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Revealed: world’s best universities for graduate prospects

Three UK universities have been ranked in the top 20 of a survey measuring the employability of graduates across the world.

Best universities for graduate employabilityCredit: GW Public Health – Flickr

Universities around the world have now been ranked according to graduate employability, and three from the UK are in the top 20.

In total, six UK universities have placed in the top 50 institutions this year. The University of Cambridge is the UK’s best for graduate prospects, despite slipping one place to sixth overall.

The University of Oxford remained in eighth place, while UCL will be delighted to enter the top 20 global institutions, ranking in 17th place.

The graduate employment survey, published by the higher education think tank QS, has placed American universities in all three of the podium positions. Stanford University has retained first place, with UCLA and Harvard following in second and third respectively.

In fact, American universities won five of the top ten spots, with Australia’s Melbourne and Sydney and China's Tsinghua University rounding off the top 10.

What about the UK universities?

We took a detailed look into how the UK compares with the rest of the world in these graduate employment rankings. In particular, we wanted to see which unis made the top 100 – did yours make the list?

UK rankUniversityWorld ranking
1University of Cambridge6
2University of Oxford8
3University College London17
4Imperial College London29
5University of Manchester33
6University of Bristol50
7London School of Economics and Political Science54
8University of Nottingham56
9University of Edinburgh60
10King's College London63
11University of Warwick66
12University of Leeds70
13University of Durham74
14University of Birmingham86

Most of these universities fall into the Russell Group, which comprises of 24 the UK’s leading universities for research, teaching, and business connections.

How do these results compare with the TEF rankings?

Just as we did when the Times Higher Education rankings were published, we've decided to compare the QS survey results with the ratings of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

The TEF, introduced in early 2017, reviews university teaching standards and allows those that pass to increase their tuition fees. The framework ranks institutions as bronze, silver, or gold.

Controversially, the TEF does not actually assess teaching or lecture standards, so it's a good idea to treat it with some caution. As with any university ranking, the best thing you can do is to compare it with others for a more rounded picture.

UK rank in QS surveyUniversityTEF rating
1University of CambridgeGold
2University of OxfordGold
3University College LondonSilver
4Imperial College LondonGold
5University of ManchesterSilver
6University of BristolSilver
7London School of Economics and Political ScienceBronze
8University of NottinghamGold
9University of Edinburgh(opted out)
10King's College LondonSilver
11University of WarwickSilver
12University of LeedsGold
13University of DurhamSilver
14University of BirminghamGold

Less than 50% of the UK institutions to make the QS top 100 were awarded gold by the TEF. Six have an average rating of silver, while LSE, ranked 54th in the world for graduate prospects, only received a bronze.

The University of Surrey finished just outside the top 100 (121st), placing in the UK's top 15. It also received a gold rating in the TEF, demonstrating how important it is to assess universities as individual entities rather than just their long-standing reputation.

How do the rankings work?

What is an internship

The 2018 QS rankings don't just consider employment rates – they also take into account what universities do to help students pursue their desired careers.

The survey analysed factors such as employer reputation, partnerships with businesses, presence of employers on campus, and graduate outcomes. Categories are weighted according to how important they are to students.

Ben Sowter, research director at QS, said this year’s rankings show that “employability is about more than prestige and selectivity”. Universities which prioritise their students’ graduate prospects always score highly, no matter what their reputation may be.

While world-renowned institutions do appear at the top of the table, this ranking system also brings less well-known universities into the limelight. It highlights institutions that provide the type of high-quality network that can be so beneficial for successful graduate outcomes.

Started thinking about life after uni? Find out how much you can expect to earn by checking out the average starting salary for graduates of your degree.

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