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REVEALED: The UK and Ireland’s Top Student Unions

From societies, sports and clubs to cheap food, drinks and nights out, the students’ union is your foundation for making new friends and memories. But what is it that makes a good students’ union? By researching different important features — including the number of clubs and societies, the cost of food and drinks, and representation of international students and of academic interests — we've ranked the top one’s for you! 

It’s official: Sheffield has the best student union in the UK and Ireland

It’s clear why Sheffield Students’ Union is often heralded as the UK’s top student’s union. The University of Sheffield offers students over 350 clubs and societies, resulting in a whopping 87% satisfaction rate for the variety of activities provided.

This includes a broad offering of student union societies and support for international students. Sheffield has one of the highest percentages of international students, at 32%. This includes 5,874 Chinese students, accounting for around 20% of the whole student population of the university.

Notably, National Student Survey results show 69% of Sheffield students feel their student's union properly represents their academic interests. Sheffield students benefit from feeling supported through their studies and beyond to excel in post-graduate life.

Other top Student Unions in the UK and Ireland 

While Sheffield Student Union has the best total score, other university students’ unions stand out in their categories.

Best Students’ Union for Societies and Activities

When it comes to student satisfaction with the variety of activities offered, it turns out quantity isn’t everything: our top student unions for societies and activities have anything between 100 and 350 individual groups: 

#1) Sheffield Students’ Union

350+ student union societies

87% student satisfaction score

#2) Dundee University Students’ Union

250+ student union societies

85% student satisfaction score

#3) The University of Birmingham Guild

250+ student union societies

83% student satisfaction score

#4) Loughborough Students’ Union

100+ student union societies

83% student satisfaction score

Loughborough is not only one of the top universities for societies overall, but it's also the UK's best university for sports, including sports clubs. Loughborough University offers 55 sports clubs, including football, rugby and rowing to cheerleading, trampolining and windsurfing.

#5) Leeds University Union

300+ student union societies

82% student satisfaction score

What about the weirdest societies?

For those with niche interests, certain SUs stand out for having quirkier societies. In no particular order — as all these socs are uniquely weird and wonderful — here are some of the strangest university societies:

Best Student Union for Affordability

For the next three years your student union will be at the central hub of your social calendar, so it’s important that it’s affordable! Luckily, in the UK and Ireland's most affordable student unions, a meal and a pint can cost as little as £5 or less!

#1) Dundee University Students’ Union

Meal: £1.80

Pint of beer: £2.50

Total: £4.30

#2) Northumbria University Students’ Union

Meal: £2.10

Pint of beer: £3.00

Total: £5.10

#3) Loughborough  Students’ Union

Meal: £2.90

Pint of beer: £3.08

Total: £5.98

#4) Nottingham Trent Students’ Union

Meal: £3.25

Pint of beer: £2.80

Total: £6.05

#5) Glasgow University Students’ Union

Meal: £2.65

Pint of beer: £3.65

Total: £6.30

Most Cosmopolitan Student Union

Student Unions represent and support students of the university from all backgrounds, including international students. Our top cosmopolitan student unions are:

#1) The University of St Andrews

39% of students are from overseas

#2) The University of Sheffield

32% of students are from overseas

#3) The University of Edinburgh

32% of students are from overseas

#4) The University of Liverpool

26% of students are from overseas

#5) University College Dublin

25% of students are from overseas

UCD is the most cosmopolitan university in Ireland!

Best Student Union for Representing Students’ Academic Interests

Finally, it should go without saying that a good SU is there to academically support you throughout your studies through student services, job fairs, work experience opportunities and representing members’ voices as a community.

The National Student Survey results show students feel their academic interests are best represented at these top student unions in the UK and Ireland:

#1) The University of St Andrews Students’ Union

69% of students feel academically represented

#2) Sheffield Students’ Union

69% of students feel academically represented

#3) The Bath  Students’ Union 

64% of students feel academically represented

#4) Bangor University Students’ Union

63% of students feel academically represented

#5) Loughborough Students’ Union

63% of students feel academically represented

Method

Student Union scores are calculated by adding:

  • scores based on the number of clubs and societies according to each Student Union website
  • the percentage of students happy with the activities offered according to The Uni Guide
  • affordability scores, with the highest score given to the location with the cheapest food and drinks according to either the student union website or, if prices unavailable, Numbeo
  • the percentage of students from outside the UK according to The Uni Guide and University College Dublin’s website, and
  • the percentage of students who feel academically represented by their student union according to The National Student Survey results.

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