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New colleges win on comfort

SCHOOL-leavers from the independent sector seem more satisfied by the accommodation, food and recreational facilities at newer universities than at more popular destinations such as Oxford, judging by the first survey of their views.

The survey - completed last summer by 6,400 leavers from about 200 public schools who had completed their first year at university - found Leeds Metropolitan, a former polytechnic, was most often praised for its accommodation.

Others in the top five were Warwick, St Andrews, Kingston (a former polytechnic) and Cambridge, in fifth place. Oxford ranks 13th and Edinburgh 17th.

For recreation, top ranking goes to Warwick, Loughborough, Glasgow, Bath and Birmingham. Oxford Brookes, another former polytechnic, in tenth place, is way ahead of Oxford University, ranked 23rd.

The survey, by the Universities Working Party of the Girls' Schools Association and the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, found that newer universities ranked highest for personal security, too.

Lancaster and Kingston earned the most praise for safety, followed by St Andrews in third place. Only two-thirds of the women students rated personal safety around their university accommodation good or very good.

Their three top-rated universities for libraries were Bath, Oxford and Hull. But good food seems to be virtually confined to newer universities. Only Plymouth, the University of the West of England, Nottingham Trent, Oxford Brookes and Aberystwyth had their food generally rated "good".

The survey estimates that, even among this privileged group, about 10 per cent of students had serious money worries, mainly caused by spending on themselves and on books.

Another survey of the experiences of university applicants from independent schools this year found prejudice against the private sector. A university admissions tutor told independent school pupils that they would get offers of three As at A-level but pupils from deprived backgrounds would be offered two Es.

University staff also made gratuitous remarks about wealth or types of friend ("Are all your friends rich?") at interview. Overall, the survey of applications by more than 12,500 candidates from 161 boys' and girls' public schools found the system working well for the vast majority of candidates.

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