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The Complete University Guide League Tables 2021

Big changes in key subjects, stability at the top, and triumph at a regional level

For the tenth year in a row, the University of Cambridge leads the 2021 Complete University League Tables. The annually compiled league tables also highlight a good year for universities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

At a time when students are facing more uncertainty than ever, from their grades to term start dates, the newly redesigned Complete University Guide annual League Tables bring a trusted source of information that's essential to students’ impending higher education decisions.

Little change in the upper rankings will reassure students who are looking for confirmation of their choices. However, zoning in on those subjects that are key for today’s students, the landscape looks very different. Interestingly, at both subject and university level, universities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have performed particularly well this year.

Cambridge remains top for the tenth year in a row, closely followed by Oxford, with very little movement in the top ten, bringing some much-needed consistency and reassurance for students who are looking for confirmation they're investing their futures in institutions that are performing reliably well. The most significant climb in the high rankings is Kings College London, which this year rose five places to break into the top 20. 

The Medicine subject table has seen a considerable increase in views over the past few months, correlating with increases in searches for medical courses across IDP’s sites. The 2021 rankings for Medicine were also among the most turbulent, with considerable movement up and down and the addition of Buckingham as a new entry. Scottish universities performed particularly well with Dundee climbing five places to rank joint first with Glasgow, which also climbed two places. Another Scottish university, Aberdeen, was one of the biggest movers climbing seven places to enter the top ten and rank fourth for Medicine, followed by Edinburgh which remained stable in fifth. Finally, a fifth Scottish university, St Andrews, was one of the biggest climbers in Medicine, rising 17 places to enter the top ten and rank eigth.

Other medical fields are also proving increasingly popular, likely driven by the current attention on the medical profession and additional push and pull factors of the coronavirus pandemic. Nursing, in particular, has demonstrated a considerable increase in popularity likely due to both the impact of the coronavirus and the reintroduction in England of the NHS Bursary for Nursing and other allied health professionals as of this September. In the Nursing Subject Table, once again England seems to have been outperformed by other nations in the UK with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales making up the majority of the big climbers and holding the top three table positions. Glasgow and Edinburgh retain their rank in first and second place, while Cardiff university climbed nine places to rank third. Queens University Belfast, Dundee University, Bangor, West of Scotland University and the University of South Wales also all improved their position in the Nursing League Table with Dundee showing the most significant change, climbing 22 places.

Simon Emmett, CEO at IDP Connect, owners of the Guide said, “Congratulations to the University of Cambridge, who have maintained their position at the top of the table for a decade. It’s been interesting to see changes at both a regional, national and subject level this year, we’ve seen a big increase in interest in courses related to Medicine, making the changes in those already popular tables particularly significant this year.”

For the fifth year, TheCompleteUniversityGuide.co.uk has published a ranking of specialist arts, drama and music institutions, with 14 Higher Education Providers including colleges and conservatoires, evaluated using ten measures.

Fully online and free to access, the Guide's university rankings provide users with greater flexibility than other rankings. Each of the tables can be sorted by their individual measures, year, region and mission group (including unaffiliated universities). 

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