It's make your mind up time: campus or countryside?

Wales really has it all: prestigious big-city institutions; campuses in paradise settings; and intimate universities in peaceful countryside surroundings. Andy Sharman weighs up the options
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Founded: 1883

Population: 26,800 students

We say: Wales's biggest university and – if the rankings are to believed – its best, Cardiff (pictured on the cover) offers enough vibrancy and intimacy to satisfy most students; and all that Portland stone on campus can't fail to add a touch of prestige. Unsurprisingly, it's popular.

They say: "Cardiff is a 'work hard, play hard' city and the university is an internationally acclaimed Russell Group institution. We have everything from superclubs to sporting fixtures. A real hotbed of student activity, anything and everything you wish to do is never more than 20 minutes away, in one of the safest cities in the UK," says Andy Button-Stephens, students' union president.


Founded: 1992

Population: 22,000

We say: "Glam" Uni's origins are less glamorous than its modern nickname suggests: it began life in 1913 as the South Wales and Monmouthshire School of Mines. But its futuristic ATRiuM in the centre of Cardiff - which joins two campuses in the Valleys at Pontypridd – is a futuristic triumph, and the sports facilities are top drawer.

They say: "The University of Glamorgan is an innovative and exciting new university that encourages its students to be creative, reflective and imaginative. The university is a friendly, supportive and positive place to learn and live," says Helen Wakeford, students' union president.


Founded: 1920

Population: 13,800

We say: This university, in Wales's second city, has a first-class setting on Swansea Bay. It's also got a competitive academic reputation, good international links and is great spot for water-lovers, offering good surfing and the Olympic-sized Wales National Pool.

They say: "Swansea is the ideal university for students who want to be part of a community and have access to great facilities. The beach-front location and easy walk to the city centre mean that life is relaxed and convenient. We're ambitious with everything that we do: it's your uni, your experience," says Luke Young, students' union president.


Founded: 1884

Population: 10,000

We say: Set on the doorstep of Snowdonia and with feet on either side of the Menai Strait, Bangor would go the distance with Swansea and Aberystwyth for the most-dramatic setting award. Has a good reputation for ocean sciences and even has its own research ship, the Prince Madog.

They say: "Bangor is a beautifully unique location with a great view of Anglesey. This town-sized city allows you to feel part of a local community without slipping into an abyss of metropolitan life; but still to go about your university activities without every man and his dog knowing your business!" says John Jackson, students' union president.


Founded: 1872

Population: 9,000

We say: "Aber" has strong student-satisfaction credentials. Perhaps it's because of the tight-knit student culture that dominates the small, seaside town; maybe it's having the National Library in town; or perhaps it's just the stunning sunsets and dolphins in the bay ...

They say: "Aber gets pretty special during term: it's the ultimate student town as students make up for over half the population. There really is something for everyone, from a vast array of sports and societies to a huge variety of pubs," says Jon Antoniazzi, students' guild president.


Founded: 1996

Population: 12,000

We say: Its history stretches back to 1865, but UWIC is the standard bearer for new universities in Wales. It put in a solid performance in the latest league tables in The Independent, thanks in part to a spending spree on facilities. It's a great place for sport.

They say: "The split-site campus means the university has a strong presence within the city. There are generous bursaries for sport and academic achievement, and what's more, a £2.5m campus centre – a social learning space – is due to open in September," says Adam Painter, students' union president.


Founded: 1822

Population: 2,300

We say: Lampeter has always had a quaint and rather monastic reputation, being small (the number of students on campus is nearer 1,000), brilliant at religious studies and too remote for train links. But, with Lampeter rocketing up the league tables, a new future beckons, as it plans to merge with Trinity University College (below).

They say: "In the idyllic setting of a small rural village, a student can find not just a degree, but a home among a family of friendly students, staff, and locals. The Lampeter Experience is something that few campuses can provide. It's a journey of self-exploration as well as a quest for knowledge and learning," says Jeremy Nichols, deputy president, Lampeter Students' Union.


Founded: 2008

Population: 2,500

We say: The times of change in recent years look set to continue for Trinity University College, based in the pretty market town of Carmarthen, as it merges with Lampeter. It has an intimate campus, and a reputation for education-based studies, which stretches back to 1848, when it trained church school teachers.

They say: "Trinity offers a homely environment where everyone gets to know each other very quickly. The relationship between staff and students is close so there's always help at hand when you need it. It's in a fantastic location – close to Carmarthen town centre and the coast and countryside of west Wales," says Ryan Evans, deputy president of the students' union.


Founded: 2003

Population: 9,500

We say: Though a very young university, Newport has actually been part of the University of Wales for 13 years, and has a history that goes back to 1841, in the shape of Newport Mechanics Institute. These days it's known for its film making, being home to the highly respected International Film School Wales.

They say: "Coming to study here is like making a new home from home. You'll find the big move in your first year a breeze. But the best thing about UWN is the balance of city life on Newport campus, and breath-taking rural beauty on Caerleon campus," says Jennifer Moran, students' union vice-president.


Founded: 2008

Population: 8,000

We say: Named after the most famous Welshman of them all, Owain, the legendary Prince of Wales, Wrexham-based "Glin-door" is the youngest of the Principality's universities (though it can trace its roots back to 1887). It's cheap to live there and attracts a cosmopolitan student body. The local town has undergone much regeneration in recent years.

They say: "Both Glyndwr University and Wrexham are growing rapidly in reputation. Glyndwr offers a wide range of interesting courses led by friendly and supportive tutors. The university offers a great environment for socialising and Wrexham is a town of great nightlife and areas of cultural importance. Chester, Liverpool and Manchester are easily accessible," says Carwyn Minard, students' guild president.


Founded: 2008

Population: 6,000

We say: Previously Swansea Institute of Higher Education (and, going back to 1853, Swansea School of Art), Swansea Met is based across four campuses, including a £12.5m art and design centre, and the recently refurbished Townhill campus, home to the Swansea School of Education.

They say: "Being a small institution means small class sizes and a wealth of support from the lecturers and there are a wide range of activities for students to get involved with here," says Natasha Smith, student activities officer.


Founded: 1949

Population: 600

We say: The successful national conservatoire of Wales has an unrivalled alumni list, which runs from Sir Anthony "Hannibal Lecter" Hopkins, to Uncle Bryn himself, Rob Brydon. Big spending in recent years means that facilities are top-notch.

They say: "At RWCMD you will feel part of a supportive community. Set in the grounds of Cardiff Castle and bordering the beautiful Bute Park, the college is only a five minute walk from the city centre. Cardiff offers a superb quality of life and a thriving arts scene," says Brian Weir, head of student services.