Feeling all black and gold: University of Sheffield voted third best university in Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey

The University of Sheffield has been voted third in the country by its students in the Times Higher Education (THE) Student Experience Survey 2017, and its Students’ Union as number one for the ninth year in a row.

Sheffield’s rankings were announced on Thursday, and the University of Sheffield was voted as number one out of the Russell Group institutions.

The University was ranked third for both ‘good community atmosphere’ and ​​’good social life’ – a position which, many would say, should give its thanks to Sheffield Students’ Union.

I spoke to Special Projects Editor at the THE, Seth Jacobson, about the survey’s influence and why Sheffield continually comes out on top.

He said the THE has “two distinct sets of readers” – institutions who use the survey as a benchmark to see how they compare to other universities, and students who “hopefully trust the voice of their fellows and make informed decisions because of the results of the survey.”

University of Sheffield Students’ Union

Mr Jacobson said that tightknit campuses, strong concern for student welfare and good facilities are the three factors which are common to universities that are continually successful in the survey, and therefore, with their students.

Of the University of Sheffield Students’ Union, Mr Jacobson said they found “a politically active but mature organisation that was serving its student body brilliantly”.

“Some of the initiatives that the union has put in place, such as setting up a lettings agency, are measures that should, in my opinion, be replicated across the country,” he said.

“I think the professionalism of the union inspires a trust from the university that means the pair work hand in hand on issues of student welfare and beyond.”

With this in mind, we spoke to Sheffield Students’ Union President, Dominic Trendall, who said: “I think the best thing about the Students’ Union is how many different things there are. Like how there are 350 different clubs and societies, if there’s anything you can think of, there’s probably someone doing it here. It’s that variety and how there is genuinely something for everyone.”

“Everyone finds a part of it for them, where they can feel happy and safe.


“We do really well commercially, with nights out people can enjoy. When a friend from home visits and you say, ‘We’re going out in the students’ union’ they look at you like, ‘What are you doing?’”

Whereas, at the University of Sheffield, it’s often the place to be for Tuesday Club, ROAR Wednesdays and Saturday’s Pop Tarts.

“The first campaign I was involved with at the Students’ Union were about housing and letting fees”. A campaign around changing the behaviour of letting agents in the city.

“More recently, we have been campaigning to prioritise our mental health, that is something which is really important at the moment in the context of a student mental health crisis.

Breadth of activity

This year Dominic has pushed for the Students’ Union directly running a letting agents service with the university. To make sure students are being dealt with by the union and not charging administration fees, guaranteeing a standard of housing and trying to have an effect on the market.

Sheffields Students’ Union is one of the first in the country to do it and it will be open for business at the beginning of the next academic year, 2018/2019.

The hope is that they will be able to provide a direct service to their students, which Dominic hopes will make a different to their lives.

Supporting the sports teams during this year’s varsity matches

He said: “We campaign on a breadth of issues and that’s the secret to the success of a students’ union is making sure that you are providing cheap drinks on a Friday night, that people care about how they can effect people’s lives but also making a really clear political messages and understanding that actually, everything we do is political because it’s representing our members. And that’s what we’re here for.”

Mr Jacobson said: “Unless you are going to university to enter a very specific field of employment, such as medicine or engineering, surely the most important reason for going is to socialise and develop as a human being.

“A good university recognises that and nurtures you.”

And it seems that that is exactly what the University of Sheffield does, alongside their Students’ Union, and it is then continually reflected in the experiences of their past, and present, students.