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Students in trivial pursuit of university

Susan Young reports on a prospective student's guide to lager, landlords and love at the country's universities.

The university with the cheapest beer in the land is Durham, where a pint costs 99p - a full 47p less than at Brunel.

Aspiring male students who want to find love alongside intellectual fulfilment should make for the capital's Courtauld Institute of Art or Queen Margaret's College, Edinburgh, where 80 per cent of undergraduates are female. Alternatively London's Imperial College and Silsoe College in Bedfordshire are similarly weighted towards men.

These details - and other trivia - are helping the PUSH Guide To Which University 97 become an invaluable reference for would-be students trying to find their way around the maze of mass higher education.

Students no longer choose purely on the basis of a course they fancy which is the furthest possible distance from the parental home: drop-out rates, average debts per year, social life and likely outgoings on booze, books and rent are all vital information in an era of dwindling grants and increasing competition for jobs.

Johnny Rich, the guide's editor, said that such apparently unimportant information could mean the difference between a student choosing a suitable university or being forced to drop out because of money worries, poor accommodation or simply because it was the wrong place for them.

The guide was not intended to rate the best or worst universities, but help students to make an informed choice as to which would be best for them. Thus would-be students need to know that the highest admitted unemployment rate six months after graduation is the University of Humberside's 37 per cent - although the information is not available for many institutions.

Similarly sensitive is the "flunk rate", which is having to be calculated by increasingly devious means.

Aspiring students need some idea of the costs involved in their chosen university. The guide shows that average rents can vary between Pounds 30 and Pounds 67 a week, and the debts incurred over a year show similar disparities. University of Teesside students, for example, get away with Pounds 400 a year, while the table is topped by the Pounds 2,200 run up by undergraduates at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

This year's record A-level results, and perhaps the advice from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service that places should be taken up this year in case fees are charged from 1997, caused an unusually swift start to the final stages of the university entrance race this year.

As The TES went to press, 215,701 students had received acceptances, with probably another 75,000 places left to be filled.

About 68,000 still had offers in the system, while some 108,000 will be seeking places in Clearing.

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