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Survey reveals best and worst universities for student experience

Student experience is becoming increasingly important as university fees rise and students demand more from their higher education.

best and worst university for student experience

The University of Loughborough offers the best student experience in the UK, according to a survey of undergraduates across the country.

This year the Times Higher Education (THE) UK Student Experience Survey asked more than 20,000 students about different aspects of university life. Loughborough pushed last year’s winner, Harper Adams, off the top spot and down into second place.

Loughborough has now finished first for the fifth time in nine years, initally winning the top spot in 2009.

Among the categories were teaching quality, facilities, accommodation, and social life. As well as ranking first overall, Loughborough topped the list for societal experience and university facilities.

The best (and worst) UK universities for student experience

student happiness rankings

Credit: Warner Bros

By now you’re probably wondering which other UK universities did well in the rankings, and which did… well, not so well. Let's take a look at the top 20 to see if yours features:

Student experience rankUniversity
1Loughborough University
2Harper Adams University
3University of Leeds
4University of Bath
5University of Sheffield
6University of Oxford
7=University of Surrey
7=Newcastle University
7=University of Exeter
10=University of Chichester
10=University of St Andrews
12=Royal Veterinary College
12=Falmouth University
14University of Dundee
15Lancaster University
16University of Nottingham
17Edge Hill University
18=University of Cambridge
18=University of York
18=Durham University

No London institutions made it into the top 10 this year, and nor did top global university Cambridge.

As for the bottom 20? Well over half (11) are London-based, including regular table-topper the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). This is all the more surprising given that the institution was recently ranked as the 25th best university in the world.

Student experience rankUniversity
116University of the West of Scotland
115University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI)
113=University of Bedfordshire
113=London South Bank University
112University of Greenwich
111University of Wolverhampton
110Middlesex University
109London Metropolitan University
106=Norwich University of the Arts
106=City University London
106=University of Westminster
105University of Roehampton
104London School of Economics and Political Science
103University of West London
102University of the Arts London
101University of Northampton
100Kingston University
98=Goldsmiths, University of London
98=Anglia Ruskin University
97University of South Wales

In-depth data from YouthSight, which compiles the survey, enabled the THE Student Experience Survey to dig deeper into some of the reasons for this year’s results.

It revealed, for example, that societal experience was a major reason why universities which fell a number of places ranked so badly.

THE editor, John Gill, said:

Understanding the student experience has never been more important to universities, which are competing with one another to a far greater extent than they once did.

That competition plays out in the academic experience, of course, but also the facilities and lifestyles on offer for those who choose to study at a particular institution.

It's interesting to compare these student experience results with how UK institutions did in overall world university rankings as well as the UK universities offering the best value for money. Has yours made the cut in either of those rankings?

Which unis finished top for each measure?

times higher student survey results

Credit: Manchester Fire – Flickr

As well as overall performance, THE assessed universities on individual elements of a student’s experience, dividing this into seven categories.

For academic experience, Harper Adams retained its top spot. It was joined by two other top 10 institutions, Oxford and Chichester, with Cambridge and St Andrews rounding off the top five.

No Oxbridge or London universities made it into the top five for security. The institutions who came out on top for this were all campus-based institutions: Surrey, Bath, Chichester, Lancaster, and St Andrews.

Harper Adams also won the top spot for student welfare. Loughborough, St Andrews, and Leeds were also high up on the list, and Chichester made yet another appearance in third place.

When accommodation was measured, Lancaster came first, followed by the usual suspects Loughborough and Harper Adams.

Edge Hill made its first appearance in a top five for accommodation, as did Sheffield. It's interesting to measure these results against our deeper look into accommodation standards at UK universities.

Loughborough won for societal experience, and some familiar names, Leeds, SheffieldNewcastle and Bath, also finished in the top five.

According to current students, Harper Adams is the best for industry connections, followed by Loughborough, Bath, the Royal Veterinary College, and then LSE. This was the only case in which a London institution was ranked in the top five for any of the measures.

Finally, for universities facilities, Loughborough came out on top. As expected, Leeds, Bath, and Harper Adams also placed in the top five, and a newcomer, Dundee, came fourth.

As you can see, many of the same names came up again and again in these individual rankings – showing that these institutions really are consistent when it comes to providing a great student experience.

But what about university subjects? How happy are students with the courses they're studying? Check out the results of a survey that looked at which degrees are best value for money!

How did your university do? Do you agree or disagree with the place it came in the table, and why? Let us know in the comments!

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