For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.

Extra Guides

Top 10 UK universities 2020

The 2020 UK university league tables have been published, and we've taken a look at the top 10 universities this time around.

best universities in the uk

Every year The Complete University Guide (CUG) publishes league tables that rank 131 UK universities, 13 Arts, Drama, and Music colleges and conservatoires, and 70 subjects. This is done by assessing different qualities and categories that are important to students, with the aim of helping them decide where to apply to uni.

We’ve taken a closer look at the top 10 unis that the UK has to offer for the upcoming year of study according to the CUG’s stats.

Have Oxford and Cambridge got a monopoly on the top of the table once again, or has another uni snatched the gold medal? And, most importantly, is your uni one of the best in the country?!

Looking for a global view? Check out the ranking of the best universities in the world.

How is the university league table ranked?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the top 10, we want to be clear that the CUG ranks UK unis based on a number of different measures.

It takes all of the following into account:

  • Entry Requirements indicating the average UCAS tariff score of new students entering the university
  • Student Satisfaction
  • Research Quality and Intensity
  • Graduate Prospects indicating the proportion of graduates in employment six months after leaving uni
  • Student-Staff Ratio
  • Academic Services Spend
  • Facilities Spend
  • Good Honours indicating the proportion of students graduating with a 1st or 2:1
  • Degree Completion indicating the proportion of students completing their degree and not dropping out of uni.

If you're looking at the league table in full, make sure to check out each uni's scores for the individual measures that matter most to you!

Find out how eco-friendly your uni is with the ranking of the greenest UK universities.

Best UK universities 2020

  1. University College London (UCL)

    ucl university college london top uk university

    Credit: Neil Turner - Flickr

    Founded in 1826, UCL is the third oldest university in England. It's held its place in 10th, and finds itself third in the London rankings.

    UCL holds the impressive honour of being the first university to admit students of any race, class or religion, and to welcome women on equal terms with men.

    The university’s impressive mix of famous alumni include Alexander Graham Bell, Jonathan Ross and Chris Martin of Coldplay.

  2. University of Bath

    university of bath

    Credit: Claudio Divizia - Shutterstock

    The University of Bath is a new entrant to the top 10 UK universities, rising two places having ranked 11th for three years in a row.

    The university offers some of the best Graduate Prospects of any of the unis in the overall top 10 and is, of course, based in the stunning World Heritage Site city of Bath.

    While you may not recognise many of Bath's alumni by name, it's worth pointing out that a whole host of successful athletes studied there – including a tonne of Olympic medallists.

  3. Loughborough University

    loughborough university

    Credit: Phil McIver - Flickr

    Loughborough University has slipped one place this year, but still makes the UK's top 10 for a fourth consecutive year. Hardly surprising when it was recently found to offer more value for money than any other university in the UK.

    The university, which is best known for its penchant for athletics (it was also Team GB's HQ during the London Olympics), is said to rank highly in part thanks to its great engineering department, as well as fashion and textiles.

    Loughborough places a lot of emphasis on students graduating with an all-round skillset. To this end, it offers every undergraduate student the chance to complete a year in industry as part of their degree if they want to.

  4. University of Lancaster

    lancaster university

    Credit: Jisc infoNet - Flickr

    Lancaster in the North West of England is one of the UK's ‘new' universities established in the 1960s. Lancaster has a great reputation and has sat comfortably in the top ten ranking over the last few years.

    Up one place from last year, Lancaster also ranks third in the UK for Graduate Prospects and  received the gold standard in the TEF Awards.

    Lancaster is one of only six collegiate universities in the UK, alongside the likes of Cambridge, Oxford, and Durham, and its eight undergraduate colleges are named after places of interest in the North West of England.

  5. University of Durham

    durham uni

    Credit: Peter Bonnett - Flickr

    The University of Durham was founded in 1832 and was the first university to open in England for more than 600 years. It's consistently one of the highest ranked universities in the UK and has the second highest proportion of privately educated students in the country.

    Durham has its fair share of famous former students, too, including former Bond actor Roger Moore – though his studies were cut short after being drafted in for National Service.

    Durham has excellent scores for Good Honours and Degree Completion according to CUG, but it does fall down slightly on its Student Satisfaction rating.

  6. Imperial College London

    imperial college london uni

    Credit: Andrew Crump - Flickr

    Imperial College London was founded in 1907 – initially as part of the University of London, but becoming fully independent in 2007. Imperial specialises in science, engineering, business and medicine, and despite falling one place this year, makes the top five universities in the UK for the fifth year running.

    The university has around 18,000 students and among its alumni are H.G. Wells and Brian May (the guitarist in Queen), the latter of whom studied astrophysics at the university!

    With a score of 90.4/100, Imperial's Graduate Prospects are the second highest in the UK – so your chances of finding a job when you graduate are even better than if you'd studied at Oxford or Cambridge!

  7. London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

    lse london school economics

    Credit: David Tansey - Flickr

    Number one in London and fourth in the UK, the London School of Economics and Political Science has never finished outside of the top five in CUG's UK university rankings.

    The university’s list of famous alumni is also pretty impressive, and includes Mick Jagger, David Attenborough and even a former Prime Minister in the form of Clement Attlee!

    Fourth place in the CUG rankings is something to be proud of for LSE, going some way to dispel the disappointment of only receiving bronze in the TEF.

  8. University of St Andrews

    st andrews university

    Credit: stu smith - Flickr

    St Andrews is the oldest university in Scotland, and although the exact foundation date is unknown, we know it was some time between 1410 and 1413. As you'll be well aware, the university's alumni include the likes of Prince William and Kate Middleton, who met while studying there.

    The university consistently ranks as one of the best universities in the land, but it really seems to excel in Student Satisfaction – St Andrews beats all other universities in the UK with a score of 4.26/5.

    That said, its Graduate Prospects are quite a bit lower than all the other unis in the top 10 – you can't have it all!

  9. University of Oxford

    oxford university best

    Credit: Pablo Fernández - Flickr

    The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. The exact date of establishment is unknown, but there's evidence of teaching as far back as 1096. Again, this university has educated many well-known people including Rupert Murdoch, Michael Palin and Richard Curtis.

    Oxford scored 989/1000 in the CUG’s rankings, showing just how narrow the gap between itself and the number one spot is. It's also worth noting that Oxford outperformed the uni in first place (as if you can't guess who it is) in a number of categories, including Good Honours, Degree Completion and Research Quality.

    This all being said, getting a place at Oxford doesn't guarantee you a top class degree – as one student found out when he tried to sue the university for £1m because he didn’t get a first!

  10. University of Cambridge

    Credit: Pajor Pawel - Shutterstock

    Founded in 1209, the University of Cambridge is the second oldest university in the UK. And, as you probably already know, Cambridge boasts a whole slog of well-known alumni including Sir Ian McKellen, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Monty Python's John Cleese and Eric Idle, to name just a few.

    Cambridge consistently occupies one of the top two spots on league tables for UK universities, and it's now ranked in first place for not one, not two, not three, but nine years in a row.

    They also have a Professor of Lego, so it's hard to argue that the number one spot isn't well deserved!

    And don't let their elite reputation put you off – if you're unsure whether it's for you, take inspiration from our interview with Ibz Mo, the YouTuber smashing boundaries at Cambridge.

What do the experts say?

Commenting on the overall 2020 table, the CUG said it reflects improvements in Graduate Prospects across the board, with the unis at the lower end of the table now closing the gap in this area when compared to the institutions topping the rankings.

Dr Bernard Kingston, chairman of the CUG, said:

The evidence is clear; the increased emphasis, including funding, on employability and career planning within academic departments and student services is bearing fruit.

You can look at the full rankings table from The Complete University Guide and compare rankings for each subject as well as overall performance.

We're always told that UK unis are some of the best on the planet, but how do our cities rank? Find out the best places to study in the world.


Ask us a question or share your thoughts!

Tweet @savethestudent - Facebook Message - Email