VHDL and Verilog each have their strengths, which is why neither has been able to supplant the other. Perhaps in the long run System Verilog will change this (bringing much of the power of VHDL to the Verilog world), but that day hasn't arrived yet.
Verilog code tends to be very concise, with the language making some implicit conversions and assumptions that turn out to be correct most of the time.
VHDL is bigger, bulkier and more rigid. The rigidity can be annoying, but it also is good at catching errors. The language has features that allow for very elaborate testbench construction, and some powerful means for abstraction (the generate statement, multiple architectures for an entity, etc). But this power comes at a cost. The spec for the language is several times larger than for VHDL. At one point I had a Verilog quick reference that fit nicely on a single page. My equivalent quick reference for VHDL covered four pages.
I've gone through the "choose an HDL" process twice, and both times selected VHDL. But that was within the context of at least half the team already being fluent in VHDL, and working on a large enough (and long lived enough) codebase that we could take advantage of some of VHDL's power. I wish VHDL wasn't so cumbersome and verbose, but it was still a win overall.
You are in a very different situation. I'm assuming you have minimal experience with either language, and it will be new to your students as well. You're going to have plenty of other things to be worrying about (digital design, synthesis, debugging, etc). I think Verilog is a better choice for your situation. It's going to do everything you need, and not really get in your way.
Also, don't worry about which tool is more popular in industry. Tools change many times over a career. University classes should be about providing good theory and foundation, so pick whatever tool enables you teach those concepts most effectively.