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Best universities… in terms of sports, pubs, and a fair workload

For the third consecutive year Times Higher Education has run a national Student Experience Survey in the United Kingdom. The objective of this survey is to identify those universities where students are happiest, or in other words, where they themselves rate their overall student experience the best. Loughborough University toped this ‘ranking’ for the third time in a row, followed by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Each of the top ten institutions fared best in a different area: while Oxford has the best library, St. Andrews received the best security ratings, Newcastle was felt to offer the best social life, and Swansea the cheapest bars and shops. Exeter scored especially well on industry connections and courses' structure.

The survey methodology consists of two consecutive parts. First, a student focus group of 1 000 undergraduates was asked open questions about the positive and negative contributions of their institutions on their time as a student by the Opinionpanel, the organisation carrying out the survey. The responses were then used to form a list of 21 factors, ranging from relationships with teaching staff to a fair workload, further to good social life and sports facilities, weighted to reflect the importance given by students themselves to each of them. More than 12 000 full-time undergraduate students where then asked to rate their university on each of the aspects.

The survey reveals a host of interesting details, and surely gives food for thought to institutions in the UK and well beyond. Are institutions really offering what matters to students? How can academic excellence go hand in hand with providing a good environment in social terms? And very interestingly, what role will such ‘rankings’ play in students’ decision making? Only time will tell…