The royal seal of approval

Prince William's old stamping ground, St Andrews, is now the UK's most popular university, writes Clare Dickinson
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The Independent Online

St Andrews has topped the league tables for student satisfaction, overtaking Oxford and Cambridge to show how popular this venerable Scottish institution is with undergraduates, despite its lack of a nightclub.

In second place comes Cambridge, with Exeter in third. St Andrews appeals because it is academically rated and has good students and high standards. It comes high in the good honours category and is rated above average for facilities and academic spending. All this means that it has a high number of students completing their courses.

Its best-known alumnus Prince William seemed to enjoy his time there, coming out with a 2:1 in geography and a pretty girlfriend.

The university's ancient traditions uch as the custom of final year students adopting a fresher appears to be popular. The student satisfaction rating is a relatively new measure, appearing in the league table for the first time last year, and is important because it is given a 1.5 weighting. It is derived from the National Student Survey, completed by final-year undergraduates from every university. and rates everything from teaching and academic support to social life and personal development.

By contrast, some highly-rated Russell Group institutions, such as Edinburgh and Manchester, did badly again. Edinburgh, which came 93rd last year, came in at 103rd, 10th from bottom. Manchester rose two places to 102nd.

For the second year running, the University of the Arts, London, comes at the very bottom for student satisfaction. The university includes the London College of Fashion and Central St Martins, which are at the top of their field but the university spends relatively little on improving academic services and on facilities, which may be why it scores so badly.

Not surprisingly, Cambridge, Oxford and LSE take the top three places in the research assessment category. Imperial College spends more than any other institution on academic services but only 68.5 per cent of its graduates get good honours degrees, which compares poorly with Oxford's 91.1 per cent and Cambridge's 87 per cent.

A new university, Middlesex, does well on academic services spending, coming ninth in this category. It spends heavily on on student facilities too. But Hertfordshire tops the table on facilities spending for the second year running.

Oxford and Cambridge do well on entry standards, completion and good honours, as expected. But the London School of Economics comes top of graduate prospects, with Bournemouth University second and Robert Gordon University third. Bournemouth is known for its media courses.Robert Gordon offers vocational courses, such as nursing and law and has an excellent employment record as a result, though its entry standards are low.

In graduate prospects Cambridge is fourth, Oxford sixth and Imperial College, surprisingly, is in 23rd place.

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