as cost to the local community.  In these days when the majority of enterprises recognise the value of corporate social responsibility one must question if this university is behaving in an ethical and sustainable manner and, if not, is this the sort of establishment that you would like to support by entrusting your education to it?

Oh, and if you are an animal lover then you should know that Royal Holloway experiments on animals too and is often picketed by Anti-vivisection movements such as Vivisection Exposed.

Finally, whatever course and university you choose, we wish you every success in both your studies and future career.