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Choosing where to study

How to use the league tables

Use our university league tables to narrow down what’s important to you. Compare university criteria to find your perfect match.

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CONTENTS

  1. Using the league tables

  2. Searching universities and subjects

  3. Comparing universities

  4. Where the data comes from

  5. Measures

Using the league tables

League tables, when used effectively, can play a part in choosing a university. They help you identify and refine a shortlist of institutions to consider. Your ideal uni won’t necessarily be the one at the top of the table, with 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 measures, you can find the right university for you.

Using our up-to-date league and subject tables can help you make your final choice in time for the 18 June UCAS deadline (if all your university decisions were received by 4 June). If you received decisions on or before 13 July (including UCAS Extra), then you have until 20 July to respond. If you’re unsure, check UCAS Track to see your personal deadline.

Keep in mind that subject tables aren’t for specific courses, but for subject areas. For example, your chosen course may fall under a certain subject area. For example, the Biological Science subject tables includes both Ecology and Zoology. The related courses are listed underneath the drop down menu when searching for a subject table. 

Searching universities and subjects

There are several approaches you can take to search and compare universities.

Filter

Filter the league table by subject, year, region or university group.

Sort/order

Click on any of the measures listed in the header to reorder the table by category. This can be used at any time during your search. 

League Table headings

See all categories

Click on ‘full table’ in the top right to see the table with every category (instead of the ‘quick view’).

Subject table

Filter the table (as above) by subject, to see a league table dedicated to your chosen subject 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 measures along the top. This will reorder the results according to the individual score.

Historical performance

You can see the historical league table performance of any institution by viewing a university profile and opening League table performance. The graph and statistics show historical performance in the overall ranking table and by subject.   

Where a university stands in the league tables is relevant, but the quality of the course is an important factor, as well as location, accommodation and the structure of the course.

Comparing universities

When using the table to compare universities, always remember:

Context

A league table position mainly reflects a university's performance from year to year. However, many have built a reputation over time, while some lower down are still carving out a niche. It’s also worth being aware that some universities are mid-table due to excelling in certain areas while performing less well in others. If the area they excel in is important to you, then their overall position in the table becomes less relevant. 

Reputation

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

Bunching

Be aware of bunching – in some tables the rankings are separated by very small differences. Small differences in scores can result in apparently dramatic rank changes, so it’s wise to read them in context. Year-on-year changes by a few places are nothing to be worried about, especially in areas of the table where the scores are very close.

Where the data comes from

All the data comes from public sources such as: 

In a few cases, source data isn’t available and is collected directly from individual universities.

Measures

The table below explains each measure we use and why it’s important. This can help you understand how to best 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.

The subject tables use the same five measures as the ‘quick view’ university league table: entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality, research intensity and graduate prospects.

The donut charts represent percentages of each measure showing how well each university fares. In most cases, the percentages are calculated using the maximum score of each measure as 100%. However, for those measures without a maximum score (see below), the highest score is designated as 100%, with others represented as a percentage of this top score. 

League Table percentages

Measure

Definition

Data source

Maximum score

Entry standards

This shows the average UCAS tariff students have when entering the university. These aren’t the entry requirements, but instead give an idea of what level the average student admitted achieved in their A Levels or equivalent exams.

HESA

N/A

Student satisfaction

This displays how satisfied students are overall with their courses. Remember that satisfaction is subjective – you might have high expectations and feel let down, whereas others may come with low expectations and be more impressed.  

NSS

5.00

Research quality

A university with a high score implies students are more likely to be taught by – or be in a department staffed by – leading experts in their field, so what you learn should be of high quality.

REF

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.

HESA

1.00

Graduate prospects

This shows how employable a student is after graduating with their first degree, based on the graduate destinations of former students from that subject area at that university. 

HESA

100.00

Academic services spend

This is how much a university spends per student on all academic services, such as libraries and resource centres. The higher the spend, the more likely you'll have more and better-quality academic services to use for your educational benefit.

HESA

N/A

Facilities spend

This signifies how much a university spends per student on all student and staff facilities, such as sports, careers services, health and counselling.

HESA

N/A

Good honours

This shows what percentage of first-degree graduates achieve a first or upper second-class honours degree.

HESA

100.00

Degree completion

This shows the rate of completion of first-degree undergraduates at a university, e.g. how many students successfully complete their degree or transfer to another university. 

HESA

100.00

Student-staff ratio The student-staff ratio shows the average number of students to each academic 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.  HESA N/A

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