Cambridge edges oxford to top university rankings

For the eighth year running, Cambridge University has topped a league table of the best UK higher education institutions.

Cambridge University
The independently-compiled rankings in the Complete University Guide 2019 placed the University of Oxford in its familiar second place while the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) came in third.

University league tables

Available free to both British and overseas students at, the guide ranks 131 UK universities, as well as 13 arts, drama and music colleges, based on ten criteria: student satisfaction, research quality, research intensity, entry standards, student-to-staff ratio, spending on academic services, spending on student facilities, good honours degrees, graduate prospects, and degree completion.The guide also includes a breakdown of 70 subjects at individual institutions by quality measures important to students.Dr Bernard Kingston, chairman of the Complete University Guide, said, “It is a fact that Cambridge and Oxford have usually topped the table. But some 20 British universities could be regarded as top world-class institutions – some ancient like Cambridge and Oxford, and some modern like Warwick and Lancaster. All are able to attract faculty and research funding globally.“This clearly influences the quality of their undergraduate teaching and enables them to recruit high-quality students. All universities strive for continual improvement, and it is conceivable that in the future others may pose a challenge to Cambridge and Oxford.”School search and education advice - connect with our in-country experts
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Dr Kingston also pointed out that, throughout the UK, the number of students graduating with either a first-class or upper second-class honours degree had steadily increased year-on-year over the past decade.“The proportion of good honours has steadily but inexorably increased at almost all universities,” he said. “Either students are working harder, or they are being better taught, or something else is happening. But it is one of the criteria over which universities have a significant degree of control.” The guide, which has been published each year since 2007, was compiled using publicly available data by Mayfield University Consultants, which previously produced league tables for The Times Good University Guide.

Understanding higher education ranking

Simon Emmett, chief executive of the Hotcourses Group, an educational guidance company based in London, which boasts the world’s largest course database, said, “The Complete University Guide has lived up to its name and has achieved its goal of publishing the first free-to-access complete rankings of all the UK universities.“These independent and unbiased league tables are used by almost a million applicants and their advisers monthly and are also well respected by the universities themselves for their accuracy and stability.”The latest guide, published on Wednesday, tells students, “We believe these tables give a pretty good indication of how universities compare with each other. The measures help you focus on areas that may be important to you, such as entry standards or graduate prospects.“Be aware, however, that the league tables do not tell the whole story. Courses offered by top ranking universities are not always the best. Universities that rank lower down may deliver outstanding courses in specific subjects, due to expertise and the facilities available.“Where a university stands in the university league tables is important, but the quality of course may matter more. A league table position mainly reflects a university’s performance over a single year. But many have built a reputation over the years, while some lower down are still carving out a niche.”Top 20 rankings:
  1. Cambridge
  2. Oxford
  3. London School of Economics 
  4. Imperial College London
  5. St Andrews
  6. Durham
  7. Loughborough
  8. Lancaster
  9. Warwick
  10. University College London
  11. Bath
  12. Exeter
  13. Leeds
  14. East Anglia (UEA)
  15. = Bristol
  16. = Birmingham
  17. Nottingham
  18. Manchester
  19. Surrey
  20. Southampton

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