Andrew Oswald: It's a plus being at the heart of the nation

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The Independent Online

Don't go anywhere else. One of my daughters did a degree at De Monfort; I've been at Warwick for six years; Nottingham is the most popular university in the country; Aston, Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough – all are powerhouses of British higher education. I recommend the Midlands. Frankly, it has the most interesting universities in the country.

Don't go anywhere else. One of my daughters did a degree at De Monfort; I've been at Warwick for six years; Nottingham is the most popular university in the country; Aston, Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough – all are powerhouses of British higher education. I recommend the Midlands. Frankly, it has the most interesting universities in the country.

Let's start with basics – geography. Be realistic: you have to get there, and back, and there, and back, and so on. You get the idea. Thus the first thing a sensible student notices is that Midlands universities lie in the real heart of our country, and that is a real advantage. Believe me, unless you are really committed to putting space between yourself and home, if you go to a university that is 150 miles from where you grew up, then you will be able to repent at your leisure. Your family, and especially your parents' Ferrari, are going to get tired of taking stuff to and from the place. Plus it is useful to be able to disappear fairly easily back to mum for advice when your boyfriend needs to be dumped or you start feeling low in week 5 of Term 1.

An even better argument is that the Midlands has something for everyone. Fancy a campus and tranquillity to get work done? Try Keele. It's one of my favourites. Want a nice area within jogging distance of the second-biggest city in Britain? Birmingham University's Edgbaston site will suit you. Want one of the most dynamic of the "new" universities? Go to Nottingham Trent.

Nottingham University itself, of course, has more fine departments than you could shake a stick at. Although it is invidious to pick out any in such a good university, the latest government ranking shows that a few are exceptional. Many language departments at Nottingham are world-class. The music department and American studies at Nottingham are also absolutely fantastic places to go. Or perhaps you want a world-class mathematics or economics training? Go to Warwick.

But there is quality all over. Here are just a few examples. Coventry University has a fine art and design department. De Montfort is first-class in English language and literature. Keele's department of law is really good. Birmingham has extraordinary talent in the Ms: metallurgy, materials, Middle Eastern studies – and much else. And when I say talent, I am not using that word lightly. These departments are doing research that is pushing out global knowledge and creating waves in the top universities all over the world. Leicester has strength generally, but its outstanding genetics department deserves special mention.

There is not much more to life than work – at least when you find economics as interesting as I do! As a student, I used to like sitting in libraries and I recommend it to you too; after all, university is a lifetime investment and people who end up with first-class degrees or even upper-second degrees earn far more later on than those who do not. But perhaps you don't worry about money or are one of the strange people who enjoy partying instead of reading? Then, for you, the Midlands also has much going for it.

Nottingham as a city is particularly attractive to students. Apparently the university has a drinking spot that is quaintly name the DH Lawrence Bar. If you don't know who he was, you might want to read Lady Chatterley's Lover. It was banned in Britain until 1960 and will definitely get your attention. Warwick University has something called Top Banana, which is a sort of disco that happens on Monday nights. I'm told by my daughters that it's a drunken pull-fest, whatever that means. Something to do with inebriated rowing, I assume.

Loughborough is also famous for sports and sport-related learning. In many fields, it has the best teams in the country. But don't forget that it is a highly serious university doing, among other things, fine sociological research.

I think the best advice when you are considering university is to decide which part of Britain you want, whether a campus or not, and which academic subject. Then make a short-list. Find out which is best at your chosen subject. Then go there.

Just make sure it's in the Midlands...

The writer is professor of economics at Warwick University

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