What is it about a university that attracts a student? Three sixth formers describe campuses they have visited

April 3, 1998

Toni Berg, 18, is taking A-levels at Cadbury Sixth Form College in Birmingham. She has visited Glasgow University and is due to sample the University of Kent at Canterbury soon.

Her favourite so far is politics and philosophy at Kent. "The courses look good and the campus is near London." The only things that appeal apart from the course and the location are "that it's small - I won't get lost! And it's quite cheap to live there as well."

The collegiate layout of UKC is something she finds attractive: "at least you are with people who are in the same college as you".

She is pleased that a new students' union building is being built. "I think it's quite important that there's somewhere nice to go. But it's not the most important thing. As long as you can get a drink."

As for the architecture and general environment of whichever university Toni ends up at, she is not bothered at all. "I suppose it's that you make university what you want it to be, isn't it?" she says. Neil Ross, 18, left his Edinburgh school in 1997 and, after a gap year as a volunteer for a charity, has gained a place at the School of Oriental and African Studies to study development.

Architecture did affect the decision. Although Edinburgh was never his first choice, he appreciates the character of its buildings, and the design and layout of SOAS also appeals."The main building is quite spacious and attractive. The Brunei Gallery is new. I think it's a good idea to develop new designs and innovative architecture, because it gives a sense that a university is going somewhere.

"Older places, such as Edinburgh and Manchester, make you feel like you are in an environment geared around learning. A lot of the newer places, especially the former polytechnics, don't feel like that. They seem more superficial."

However, the decisive factor for Mr Ross in choosing a university is the course it offers and its location. "I like London, because there is a lot for students here."

Michael Spencer, 16, is still at school in Putney but has already started thinking about university. "We looked around Cambridge the other week with school, and my brother goes to Bristol University, so I've stayed with him there, but I haven't really been anywhere else.

"Cambridge was stunning, and it made me think it would be good to study in a place where everything was so nice, but it also was a little bit intimidating. Everything was old and large and beautiful, you couldn't really feel at home there. It would feel like you were living in an art gallery or a stately home or something."

Historical buildings are "nicer to work in. But not really really ancient ones". Bristol University's mix of buildings works well. "It didn't feel like too much to take in. They were quite homely buildings." Newer buildings "might affect people subconsciously when choosing whether to go to that university or not". Michael is likely to be influenced in favour of a university with older, more ornate buildings.

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