6 podcasts to add to your playlist before uni starts

A man wearing headphones.

So you’re starting uni soon. Congratulations! Whether you’re going for the first time or returning after some time in the workplace, the prospect of studying at university is an exciting one. You get to learn something that really fires your imagination, alongside similarly motivated peers and expert academics.

Besides making sure your stationery game is en pointe, taking a Study Link subject to build your confidence in a skill you might not have exercised for a while, and doing some initial reading around your subject, another way to get in the ‘headspace’ for university is listening to podcasts.

The beauty of podcasts is that you can use them when other methods of study aren’t feasible. You can’t very well read while you’re on a run or in the car, but you can listen to podcasts.

As you delve deeper into your course, you’ll probably be recommended and discover some in your niche. But in the meantime, as you get in the general groove for university, here are a few podcasts with an educational bent that are worth dipping into.

TED Talks

TED Talks feels like it’s been around for ages, and in fact, the not-for-profit organisation behind them is actually more than 30 years old. TED Talks is all about experts talking about new ideas and developments in their field, whether that’s education, business, science, tech or creativity.

Typically running at between 15 and 30 minutes, TED Talks podcasts are a convenient way to delve into what’s happening in your study area, and explore some of the ideas that are currently piquing the imagination of those working in the field.

The Forum

The BBC World Service is pretty much legendary by now for disseminating knowledge around the globe. And The Forum is arguably its flagship show.

Each episode brings together three leading thinkers from different academic and artistic disciplines. So you might have, say, a scientist, a writer and a sociologist together, or a historian, a filmmaker and a cultural theorist. Each guest explains a topic or a new idea of particular interest to them and which dovetails with their area of expertise. The other guests are then invited to join the discussion.

Each podcast is 30 minutes long – perfect for listening to during a quick gym session.

In Our Time

A distinguished radio show with a legendary presenter, In Our Time is also available as a free podcast. This BBC production finds Melvyn Bragg discussing a subject with three academic experts for around 45 minutes.

The sheer range of subjects is what really makes this podcast so valuable to students. Whether you want to learn more about, say, Wittgenstein’s theories of linguistics, the 12th-century Renaissance, Frida Kahlo’s art or the evolutionary history of the whale, you’ll be able to listen to a learned and engaging discussion by leading thinkers on the subject.

You can also search the (very extensive) archive by theme – such as history, religion, philosophy, science or culture – to find episodes of interest.


It’s not too much of a stretch to say that what In Our Time is to radio in the United Kingdom, Radio Lab is to the United States. That is to say, a program produced on a public radio service that’s dedicated to discussing a wide range of ideas, cultural touchpoints and historical eras.

Just in 2017, for instance, episodes covered issues as diverse as cryptocurrencies, the science of extreme cold, policing, fake news, the notion of blame, driverless cars, Oliver Sacks and theories of social psychology.

The archive is extensive, so you should be able to find many episodes that either fit with your forthcoming studies or pique your interest.

National Archives of Australia

Irregularly updated it may be, but the archive of this, er, archive podcast is well worth dipping into to discover various aspects of Australian history and culture.

The podcasts are lectures and talks by notable experts and range across:

  • family history
  • government policy
  • immigration
  • Indigenous Australians
  • intelligence and security
  • international relations
  • prominent people
  • social history
  • the experience of war.

Each podcast also comes with a downloadable transcript which could make referencing its content in your forthcoming studies easier.

Grammar Girl

A practical podcast that will stand you in good stead for when you get back in the swing of academic writing, Grammar Girl is a bit of a legend in word nerd circles.

So if you’re unsure about the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’, want to know how to construct a compelling introductory paragraph with which to hook your readers, or want to know the best way to use abbreviations and acronyms in a piece of work, this podcast is for you.

To the point, simply explained and engaging with it, you couldn’t ask for more from a podcast about grammar.

Whatever your forthcoming area of study, and whatever your schedule, you’ll undoubtedly be able to find something in the archives of these podcasts that will pique your interest, fire you up for your degree or give you an insight. Enjoy.