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Which is the best domain name for academic websites?

There are a lot of choices when it comes to which web address to register for your academic website – not just .ac.uk.

Your academic research project or institution needs a website, and choosing which type of domain name is part of setting it all up.

Whether it’s .ac.uk or .com like we use here on pixelshrink.com, we take you through the more popular options and detail the pros and cons.


.ac.uk domain names

This is the domain name that most academic institutions in the UK use, and comes with eligibility criteria.

JISC is the organisation which oversees these domain names, and they state ‘The ac.uk domain is managed to add value to organisations in the United Kingdom whose core mission is tertiary education and/or public research, bodies whose membership predominantly consists of such organisations and bodies who are substantially owned by such organisations, by assisting them to meet that mission.’ You can see the full eligibility criteria here.

The application process isn’t instant, and the costs are higher than most domain names, so this may not be the best option if you’re looking to get the website for a research project live quickly.

Example: idea.nottingham.ac.uk

Advantages of .ac.uk

  • High level of prestige and mark of quality

Disadvantages of .ac.uk

  • Higher cost
  • Eligibility requirements

.edu domain names

This is the American equivalent of the .ac.uk domain name, and again comes with eligibility criteria.

According to the registrar Educause‘s website, applicants either need to be U.S.-based postsecondary institutions, or have institutional accreditation from an institutional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.  So this domain name probably won’t be available for a lot of projects based this side of the pond.

Example: harvard.edu

Advantages of .edu

  • High level of prestige and mark of quality

Disadvantages of .edu

  • Higher cost
  • Eligibility requirements (USA only)

.ac domain names

Domain name providers have got increasingly creative, and some domain names that are meant for a particular country’s use have been marketed more widely.

One example is .ac, which is the domain name for the Ascension Islands, but lends itself well to academic applications, and comes with none of the restrictions that .ac.uk or .edu have.

It doesn’t have the same prestige either, but has been used by smaller academic institutions. Also, more established universities sometimes use it as a URL shortener, in the same vein as bit.ly, to make long web addresses less unwieldy – for example, myuni.ac/link.

Example: inform.ac

Advantages of .ac

  • Lack of restriction

Disadvantages of .ac

  • Higher cost
  • Less prestige than .ac.uk and .edu

.eu domain names

Understandably very popular for EU-funded or based projects, .eu domains will no longer be available to register or renew for UK addresses due to Brexit.

So if your project is has an international base with an EU-based partner, you will still be able to use an .eu domain name as long as it is registered under your partner’s name and address.

Example: projectsensible.eu

Advantages of .eu

  • Relative low cost
  • European focus

Disadvantages of .eu

  • No longer directly available for UK addresses

.org or .org.uk domain names

These domain names were originally designed for non-profit entities, but they are open to anyone. Whereas they are not so well-known as the widespread .com and .co.uk, they do give a sense of a less commercial organisation or project, so may be a better fit for you.

If your project has an international focus or reach, you may want to consider .org.

Example: dementiadaytoday.org

Advantages of .org/.org.uk

  • Lack of restrictions
  • Lower cost (especially .org.uk)
  • More in line with non-profit ventures

Disadvantages of .org/.org.uk

  • Not quite as well-known as .co.uk and .com

.com or .co.uk domain names

These are the normal domain names open to anyone, and though they originally were designed for commercial ventures, they are widely used in any context.

Again, if your project has an international focus, a .com domain may be more suitable, but as so many have already been registered, it may require some naming creativity.

Example: dementiadistinct.com

Advantages of .com/.co.uk

  • Lack of restrictions
  • Lower cost (especially .co.uk)
  • Well-known, trips off the tongue

Disadvantages of .com/.co.uk

  • No academic context
  • A lot of addresses are already taken

Further questions?

We can register domains for your academic projects and answer any of your questions. Contact us if you need to discuss your domain name options.

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