Shearer, Harvey Nichs Oasis, push colleges
How trendy a city is makes a big difference to students thinking of going to study there, a market research company has reported.
Surveys by Heist in the UK show that most sixth-formers have a hazy knowledge of institutions.
Many choose universities on a 'brand-name' basis, because they have a long-established reputation or share their names with the cities they are in.
'Our research shows the image of a city is vital. Most universities and colleges realise that and are now working with local authorities on their marketing strategies,' said Dave Roberts, chief executive of Heist.
He said that students had found out if a college offered their course, they wanted to make sure its location would impress friends.
'Place is very important and for some people, more so than institutions. I have only ever heard one applicant refer directly to research ratings influencing their choice,' he said.
A spokesman for Newcastle University said football star Alan Shearer's transfer from Blackburn had been cited by some applicants.
'It would be silly not to recognise that any major event in a city obviously raises awareness of that place,' he said. The same thing happened when Manchester became centre of the British pop scene.
Leeds is now experiencing a similar boom, thanks to its vibrant club scene and publicity over a new Harvey Nichols store.
Angela Bogg, admissions officer at Manchester University, said: 'Manchester is on the up for the music scene and has a very high profile with young people. Applications are up too.
'The choice of the degree programme is still important, but other things being equal, then the city is going to have an influence.' But students should not take too much account of extra-curricular activities.
The Performance Indicator Project found that 83 per cent of employers believed degree classification was the most important criterion for assessing graduates, placing personal and transferable skills fourth in their list. In previous years, personal skills had always come top.