Student Experience Survey 2017: new favourites upset old order

Harper Adams tops our annual poll as Cambridge and other top 10 mainstays slide down

March 23, 2017
Rugby team huddle
Source: Alamy

Get the full results of the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2017


Harper Adams University tops this year’s Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey, just over four years after gaining full university status.

The Shropshire institution is rated highly by students in all 22 aspects covered by the annual poll, but wins particular praise for the quality of its teaching, its campus facilities and its strong community atmosphere.

The specialist agricultural university enjoys the top spot for the quality of industry connections, with students taking sandwich courses that require a year in industry.

David Llewellyn, Harper Adams’ vice-chancellor, described the university’s placing as a “brilliant result”, adding that it was “fantastic to see that students rate the university so highly”.

He praised the work of the university’s students’ union, which helped it to secure high scores for social life – only the University of Leeds and Newcastle University are ranked higher – and for good extracurricular activities, where its marks are bettered only by Loughborough University.

“We are based in the countryside so the students’ union puts on a very active programme so that students can get to know each other,” said Dr Llewellyn.

This year’s second-placed institution is Loughborough University, which claimed the top spot in 2016.

Loughborough takes the number one position for sport, but also ranks highest for its extracurricular activities, facilities and students’ willingness to recommend the university to a friend.

The competitive spirit of Loughborough’s elite student athletes is a key driver of the university’s success, argued Robert Allison, the university’s vice-chancellor, extending into other aspects of university life such as charity work, student events and student business start-ups.

“When some students see these results they will say ‘Why didn’t we come first?’ and I don’t think that is a bad thing,” said Professor Allison.

The University of Sheffield, which finished first in 2014, is third overall in our annual poll, which received responses from 15,876 students this year.

Sheffield is ranked highest for its students’ union and finishes joint first for its library provision and opening hours.

Leeds is in fourth place, the University of Surrey is fifth, and Falmouth University sixth, just ahead of the University of Oxford (seventh), although the UK’s oldest university is rated top for having high-quality teaching staff and interesting lectures.

Oxford’s varsity rival, the University of Cambridge, drops out of the top 10, where it had been a mainstay since 2009. It now stands at joint 29th alongside the University of Manchester, down from fourth in 2015.

The University of Bath, which topped our table in 2015, has fallen to joint 13th alongside the University of St Andrews – another fixture in our top 10 over the years – while the University of Dundee (joint 15th), a former number one back in 2012, is also overtaken by other institutions.

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