Taken from the Guardian.
Cambridge has topped the Guardian University Guide league table for the seventh year running, while Oxford remains in second place and St Andrews in third.
There’s little change among the top 10 universities: Durham University, which ranked sixth last year, is in fourth place, while Bath University has climbed from 10th to fifth position. Imperial College London, Loughborough, Warwick, Lancaster, Surrey and UCL make up the rest of the top 10. Coventry remains the highest-ranked former polytechnic in the guide, moving up from 15th to 12th place.
Elsewhere in the table, some universities have risen rapidly up the rankings. Among them is Liverpool Hope (56), which – despite gaining university status only 15 years ago – has overtaken its Russell Group neighbour, the University of Liverpool (67). The University of Liverpool has also fallen behind Edge Hill University (56), which is based nearby in Ormskirk.
The University of West London is another institution making a quick ascent up the table, rising to 58th place from 96th last year.
Universities in the research-intensive Russell Group have taken 12 of the top 20 places in the table, though three members – Cardiff (42), Queen Mary (44) and Liverpool (67) – are outside the top 40. The University of Liverpool’s position slipped to 67 from 59 last year due largely to a fall in graduate employment prospects.
Sarah Stevens, head of policy at the Russell Group, says that while league tables are a useful tool for students, they shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. “It is hard for any university ranking to capture the full student experience that an institution provides. Applicants should look beyond league tables to pick the course that is right for them.
The Guardian league tables focus on the quality of teaching, student satisfaction and employability, issues that are vital to young people choosing where to study.
The guide, which is produced by the independent company Intelligent Metrix, ranks universities according to: spending per student; the student/staff ratio; graduate career prospects; what grades applicants need to get a place; a value-added score that compares students’ entry qualifications with their final degree results; and how satisfied final-year students are with their courses, based on results from the annual National Student Survey (NSS).
It was graduate job prospects that helped Liverpool Hope climb to 56th place, from 104 two years ago. Its success is also driven by improvements across its biosciences, business, and social policy departments.
Professor Gerald Pillay, vice-chancellor of Liverpool Hope University, says the university has invested in individual support for students, and opted for small class sizes. “We break up the students – especially the first-year students – into groups of up to 10, each with a teacher. That has led to a great improvement in student engagement,” he said.
The university encourages students to gain a more rounded education, Pillay adds. Many students study more than one subject for their degree. “The liberal arts – literature, theology and philosophy – are important for us, but we encourage people to take one major in a liberal arts discipline and then to use the other major to touch the real world.”
The overall Guardian league table is accompanied by subject rankings, showing how universities perform across 54 areas of study. Cambridge holds the most top spots in the subject tables, coming first in 13. Oxford is top of seven of the tables.
Matt Hiely-Rayner, director of Intelligent Metrix, says the universities of Bristol and Sussex have increased their dominance across the subject tables this year.
“The University of Bristol has increased its tally of top five appearances from four to seven, adding three in film production and photography, politics, and anatomy and physiology. It also broke into the top 10 for another five subjects. Sussex is now in the top 10 for eight subject areas.”
Despite Labour’s recent pledge to abolish tuition fees, almost all English universities plan to raise their fees this year. From 2017-18 onwards, most will charge a maximum fee of £9,250 for undergraduate courses. Only two universities – University College Birmingham and University of St Mark and St John – have rejected the latest increase.