Going Higher: Sorry, but if you want to use the sporting facilities you'll need a Travelcard

Commuting is a fact of life for Londoners - including students. Universities' gymnasiums, pools and playing fields are generally located in the outer suburbs
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Many London colleges cannot apologise enough for the distances students have to travel to reach their sporting facilities. Playing fields are usually on the outskirts - or even outside - London. A reliable rule of thumb for travelling in London is that any journey, no matter how near or how far your destination, takes 45 minutes by tube. For anything longer, coaches are usually laid on, and those who cannot be bothered to do a bit of travelling are probably not the sort to play sport anyway.

Some of the best student facilities are provided by the University of London union, open to all students of London University's affiliated colleges. The ULU building in Mallett Street has a full-size pool, a fitness centre, squash courts and a health spa, where jacuzzis, saunas and massages are available. Seven tennis courts and 31 acres of playing fields are sited in New Malden, just outside of London.

The union spends almost pounds 500,000 on its sports teams and facilities every year. Its unfeasibly well-equipped 90-acre site in Shenley is one of the biggest grounds in England. It is much appreciated by the Arsenal football team, who use it for training - prompting the union to claim vicarious credit for the side's title victory last season. The Bloomsbury fitness centre offers squash courts, an aerobics and dance hall, sunbeds and saunas and a new multi-gym.

King's College's main playing fields are in New Malden, too, but there are six more acres at the Denmark Hill campus south of the river, and the Strand site itself has a newly equipped gym and a rifle range.

King's sports teams are of a very high standard and provide 40 per cent of the University of London teams. Also fairly handy are the sides from Imperial, which makes use of 60 acres of fields at Harlington (15 miles away), shared with Chelsea Foot ball Club. An underground sports centre in Kensington provides a 25-metre pool, four squash courts, a jacuzzi, multi-gym and health suite. Charges are subsidised by the public using the facility.

Goldsmith's, being an arty place, does not have so much time for sport and has relatively little in the way of facilities. It has two small gyms on site, but the playing fields are eight miles away in Sidcup. Greenwich has good facilities, if a little under-used, including a well-equipped sports centre in Avery Hill and a dry ski slope.

Sport is a minority pursuit at Kingston; the more louche clubs include pool, ten-pin bowling and croquet. For something more energetic, the playing fields are only two miles away in Surbiton.

For real convenience, Royal Holloway College, situated just outside London in Egham, Surrey, has pitches and tennis courts on campus, and a new sports centre is under construction. The college operates a bursary scheme worth up to pounds 750 a year (plus free use of facilities) for top sports people with perceived international potential.

The University of Essex owns 40 acres of parkland which it uses as sports fields, along with a floodlit synthetic pitch. On the wackier side, its 18-hole frisbee golf course is unique in the country, and clubs include yoga and trampolining. Plenty of squash and tennis courts are available, along with a weights room, squash and tennis courts, climbing wall and new gym and aerobics centre with sauna.

The University of East Anglia is also well provided for, with 40 acres of playing fields, an international athletics track and a lottery application for a new indoor complex with pool.

All the Middlesex campuses provide various sporting facilities. Amongst them are four sports halls, four fitness centres, three astro-turf pitches and two pools (one outdoor). Under construction are a real-tennis court, an outdoor climbing wall and a leisure centre. The university has built up good links with a number of sports clubs in the area, including the Harlequins and Saracens rugby clubs.

Students at the University of Reading enjoy good sailing and rowing on the Thames, with a boathouse converted from a former public house, The Dreadnought. The sports centre has good fitness facilities.

The University of Surrey has 70 acres of playing fields and nine tennis courts. The sports centre offers massage and beauty therapy and is home to the Quantum Fitness Club.

The club's 60 exercise machines and array of other facilities have tempted the likes of Roger Black and Alan Wells to join up. Whereas such luminaries pay pounds 275 per year for the privilege, students pay only pounds 30.

Bournemouth University boasts surfing and wind-surfing clubs, with sail- boarding on the beach ever popular in summer. The pounds 5 sports card will give you access to a multi-gym, squash courts and an all-weather pitch. Brighton has three sports halls, but facilities depend on which site you are based at, being impressive at Eastbourne and Falmer but less so elsewhere. In the right places you can use an Olympic-size pool, floodlit pitches and tennis courts.