Fiona Mountford finds places of learning where students still put studying second
If you believe the market researchers, these days students are more concerned about their studies, overdrafts and careers than having a good time. But isn't the point of being a student all about hangovers and missed lectures? So, in this (freshers) week, we name the top five hotbeds of traditional student life...

1) Manchester. The spirit of "Madchester" lives on, even if the Hacienda has closed down. According to Masters student Lucy Michaels, "People come here because they think it's cool, so the image is perpetuated." The BBC thought Manchester cool enough set dire student programme The Living Soap here, and booming club, cafe and gay scenes cement its popularity with students. The Virgin Alternative Guide to British Universities notes: "Manchester is the place parents hate their children to go to..." What other recommendation does it need?

2) London. Capital chic holds out in the face of tough opposition, with UCL and Kings topping the trendometer from the University of London colleges, and other accolades going to St Martin's College (Greece, thirst for knowledge, etc), which is so cool it's virtually deep frozen. Mark Frith, editor of Sky magazine, points out the importance of somewhere "socially vibrant" for students and London has this in bucketloads. But a recent graduate warns: "London's cool, but I'm not sure if London university's all that cool."

3) Newcastle. Donna Spriggs, from youth marketing specialists Reaction, sings the praises of the home of favourite student bevvie, "Newkey" Brown: "It's got a great social scene and, as the cost of living is relatively low, students can enjoy more for their money." The Toon's popularity is growing at such a rate it could soon rival London and Manchester.

4) Edinburgh. A favourite with English students determined to put as many miles - and pints, with Scotland's later licensing hours - as possible between themselves and their parents. It also boasts Britain's largest student union. Add in Hogmanay, the Festival and men in kilts - how can Edinburgh fail?

5) Sussex. Known for its radicalism in the Sixties, it's back in the charts due to the huge popularity of Brighton as a centre of all things clubby. Will Richards, editor of student newspaper The Badger, admits that "the campus doesn't have much in the way of style or cool" and "Brighton's throbbing nightlife" is the main attraction. Plus, there's a thriving gay community - and possibly the highest concentration of slot machines in a university town...

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