Sponsored feature, words by Russ Thorne

The annual Guardian University Guide lets us know which institutions are the movers and shakers in the higher ed world. This year Coventry was definitely a mover, leaping from 27th to 15th place and overtaking a few Russell Group unis in the process.

So how did they do it? It's about positive, independent reviews; a caring attitude; great facilities; an innovative approach and of course a clear focus on preparing students for life after graduation.

How does that work in reality? Here are 15 secrets of a successful uni – you can use them to see how any of the places you're looking at measure up...
Coventry uni

1 – Aiming high. Striving for the best has earned them the Guide's highest ever placing for a UK university.

2 – Consistency. They've been ranked 'best modern uni' for the past three years, so they're not only doing things right – they're doing things right again and again.

3 – No chalk and talk. Coventry has been voted second for teaching and learning in the UK (only Oxford is higher), and first for assessment and feedback; putting students first is a win-win for everyone.

4 – Prime numbers. 20 of Coventry's courses are in the top 20 for the whole of the UK, with seven in the top 10.

5 – Being prepared. Beginning a career is a little like Ninja Warrior – you can never totally know what it will be like until you start. But you can certainly prepare, and with unis like Coventry an excellent placement service means there's every chance of getting decent work experience first.
Coventry uni

6 – All the gear, all the ideas. Engineering students can play with a fully functioning wind tunnel and fighter jet (alright, 'play' might be the wrong word for a £55m facility), while the library has the world's first disruptive media lab – and there are plans afoot for £150m of new buildings.

7 – Buddies in business. Who you know really does matter, especially if you're a uni looking to help your students get ahead. Thanks to Coventry's links with industry and work experience programmes, 94% of their grads are in work or further education within six months.

8 – The proof is in the people. If you really want to measure the quality of a uni's education, look at what their alumni go on to do. In Coventry's case that means working for Google, Rolls Royce, Barclays, The Economist … all of which points to a good student experience.
Coventry uni

9 – Open minds. Coventry doesn't limit itself to one approach: it embraces all kinds of learning methods across all its campuses, so there will be a style of teaching to suit all kinds of students.

10 – A great student experience. Coventry's inclusive philosophy means learning is based on the individual, with plenty of tutor / student interaction, support and flexibility - we're all different and the uni recognises it! Combine that with top facilities and social options and it's no wonder Coventry is number one in the UK for student experience according to the Sunday Times Good University Guide.

11 – Innovative ideas. What better way to help you prepare for a career in industry than by giving you a taste of that industry while you study? Programmes like the uni's £32m collaboration with Unipart create unique learning environments – in this case an international centre of manufacturing and engineering excellence. It's basically a faculty on the factory floor, getting students involved in meaningful projects and developing real-world skills.

Coventry uni

12 – Learning to lead. If you've already got an eye on management and leadership once you graduate, the right uni can help you develop. Coventry's Global Leaders Programme (GLP) offers talks from industry leaders, visits to international businesses and a range of challenging and fun activities to prepare you for work. (Probably not actual Ninja Warrior.)

13 – Fine tuning. Developing good academic skills – essay writing, referencing and so on - takes practice. Coventry students have access to a dedicated Centre for Academic Writing to help them improve, so there's no need to struggle alone.

14 – Right place, right time. Coventry itself is a fine place with a great deal to offer so there's a lot to do beyond the course books. It's also right in the centre of England, an hour away from London by train, and a great jumping off point for adventures throughout the UK.
Coventry uni

15 – Worldly wisdom. Uni is a great chance to meet people from all over the world. Coventry's award-winning international community has students from 140 countries, so there are countless opportunities to learn about other cultures (and even build networks for the future).

That's just the start. Want to know more about what makes one of the UK's finest unis tick? Tweet @CovCampus, using #AskCU.