The old image of stick-thin undergraduates wasting away on a diet of snacks can be put to rest this week by research that suggests that one in four students thinks they are overweight.
A survey of more than 1,000 students by Opinion Panel Research suggests that 38 per cent consider themselves "unfit" and 19 per cent are smokers.
But students' appetite for food is not matched by their appetite for sport.
Eight out of ten students surveyed said they "never" or only occasionally took part in sport on the weekday afternoons designated for team games in the university timetable.
Of those students who believed they were overweight, 72 per cent said they were "not bothered" by the quality of campus sports facilities when they chose a university.
Ironically, the quality of sports facilities also made little difference to 59 per cent of students who described themselves as fit and to the 64 per cent who thought their weight was "about right".
Nevertheless, 55 per cent of students said they were "fairly" or "very" satisfied with their campus sports facilities - though more students at old universities (67 per cent) expressed satisfaction than their counterparts at new universities (40 per cent).
Physical exercise also had less appeal to students at new universities, where 59 per cent of students said they never took part in organised sports, compared with 44 per cent of undergraduates at old institutions.
The most common reason for shunning organised sports for all students - fat, thin, old or new university - was "I don't want to".
Helen Symons of the National Union of Students said that the suggestion that students were unhappy with their weight was a reflection of society at large. She urged the Government to invest more in sports facilities to encourage students to take exercise.