The best universities for nightlife


University nightlife can be something of a contradiction: even when it's objectively terrible - endless queues, awful music, etc. - you'll often find yourself having a cracking night out. Whether that's simply down to some seriously cheap rum cocktails, a D-list celebrity 'appearance' or just having the whole crew in the same place, a good night out can be the perfect foil to the often intensive cycle of study and exams.

Big student nights tend to pop up mid-week, when your local Pryzm might usually be 80% empty and not making enough to keep the neon sign going. And while there has been some behavioural shift thanks to the low cost of supermarket alcohol, students do still enjoy queuing up for proper night out, albeit with most of their drinking done beforehand.

Clubs often make wild, largely unsubstantiated claims about their reputations. Here at TSR we're more interested in finding a definitive answer, so we analysed Google review scores for all venues close to UK unis and created the following league table.

TSR's university nightlife rankings

Using a similar method to our best universities for coffee lovers article, we combined data on all nightclubs or late-night venues within 5 miles of UK university sites. Here are our results:

Rank University Region TSR score Avg Google rating Radar count
1 Imperial College London 4.415 4.015 200
2 Queen Mary University London London 4.408 4.01 199
3 London Metropolitan University London 4.38 3.98 200
4 City, University of London London 4.35 3.95 200
5 King's College / LSE / UAL London 4.335 3.935 200
6 University of Bolton East of England 4.33 4.292 19
7 London South Bank University London 4.33 3.93 200
8 UCLUni of Westminster London 4.32 3.92 200
9 Goldsmiths University London 4.296 3.9 198
10 University of Hull Yorkshire & the Humber 4.277 4.217 30
11 University of Greenwich London 4.276 3.88 198
12 University of Brighton South East 4.252 4.11 71
13 University of Sussex South East 4.25 4.11 70
14 University of Suffolk East of England 4.2 4.18 10
15 University of South Wales Wales 4.196 4.18 5
16 St. George's, University of London London 4.19 3.87 20
17 University of Roehampton London 4.158 3.83 20
18 Falmouth University South West 4.154 4.14 5
19 Newcastle Uni / Northumbria Uni North East 4.151 4.045 20
20 University of Huddersfield Yorkshire & the Humber 4.148 4.118 15

The Winner: Imperial College, London

Imperial College London

Congratulations, Imperial College! With its main campus slap-bang in the centre of fashionable South Kensington, the number of highly-rated venues on its doorstep is vast. Local students are spoilt for choice with venues such as influential dance club fabric, to jazz and blues institution Ronnie Scott's, celebrity haunt Mahiki and world-famous gay nightclub Heaven. 

Expert opinions

Metro Girl, from London-centric lifestyle and travel blog Memoirs of a Metro Girl, weighed in on our list:

"When it comes to student nightlife, it's no surprise to see London topping the list and dominating the top 10. What's so appealing about the capital's nightlife is there's something for everyone, from factory raves to foodie pop-ups to comedy gigs. The beauty of studying in London is you can blow off some steam in so many ways and there's more on offer than just the stereotypical student dive bars."

Emmi Bowles, Editor for The Growing Up Guide, defended the importance of a good university nightlife:

"Despite university being about extending our knowledge and ultimately obtaining a degree at the end of it, the nightlife and the culture of university is just as important. This doesn't have to mean going out drinking and wasting your student loan on alcohol and nightclubs, but the social experience that comes along with it.

"Although there may be a stigma around students and what they spend their money on, they are a big factor in our economy so it doesn't surprise me that it's the major cities which are up there with having the best night life. University cities should be looking to offer more in terms of leisure and nightlife for everyone, including students, as it not only improves the city itself but also the economy." 

What do you think: is your uni nightlife up to scratch or a write-off?

View from the community

A search of our university forums has uncovered some comments on the quality of local nightlife from those on the front line. 

University of Surrey Official Rep, on Guildford:

Guildford has got a nice mix of pubs/bars, as well as a few clubs. Our Wetherspoons (Spoons to the locals) is much nicer than most Spoons – it’s set over two levels in this cool old industrial building and has a dancefloor (and obviously great drinks deals – 4 jaegerbombs for £10 being a student favourite). It’s open 'til midnight on weekdays and until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays.

bulbafxck, on Falmouth:

I'm a student at Falmouth and if nightlife is the most important thing for you then its not for you. There's not many clubs, its more of a bar scene, however the small music scene is thriving! There's a Caribbean bar where many themed events are put on, and you definitely won't be bored as there's so much to explore and do, you just have to seek it out.

J-P-, on Bristol:

If you like the dnb nights, Bristol tops all.

Bizz9, on Coventry:

Coventry nightlife is shockingly bad. It's truly awful. For such a big city there are no decent clubs (apart from Kasbah, which is good for under 21s and students). There are no classy bars, and music artists/DJs rarely come here, apart from to the Kasbah. If you're thinking of coming to Uni here you should probably go somewhere else, unless you're more into house parties than clubs and bars.

Royal Holloway Official Rep on Egham, Surrey:

Those interested in city night life may have a bit of trouble, but there are quite a few options on campus, in the Egham area, and for days when you do want to experience London that is definitely doable, either by going along on an group coach trip or getting the night tube over to Heathrow and grabbing a taxi back to Egham from there.

How did we get our data?

Data gathering

We found the latitude and longitude for all UK universities and HE colleges, and used this to query late night venues within a 5-mile radius. These were averaged by university to populate the 'Average Google rating' column. Using a radar search with the Google Maps API, we found the number of venues within 5 miles and used this to apply a weighting to the average rating focusing first on quality (i.e. average rating) and then on choice (i.e. number of venues). For universities with the same TSR score, we gave preference to the one with the highest Google rating.