By Graeme Paton
Cambridge maintained its lead over Oxford to be named as the top university in Britain in an authoritative league table published.
The ancient institution beat 123 others nationally to be ranked as the number one university for the third year in a row, it was revealed. Oxford climbed back to second in the table after slipping to third in 2012 behind the London School of Economics.
Today’s table – published by the Complete University Guide – named the LSE as third followed by Imperial College London, Durham, St Andrews, University College London, Warwick, Bath and Exeter.
The table uses national data to rank universities on nine measures including student satisfaction, research standards, student entry grades, staff-to-student ratios, spending on academic services and graduate job prospects.
Subject-specific tables are also produced showing the best universities for different academic disciplines. Cambridge University took top place in 34 of the 46 subjects it offered. Oxford was top in six out of 37 subject areas.
In a series of further conclusions, the tables showed:
• The worst university was East London, with University College Birmingham, Bolton and London Metropolitan also featuring among the bottom four;
• 15 universities fell by more than 10 places, including Central Lancashire (69th to 92nd), Gloucester (74th to 94th), Sunderland (89th to 110th) and Bedfordshire (82nd to 107th);
• Oxford Brookes was the highest-ranking former polytechnic in 45th place;
• The most improved university was Northampton, which rose from 101st to 62nd in 12 months.
The tables also showed that the economic downturn continued to have an impact on job prospects.
Just 64.2 per cent of graduates went into skilled employment or further study, according to the latest data, compared with almost 69 per cent in the 2010 tables. Some 66 universities dropped below the national average, with fewer than 64.2 per cent of their graduates in good jobs or postgraduate courses.
Bernard Kingston, principal author of the guide, said: “This year’s mixture of stability at the top and a degree of volatility in the lower half shows that, for many institutions, small differences between them render them vulnerable to fluctuations in their rankings.
“What is beyond dispute is that the top 10 includes some of the world’s finest higher education institutions.”
But Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK, said: “It is good that there is a growing amount of information about university courses to help inform potential students.
“However, league tables and guides cannot tell the whole story about universities and individual courses. Positions can vary from one table to the next, based often on small statistical margins.” (The Telegraph)