League Tables Background and Inclusion Criteria

University rankings have their origins in the USA but were first introduced into the UK in 1993.

  • Many were incorporated into newspaper supplements or within paperback guides, and although some are still paper based, all tables now have a web presence. 

The Complete University Guide is published wholly online and free to access.

  • Fully independent and autonomous, the content is widely respected for its responsiveness to the university community and its commitment to giving university applicants the most comprehensive, accurate and relevant information on university courses which best fit their needs.

To appear in our overall ranking table or the 70 subject tables, an HE institution must:

  1. Offer full-time, first degree (undergraduate) courses.
  2. Be a Recognised Body (award their own degrees).
  3. Put in a full statistical return to HESA.
  4. For the Main Table (but not necessarily the Subject Tables), be a multi-subject institution (defined as appearing in at least three CUG Subject Tables in the preceding year’s tables).
  5. For the Main Table (but not necessarily the Subject Tables) be permitted to use the title University.
  6. For the Subject Tables, have at least two measures available (one of which must be student satisfaction and the other either entry standards or graduate prospects) and offer undergraduate courses in the relevant subject.

Currently, the University League Table is based on ten measures and the Subject Tables on five of these.

  • A higher weighting has been given to Student Satisfaction and a lower weighting to research intensity and the two spend measures in the Main Table; where possible, allowance has been made for the differing subject mix within institutions.
  • The interactive nature of the University League Table is unique and enables users to isolate single measures and determine their effect on the overall ranking of the institution.
  • In addition, the tables can be viewed by UK country/region and by the Mission Groups set up by the universities themselves (e.g. Russell Group, Million+) thus allowing comparison with institutions having similar missions or goals.
  • Read the University and Subject League Table Methodology, Using the league tables, and the press releases relating to the 2020 League Tables.
  • CUG has a protocol for handling queries and corrections to the league tables, which you can read here.

Arts, Drama and Music Institutions

  • The Arts, Drama and Music Table includes a number of specialist colleges that do not meet the full criteria for inclusion in the Main Table. Some of these institutions will also be found listed in their relevant Subject Tables (see Drama, Dance & Cinematics, Education, History of Art, Architecture & Design and Music)).
  • Of course, other institutions also offer courses in arts, drama and music. You can find them in the relevant subject tables and on the main universities ranking table.
  • The introduction of this table enabled us to include virtually all institutions in the UK with degree awarding powers in this table or the main table. The methodology used is exactly the same as for the main table.

We gratefully acknowledge the interest and expertise of our Advisory Group members who belong to those organisations which might be regarded as the principal stakeholders in league tables. The majority come from within the HE sector but all are appointed in a personal capacity. Vacancies arise from time to time.

Calendar for compilation of the League Tables

The calendar for compilation of the League Tables is broadly the same year-on-year:

  • Autumn – agree the measures and define the specification.
  • Winter –  consult the HE institutions to ensure the tables are accurate.
  • Spring – compile and publish the tables.
  • Summer – receive and evaluate feedback.
  • Ad hoc consultations also occur during the year.

Who uses the League Tables?

Primarily, we have developed the League Tables with potential applicants and their mentors in mind, but there is widespread and detailed evidence that they are also extensively used by:

  • University administrators
  • Heads of Departments and Admissions Tutors
  • UK and Foreign governments and politicians
  • Recruiters of graduates
  • Academics planning to move
  • Scholarship awarding bodies
  • Researchers

Overseas League Tables

If you are interested in other countries and their League Tables see:

And, if you are looking for global comparisons then consult:

HEFCE Report

HEFCE published its commissioned Research into League Tables and their impact on HE Institutions in England in April 2008 (Issues Paper April 2008/14: Counting what is measured or measuring what counts?) It proposed some ten elements to improve League Tables:

  • Interactivity to enable users to select or reject indicators
  • Accessibility to all socio-economic groups
  • Subject-level tables as well as institutional rankings
  • Use of indicators having close proxies to the qualities intended.
  • Adjustments for differing subject mix within institutions
  • Methodologies with greater stability year on year
  • Better communication with HE institutions
  • Inclusion of more HE institutions
  • Presenting clusters of institutions alongside a single ranking of all institutions

Arguably, The Complete University Guide meets these criteria and, in fact, was singled out for particular praise in the report itself, for example:

"There has been a sophisticated development of subject classifications by the Guide."

"Detailed subject rankings in Mayfield University Consultants Guide acknowledge that pockets of excellence exist in institutions which may not feature in the upper echelons of most overall league tables."

"One well-known compiler [of The Complete University Guide] makes a particular effort to visit institutions to explain how league tables are compiled."

"All but one of the case study participants had been in touch with at least one of the compilers – in most cases Bernard Kingston of Mayfield University Consultants."