The consumer group Which? used views from more than 16,000 undergraduates to find the best and worst rated universities for sports, creative activities, student unions, politics and nightlife.
Four universities scored highly in four out of the five categories: University College London and the universities of Birmingham, Glasgow and Leeds.
Universities in large northern cities – including the universities of Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds – scored highly for the diversity of their nightlife.
But other institutions in smaller conurbations, including Durham University and the universities of Cambridge, St Andrews, Winchester and Chichester scored poorly on this count.
The highest ranked universities for political activities was made up largely of universities from the research-intensive Russell Group, but also included smaller London-based institutions including the School of Oriental and African Studies and Goldsmiths, University of London.
The top ranked sporty universities included Loughborough, Bath and Durham.
Specialist arts universities scored highly for the range of music, theatre, dance and other arts activities available, as did the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, Huddersfield and Dundee.
Jenni Allen, head of the Which? University website, said: “The academic and extra-curricular experience at university varies widely. With increased tuition fees, it’s never been more important for prospective students to weigh up all the options and make sure they make the right choice for them.”