In Brief

The top 20 universities in the UK

Oxford University ousted from top spot for the first time

Oxford has been beaten to the top slot in the best university rankings for the first time after a bruising year for the UK’s higher education institutions.

“No British rankings have ever placed any university other than Oxbridge at number one,” The Times said, after the paper’s Good University Guide handed the title of best university in the UK to St Andrews in Fife, Scotland.

The university, which boasts Prince William and Kate Middleton among its alumni, claimed the high grade “largely thanks to its consistently outstanding levels of student satisfaction” having “been homing in on the top of the rankings for several years”.

The paper added that St Andrews also “admits the best-qualified students”, as well as “top-ten ratings for degree completion rates, the proportion of high-class degrees awarded, staffing levels and the average spend on services and facilities per student”.

Professor Sally Mapstone, the principal of St Andrews, said: “As one community, we strive constantly for excellence, and have a strategy that hasn’t been afraid to believe St Andrews could challenge at the very top by combining the best teaching, world-leading research and an unswerving commitment to student satisfaction and achievement.”

Top 20 in full

1. University of St Andrews

2. University of Oxford

3. University of Cambridge

4. Imperial College London

5. London School of Economics and Political Science

6. Durham University

7. University College London

8. University of Warwick

9. University of Bath

10. Loughborough University

11. Lancaster University 

12. University of Glasgow 

13. University of Edinburgh 

14. University of Bristol 

15. University of Leeds 

16. University of Southampton 

17. University of Strathclyde 

18. King’s College London 

19. University of York 

20. University of Aberdeen

Founded in the 15th century, St Andrews was Scotland’s first university and is “the third oldest in the English speaking world”, according to The Herald. “Teaching began in the community of St Andrews in 1410”, the paper added, before the university was “formally constituted by the issue of a papal bull in 1413”.

As well as ranking highly for student satisfaction, the university also came top in seven of the subject league tables: business management and marketing, computer science, English, Middle Eastern and African studies, philosophy, physics and astronomy, and international relations.

The rankings come following a difficult year for the UK’s university sector, during which “months of Covid curbs” saw students demand refunds on teaching and accommodation fees due to the necessity of home learning, The i said.

A study published by the London School of Economics and the University of Exeter in July found that pupils lost nearly a third of their learning time between March 2020 and April 2021 because of school closures and coronavirus disruption.

“Existing research shows that even a few days extra learning loss can have a large impact on education achievement and life outcomes”, the study said, adding that “these big losses of around 60 to 65 days are much bigger than those typically studied”.

Students attending university this year will receive “catch-up support to fill gaps in their learning”, said The i, as well as help with “socialisation issues” aimed at helping “students get to grips with the freedom of university life after nearly a year and a half of Covid restrictions”.

Top 20 universities in the world*

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

2. University of Oxford

3. Stanford University and University of Cambridge (joint)

5. Harvard University

6. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

7. Imperial College London

8. ETH Zurich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and UCL (joint)

10. University of Chicago

11. National University of Singapore (NUS)

12. Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU)

13. University of Pennsylvania, US

14. Lausanne, Switzerland

15. Yale University, US and the University of Edinburgh (joint)

17. Tsinghua University, China

18. Peking University, China

19. Columbia University, US

20. Princeton University, US

*According to Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 

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