Nottingham vs Loughborough Watch
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I will add that Nottingham arguably has a slightly better reputation for subjects outside of sport and bio-related sciences, however Loughborough is beginning to subvert their supposed image and this reputation will likely flip into Loughborough's favour over the next couple of years.
Even though it seems that you are looking at Universities in the East Midlands, I would advise that if location is not an issue then you should look at Leeds & Southampton (as Southampton sort of specialise in this kinds of subject). I have a couple of friends who have gone to both for mechnical engineering and the universities are brilliant in this field.