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10th February 2014

Debate: Does a relationship enhance your university experience?

While many people are eager for a relationship while at uni, others simply want to enjoy being young, free and single. Here, two students debate the issue


Before I begin, a disclaimer. It’s really not my intention to sound smug here. But it has to be said: there are many great things about being in a relationship at university. For most people, uni is the first time you’re able to really experience something close to an adult relationship. You don’t have to worry about your parents or siblings walking in on you or hearing anything that they shouldn’t (there are housemates to consider, of course, but that’s far less embarrassing!). Being able to make dinner for your boyfriend or girlfriend in your own house – your own food, your own wine – feels almost like being a proper grown-up, and that’s quite exciting. Embarking on a relationship away from home definitely feels like taking an extra step into becoming your own person, clichéd as that may sound.

There are practical (and somewhat selfish) reasons for wanting to be with someone at university, too. Your housemates might be great, but they’re not necessarily going to bring you a cup of tea and a cuddle the morning after a big night – they’re more likely to be in their own beds, nursing their own hangovers. In addition, university life can sometimes feel quite overwhelming. Whether it’s the pressure of an intense workload or drama within an extended friendship group, it can be a great relief to know you’ve got someone to lean on and escape with.

Of course, university relationships have their issues. One big one is that things can get very intense, very quickly, and it’s easy to feel smothered or like you’re missing out on other things. Living in your own houses, free from parental interference, can mean that you end up essentially living together, and it’s all too easy to spend nights out draped across your significant other before heading home to bed with them. And then, panic! Suddenly you realise you don’t know any of the latest gossip and you haven’t actually had a good dance with your mates in weeks. It’s so important to get the balance between friends, work and a relationship right, and I think being at university does make achieving that balance more difficult.

I’ve only been in a relationship since my second year of uni, and for that, I’m glad, as I think being in a whirlwind romance from the very beginning might have made it trickier to make solid friendships in first year. Overall, though, I can’t imagine my time at Manchester without my relationship – it’s made it what it is in so many ways.


NO: Beth Currall

I am well aware that everyone is different, but I have no shame in admitting that I am not a relationship person in the slightest, at least during this point in my life. University is one of the most exciting times of our lives, and I simply fail to see how being tied down would enhance this experience. Granted, there are a few couples who manage to create time for their work, friends and their other halves, but a relationship with this kind of balance is like gold dust- at any age. I can see why people desire the affection and the company, but why now? Why during uni?

When I wake up after a night out, I don’t want to turn over to someone next to me begging for cuddles or getting in my face. I want to lie in bed, stuff my face and cry over all the embarrassing things that I did. And on said night out, I want to be pathetically intoxicated, dance with my friends and have the chance to meet new people without having to look over my shoulder for my boyfriend’s approval. If I stumble out of the club at four, or mooch away at one because I’m pissed off and not drunk enough, I can do that without having to let anyone know. I am almost 100% sure that I have commitment issues, but I just can’t even fathom the idea of having to inform someone of my whereabouts, or receive the go-ahead for my plans. I came to uni for independence, not to be parented.

I don’t think I would have made the close friendships I have made at Manchester, had I found a partner early on. In fairness, my best friend and I have what I imagine a university relationship would be like: she is my rock, the person I go to for everything, and I would be utterly lost without her. However, we remain our own people; we have separate friends and interests here, and that sense of liberty is crucial for university life. I personally think that I would have been inhibited had I got into a relationship during my first year, and that time really lays the foundation for the two or three years to come after Fresher’s.

Although I look forward to falling in love and eventually (hopefully) marrying one day, the life I lead here in Manchester couldn’t be further removed from ‘settled’, and that is exactly what I wanted out of my university experience. I didn’t come here to find love, I came here to have the time of my life, get myself a degree, and in all honesty, to find out who I really am. And once I’ve found that out, maybe then I’ll be ready to get into a relationship.

Remember: the University of Manchester Counselling Service can be contacted for all sorts of reasons. If you’re struggling with relationship issues, feeling down after a break-up, or experiencing loneliness, don’t be embarrassed to get in touch at

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