Thousands of students have rated their universities on everything from teaching quality to social life in a new league table revealing which universities offer the best all-round student experience.
In the first survey of its kind, produced exclusively for The Times Higher , undergraduates rated their institutions on 21 wide-ranging factors chosen by students themselves, including the helpfulness of staff, the campus environment and student welfare.
More than 22,000 full-time undergraduates were surveyed by Opinionpanel Research on behalf of The Times Higher .
In first place is Loughborough University, which scooped the award for best student experience for the second year running at the 2007 Times Higher Awards ceremony in London last week. Loughborough gains high marks for its facilities, community atmosphere, student union and social life.
This year, for the first time, The Times Higher is publishing scores for the top 50 universities in full.
Cambridge comes second, gaining top marks in academic categories, including teaching quality, staff, small group tuition, and for its extracurricular activities and societies. Oxford, in fourth place, scores highly on the same factors, but Oxbridge get the lowest marks in the "fair workload" category.
Two Scottish universities feature in the top five, with Glasgow in third and St Andrews in fifth.
Meanwhile, the university with the best social life, according to our league table, is Newcastle. Glasgow University - where the price of a pint in the student union bar is £1.85 - is ranked number one for cheap shops and bars.
Before conducting the survey, Opinionpanel asked 1,000 students to answer an open question about ways in which their university contributed positively and negatively to their time as a student.
Their feedback identified 21 attributes against which students were asked to rate their institution.
Ben Marks, managing director of Opinionpanel, said: "Unlike the National Student Survey, this one reports at institutional rather than subject level. There is less detail on teaching and learning but more on the 'softer' elements of the student experience, which turn out to be really important to students."
The survey indicates that Stirling University has the best campus environment, Surrey the best connections with industry and St Andrews the best student support. Cambridge is the university that would be most strongly recommended by students to friends.
Wes Streeting, National Union of Students vice-president, education. said: "By departing from the traditional league-table mentality, this student experience survey has allowed the learners' voice to come to the fore and to be heard.
"It is evident that in recommending their university experience to others students consider academic, social and environmental aspects to each be of considerable importance."
"As students pay more it is inevitable that they expect more from their university experience," Mr Streeting said.