This article is more than 5 years old

Which thing is your uni?

Paul Greatrix celebrates the fine rankings contributions of The Tab
This article is more than 5 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

Over the years The Tab has provided valuable insights into student life in universities across the UK. It’s often one of those outlets that university staff prefer to avoid looking at for fear of feeling even older and out of touch but in addition to a delightfully dumb ranking they do a terrific line in helpful categorisations of universities.

The Tab is also able, fearlessly, to say things which your mainstream higher education media, would rather not. So, let’s catch up on some of the classic listings of recent times.

One Fab Listing

First up we have the highly imaginative and topical for the long hot summer ‘Which ice cream is your uni?’

Durham – 99

Say you were at a dinner party, and someone asked what uni you were at. You panic, and blurt out Durham. Nobody’s impressed, but they all nod approvingly, thinking slightly more of you than if you’d chosen anything else.
Now mirror this with when you go to the ice cream van, panic, and bring back a 99. Great, solid choice. Nothing impressive, not necessarily a crowd pleaser, but reassuringly solid. Nobody’s going to pull you up for getting them a 99.
Also, it’s a longstanding myth that Margaret Thatcher helped invent Mr Whippy, which may or may not have as much grounding in reality as the claim that everyone at Durham is a massive Tory.

Nottingham – Cornetto

If you’ve ever eaten a Cornetto, you’ll know exactly what going to Nottingham is like. A middle-of-the-road journey through some pretty sweet but forgettable stuff, with a hard bit right at the end when you actually have to knuckle down for exams.



And then The Tab dutifully provides answers to a question we’ve all been asking: ‘Which flavour crisp is your uni?’ – just a few examples:


Birmingham – Walkers Roast Chicken
You’ll only choose this one if literally nothing else is available.

Hull – Walkers Marmite
The people who end up there love it. Prospective employers hate it.

UCL – Original Pringles
Like the tower which holds Big Ben, this red-as-a-London-Bus tube is something of a British institution – much like the University College of London. Doesn’t stop it being a little bit banal, though.

King’s – Salt & Vinegar Pringles
Like UCL, but salty and bitter about the fact they’re London’s second most popular.

Imperial – Sour Cream & Chive Pringles
Actually better than both of the above.


Child’s play

Next up there is a question which perhaps no-one ever imagined being asked: which classic CBBC character is your uni?


There’s far too much rich detail to go into here but a couple of examples should give a flavour:



Tracy Beaker (The Story of Tracy Beaker) – Nottingham

Tracy Beaker has a big ol’ chip on her shoulder because her mum always ditches her, nearly as big as the chip on the shoulder of every Nottingham student because they wish they went to a better uni.
Just like Tracy deludes herself sitting by the window telling herself her mum is coming to pick her up, Notts students have to keep telling themselves Nottingham Uni is great to justify the money they’re spending on the most bang average of unis.
Charging £30 for a Crisis ticket on Buy/Sell? Bog off.

Cooking up a storm

And then there is the inevitable ‘which celebrity chef is your uni?’ to tickle your tastebuds. Just one example should suffice:

Look, Gordon Ramsay has got six Michelin stars to his name. Like any Cambridge student, he’s operating on levels of excellence you can merely aspire to, and knows it. He’s worth as much as Beyonce, apparently, but you might not guess it. Just like when your Cambridge classmate turns out to be royalty of some obscure country.
His trademark shouting and rage might not make everybody love him, but they sure as hell listen when he’s saying how to make scrambled eggs. It’s a grudging respect.

Time for tea

Next up: which hot beverage is your uni? You really would not think there would be enough to go round…

Bath – Latte

You spend your whole uni life in a Jack Wills gilet playing lacrosse. Despite Jack Wills being so 2009, you’ve never really grown out of it. Just like how you’ve never grown out of everyone’s first coffee – the latte.

Birmingham – Nutella Hot Chocolate

This choice seemed like a good idea at the time, but in reality it just leaves you feeling sick immediately afterwards. It’s not as exciting as it seemed, it may leave a good aftertaste but you will not want to spend three years of your life drinking it.


And look at this. In festive mode, the not at all inevitable question for The Tab was ‘Which Christmas chocolate is your uni?’

Mars – Liverpool

You know it’s there, and you respect it as an old-timer in the Russell Group crowd, but you would never actually choose it. You just kind of end up at Liverpool. You’re not gutted when you go there, but when it’s either a Mars or a Bounty left at the end of the box, the choice is clear.

Coconut Eclair – Exeter

Coconut Eclair sounds exotic and exciting, but it lacks substance, it’s very bland. When someone tells you they go to Exeter you are impressed, but why? Have you ever actually been to Exeter? It’s as uneventful as a coconut eclair. Yeah it’s got a nice Pizza Express, but where doesn’t?

More culinary delights

Even more unlikely than celebrity chefs and crisps is this rather niche listing: ‘Which Greggs menu item is your uni?’ Can’t wait to see these in the next online prospectus.

Leeds – Sausage and Bean Melt
Leeds like to think they’re edgy and different, but in reality sausage and beans inside pastry is still just sausage and beans. The Sausage and Bean Melt may look exciting, but a few bites in you’ll realise you’ve heard (or tasted) it all before.

There’s more

These are merely the highlights. There are many more Tab marvels to savour including these:

Which Stranger Things character is your uni?

Which iconic food chain is your uni?

Which sandwich is your uni?

Here’s to many more like this. Thank you to everyone at The Tab who comes up with these.

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