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Choosing where to study

How to use the league tables

Use our university rankings to narrow down your choice of unis. Compare UK universities across the measures important to you to help find your perfect match.

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CONTENTS

  1. How the rankings can help you choose a university

  2. How to search universities and subjects

  3. How to compare universities

How the rankings can help you choose a university

League tables and university rankings can play a part in choosing a university. They help you identify and refine your list of unis and, ultimately, your university shortlist – overall and by subject area. 

Your ideal uni won’t necessarily be the one at the top of a table, with the highest rank, or where you’ve been told to go by friends or family. Instead, you might want to focus on how well a uni delivers your chosen subject area, using the graduate prospects or research measures, or discover how satisfied students are with the quality of teaching they receive. 

Watch our video for an overview of how to use the league tables.

University ranking 

The ranking column gives you this year’s rankings. A green arrow shows how many places a university has risen in the rankings from last year. A red arrow indicates the number of places a uni has fallen from the previous year. 

How to search universities and subjects

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

The Complete University Guide gives you three types of league table: 

  • University League Tables – this is the main table, comparing universities overall. 

  • Arts, Drama & Music League Table – this table focusses on specialist colleges and conservatoires.  

  • Subject League Tables –these tables compare unis across 74 different subject areas. 

All the tables work in a similar way. 

Filter the tables

Above each table you’ll find buttons you can use to filter the tables – by subject area, UK region, or university group. You can filter by more than one category. If you’ve filtered a table, the button will be highlighted. You’ll find subject and region filters at the top and the foot of the tables. 

Sort or order on the table measures

Click on any of the measures in the table header to reorder the table by that category. You can do this at any time during your search. If you sort the table, that header will be highlighted. 

League Table headings

Quick view and full table view

Quick View displays only five measures. In Quick View, the green donut charts represent the measures as a percentage score out of 100%. Where there’s no data, you’ll see n/a (not available).  

Click on Full Table to see all the categories. In Full View, the donut charts show the actual scores, with a percentage score where applicable. 

Subject league tables

Select any one of the 74 subject tables to discover how different universities perform in your subject area of interest. The subject tables work in exactly the same way as the other tables. 

Keep in mind that subject tables aren’t for specific courses but for subject areas. When you use the drop-down menu to choose your subject, you’ll see a list of some related subjects. For example, the Biological Science subject table includes Ecology and Zoology among others. 

To find out what courses are offered by any uni in a specific subject area, click through on VIEW COURSES below the university name. 

Notes at the foot of each subject table list universities offering the subject but without enough data to make it into the tables themselves. 

Download or print the tables 

If you’re really into number-crunching, you can download spreadsheets of any of the league tables back to 2008. Hit the print link to print (to printer or PDF) the table you’re currently looking at. Click Learn More to find the download and print links. 

How to compare universities

Use the league tables and compare rankings to find your perfect match. Here are a few extra tips to help you understand the tables. 

Context

A league table position mainly reflects a university's performance from year to year. Many have built a reputation over time, while some unis lower down the rankings 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.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected scores in several measures compared to the past couple of years. There are overall decreases in student satisfaction and graduate prospects and increases in student-staff ratios and degree completion. Entry standards scores have also climbed, due to teacher-assessed grades boosting exam results for many students. Some institutions may buck these trends in certain measures, reflecting how different universities responded.  

Reputation

Newer unis often demonstrate different strengths in comparison to older universities. Some institutions may have specialist centres of excellence, and even famous universities can have mediocre departments. If you know what area of the country you want to study in, filter your subject table by region to find top performing universities.   

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.

Historical performance  

University league tables show uni rankings at a certain point in time and that may be enough information for you. If you’re interested in a university’s performance over time, overall or by subject, simply click a university name in any table to view its profile – scroll to see performance graphs and data. 

League tables and university rankings are not the only way to choose a university 

Use our university league tables and rankings help you make your uni choices. Remember they’re not the only thing to look at. The league tables are a guide and can help you when cutting down a long list of options.  

While a university’s performance, especially in your subject area, can help whittle down a long list, there are other factors you might want to consider, including:

  • Size – a large university or a smaller institution with fewer students 
  • Location – in your local town, or away from home, beside the beach or in a city 
  • Support available – whether support for learning or the availability of a particular society or sport. 

Find out more by reading our advice on choosing where to study.

Use the rankings alongside other decision-making methods, such as:  

  • Look at university prospectuses and websites to see what a university has to offer – the social life, sport opportunities, and the local area  
  • Research course modules for the courses you’re interested in – they are not the same at every university  
  • Visit universities on open days –experience what it’s like to be there first hand 
  • Speak to current students and graduates  
  • Check out the student reviews on Whatuni, for unbiased opinions from students already at uni 

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