How to Use the University League Tables

League Tables, when used effectively, can play a part in choosing a university.

The League Tables help you narrow down what you find important. Your ideal university will not necessarily be the one at the top of the table, the highest-grade offer, or where you’ve been told to go by friends or family. By comparing and contrasting each university alongside our carefully chosen methods and criteria, you can find a perfect match. 

Watch our video for information on how to use the League Tables to your advantage:

There are several approaches you can take to search and compare:


  • Filter the League Table by subject, year, region or group to omit any data you are uninterested in. 


  • Click on any of the measures listed in the header to reorder the table by category. You can also use the 'order by' drop-down menu to do this. This can be used at any time during your search. 

See all categories

  • Click on ‘Full Table’ in the top right to see a table with every category (rather than the ‘main’ five).

Subject table

  • Filter the table (as above) by subject, leaving a league table solely dedicated to your chosen area of study. 

  • Once on this page, you can sort the filtered table in the same way as the League Table – by clicking on any of the five criteria headings along the top. This will reorder the results according to the individual criteria score, but leave the overall ranking unchanged.

Historical Performance

  • When you’re looking at a university or subject, you can click on the arrow for an extra snippet of information. This will include a graph of the last five years (based on whatever criterion you’ve selected), as well as the historical rankings for any category.  

Use both these categories together to understand what a university can offer and how that fits with what you expect and want from an institution.

Where a university stands in the league tables is relevant, but the quality of the course is an important factor to consider.

Comparing universities

When using the table to compare universities always remember:


  • A league table position mainly reflects a university's performance over a single year. However, many have built a reputation over the years, while some lower down are still carving out a niche.


  • Newer universities often demonstrate strengths in comparison to older, reputable universities. Modest institutions may have centres of specialist excellence, and even famous universities can have mediocre departments. 

Close calls

  • Be aware of bunching – in some tables, the rankings are separated by a very small difference. In some tables, small differences in scores can result in apparently dramatic rank changes, so it is wise to read them in context.


The table below explains each measure we use and why they are important. This can help you understand how best to use them to your advantage. Think about what matters to you when learning. For example, if you prefer a more personal approach, the Student-Staff Ratio may be more relevant than other factors.   

Please note: The measures used in the Subject Tables are the same as in the main University League Table. However, Subject Tables only use five measures: Entry Standards, Student Satisfaction, Research Quality, Research Intensity and Graduate Prospects.

Measure Definition Maximum Score
Entry Standards This shows the average UCAS tariff students have when entering the university. These are not the Entry Requirements, but instead give an idea of what level the average student achieved in their A Levels or equivalent.  N/A
Student Satisfaction This displays how satisfied students are overall with their courses.
Remember: Satisfaction is subjective. You might have high expectations and feel let down, whereas others may come with low expectations and be more impressed.  
Research Quality A university with a high score implies students are more likely to be taught by experts in their field, so what you learn should be of high quality.  4.00
Research Intensity This rates the volume or amount of research happening in a university, rather than the quality of it. Use this alongside the Research Quality measure.  1.00
Graduate Prospects This shows how employable a student is after graduating with their first degree.
Note: Some universities may have a high intake of students from within their region where few graduate jobs are available.
Take a look at What Do Graduates Do and Earn? for more information.
Student-Staff Ratio The Student–Staff Ratio shows class sizes by displaying the average number of students to each staff member.
This doesn't guarantee the quality of teaching, but is useful to know whether a personal tutor will have to spread their time between numerous students or just a few. 
Academic Services Spend This means how much a university spends per student on all academic services. The higher the spend, the more likely you'll have more and better-quality academic services to use for your educational benefit.  N/A
Facilities Spend This signifies how much a university spends per student on all student and staff facilities, such as sport, careers services, health and counselling.  N/A
Good Honours The Good Honours measure shows what percentage of first-degree graduates achieve a first or upper second-class honours degree.  100.00
Degree Completion This shows the rate of completion of first-degree undergraduates at a university.  100.00