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Top 10 UK universities 2018/19

The 2019 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?!

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 qualities.

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.

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!

Best universities in the UK

  1. University College London (UCL)

    ucl university college london

    Credit: Neil Turner - Flickr

    Founded in 1826, UCL is the third oldest university in England. It actually fell three places in the ranking this year, though still retained an impressive overall score of 870/1000.

    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 Warwick

    warwick university

    Credit: Mike1024 - Wikimedia Commons

    Warwick University was founded in 1965 and is located on the outskirts of Coventry (not Warwick, as you'd be inclined to assume).

    The university has an impressive campus stretching across 290 hectares, containing everything you would ever need, from accommodation, a supermarket, and food outlets, to an arts centre, a library, sports facilities and even a cinema!

    Warwick has around 25,600 full-time students, with famous alumni including Stephen Merchant and Sting!

  3. 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 ranked in the top 10 specifically for Student Satisfaction and Graduate Prospects. It also received the gold standard in the TEF.

    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.

  4. Loughborough University

    loughborough university

    Credit: Phil McIver - Flickr

    Loughborough University continues on its upward trajectory, up three places from its position last year. It’s not surprising when it offers 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), has shot up in the rankings apparently 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, and they have a fantastic SU to join or set up societies.

  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 Facilities Spend and Degree Completion according to the CUG, but it does fall down on its Academic Services Spend.

  6. 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 includes 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 UK, but it really seems to excel in Student Satisfaction - St Andrews beats all other universities in the top 10 with a score of 4.32/5.

    That said, its Graduate Prospects are lower than all the others in the top 10. You can't have it all!

  7. 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 this year it has risen one place in the CUG’s rankings.

    The university has around 13,410 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 90.5/100, Graduate Prospects from Imperial are higher than any other UK uni - so your chances of finding a job when you graduate are even better than if you'd studied at Oxford or Cambridge!

  8. London School of Economics (LSE)

    lse london school economics

    Credit: David Tansey - Flickr

    LSE has the highest percentage of international students in the UK and is second in the QS world rankings for social science. Based in Westminster, London, it has more than 10,000 students and 3,300 staff.

    The university’s list of famous alumni is also pretty impressive, and includes Mick Jagger, David Attenborough and even a former US President in the form of John F. Kennedy!

    Third 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.

  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 997/1000 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 outshone the uni in first place (as if you can't guess who it is) for Good Honours, with scores of 93.7 and 92.6 respectively.

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

  10. University of Cambridge

    cambridge university top uni

    Credit: llee_wu - Flickr

    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 in 2016 the uni announced it would providing grants to disadvantaged students in place of the maintenance grant that the government decided to scrap.

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

What do the experts say?

Commenting on the overall 2019 table, the CUG said it reflects improvements in spend - both Academic Services and Student Facilities. Graduate Prospects and Good Honours scores are also at their highest since the rankings were first published.

Dr Bernard Kingston, chairman of the CUG, said:

The proportion of good honours has steadily [...] increased at almost all universities.

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.

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 in the world, but what do the facts say? Find out how the UK fares in the world university rankings!


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