Comedian 1 Scud stud 0 in style wars

October 24, 2003

What is it that University College London graduates such as comedian Ricky Gervais, the members of pop group Coldplay and Alex Comfort, author of Joy of Sex , have that Oxford University graduates such as Cardinal Newman, Monty Python star Michael Palin and prime minister Tony Blair lack?

The answer is style, according to a new league that ranks UK universities by the celebrity "cool factor" of their alumni.

UCL came joint top of the league with Manchester University -where comedians Ben Elton and Rick Mayall studied -followed by Exeter, author J. K. Rowling's alma mater, then Birmingham, which educated Who Wants to be a Millionaire host Chris Tarrant.

Oxford topped the table for the UK's most unstylish institution. and Glasgow and Aberdeen universities came second and third in the "uncool" category, while. Manchester Metropolitan University came sixth in list.

They can only hope that their current students can reverse the trend set by graduates who include Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, Joseph Lister, inventor of antiseptics, and James Naughtie, presenter of BBC Radio 4's Today programme, and singer Mick Hucknell.

Oxford University hit back at the suggestion of being unstylish. A spokesperson said: "Oxford University claims Bond girl Rosamund Pike, 'Scud stud' Rageh Omar, domestic goddess Nigella Lawson and Hollywood heart-throb Hugh Grant among its alumni - we think these facts speak for themselves."

The research was carried out by telecommunications company Siemens Mobile, which this week launched a campaign to find the UK's most stylish student.

As part of the test of their creative mettle, contestants will be asked to give their tutor a makeover.

"As academics are not renowned for their dress sense, this challenge should certainly root out the contenders," the Siemens' publicity announced.

The National Union of Students had a more serious take on the results, saying: "If top-up fees come in, I'm not sure vice-chancellors will base the price of courses on the coolness of their alumni."

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