Check out our new 2023 university rankings
Choosing where to study

What are university rankings?

University rankings, or league tables, rank universities overall and by a number of different measures.

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Where do university rankings come from?

The Complete University Guide’s university rankings are compiled from publicly available data collected from UK universities. All government-funded academic institutions in the UK must submit student-related data to HESA (the Higher Education Statistics Agency). 

We select data that gives an insight into areas that are important to students, including student satisfaction and the success of graduates after leaving university.  

The data goes through a set of calculations before the league tables are generated. They show you how each university performs overall and in a range of different areas and measures. 

Who uses university rankings? 

The university rankings are primarily for prospective undergraduate students, from the UK and overseas, because we use undergraduate student data. They can be a useful tool for helping you decide where you want to study.  

Postgraduate students from all over the world also use our tables to get a good idea of how a university performs overall in its subject area and the research measures indicate the quality of research at the university. 

Many other people and organisations use our rankings too, including teachers, parents, guardians, careers advisors, employers, and the universities themselves.  

What's the university rankings history? 

University rankings have been around for a long time. The Complete University Guide first published league tables in print in the 1990s when there wasn’t much information around to help students make their uni decisions. We’ve published exclusively online since 2007 to make the rankings available to every student researching and choosing which universities to apply to. 

What’s the difference between the  Complete University Guide league tables and international rankings?

There are several international university league tables, each ranking universities from across the world. These rankings compare universities from many countries, making statistics harder to find. Instead, they rely on opinion surveys of academics or employers, the number of research paper citations per faculty or academic prizes won, or the proportion of international students and staff. 

The international rankings are of course useful for overseas students who are deciding which country and what uni to apply to.  

Postgraduate students may also find the international league tables useful, with their focus on research output.  

National rankings focus on the undergraduate experience. The Complete University Guide includes academic factors such as research quality, but also examines areas such as graduate employment and dropout rates. 

What’s the difference between the Complete University Guide league tables and other UK university rankings? 

There are several UK university rankings, including those published by The Times/Sunday Times and the Guardian.  

While all the league tables use many of the same measures, each ranking is weighted differently – meaning that one area of data has a greater or lesser effect on the overall rankings. Measures such as student satisfaction can cause volatility in a league table that relies too heavily on subjective opinion. Student satisfaction matters to students, but we place more emphasis on university research because this has a direct impact on student learning. 

The Complete University Guide also covers the widest range of universities, specialist colleges, and conservatoires of any UK university league table and features 74 subject tables. 

  • 130 institutions in the main university league table 
  • 13 institutions in the Arts, Drama & Music League Table 
  • 150 institutions appear across 74 subject league tables 

Finally, the Complete University Guide is all about students and helping them choose which universities will offer the best opportunities and experience for them. We don’t have any other focus! We’re independent and free to access. What’s more, we also collect unique data on sports facilities at universities and crime in university towns, helping you build up a bigger picture of all the factors that may impact your university choice and experience at uni. 

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