UK Higher Education

Cambridge tops 2019 rankings as awarding of good honours soars across the university sector – #cug2019 2019 rankings, published today (Wednesday 25 April 2018), see the University of Cambridge as the leading UK university for the eighth consecutive year with the University of Oxford retaining second place.

The London School of Economics and Political Science (third place) is ahead of Imperial College London (fourth) and the University of St Andrews (fifth), which relinquishes its position in the top three.

Throughout all parts of the UK the number of students graduating with good honours (either a first-class or upper second-class honours degree) has increased year-on-year since inception of the tables. In fact, in this year’s table all top 24 universities, save Lancaster University, have awarded good honours to over 80% of their graduates.

Dr Bernard Kingston, Chairman of, said: “The proportion of good honours has steadily but inexorably increased at almost all universities. Either students are working harder, or they are being better taught, or something else is happening. But it is one of the criteria over which universities have a significant degree of control.”

Good Honours awarded in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 % Increase
England 67.3 70.2 71.4 72.4 74.1 10.1
Northern Ireland 68.9 71.1 72.1 74.7 76.8 11.5
Scotland 70.8 74.1 76.7 78.6 78.8 11.3
Wales 62.8 63.8 65.3 69.1 70.2 11.8

The institutions in the Top Ten remain the same as 2018 but with some changes in rank. Loughborough University has moved up three to seventh place whilst Lancaster has moved up one to eighth place. University College London (tenth) has moved down three places, the University of Warwick (ninth) has moved down one place, and Durham University retains its position in sixth.

Nationally, the top ten universities are Cambridge, Oxford, London School of Economics, Imperial College London, St Andrews, Durham, Loughborough, Lancaster, Warwick, and University College London.

The top 20 has remained relatively stable with only two universities (the University of York, 21st, and the University of Sussex, 25th) being replaced by the University of Manchester (18th) and the University of Southampton (20th).

There are more significant changes further down the table. Staffordshire University (=73rd) has seen an extraordinary climb of 32 places, and the University of Aberdeen (=28th) a creditable 12 places. Staffordshire attributed its rise to an improvement in Graduate Prospects.

Moving in the opposite direction, the University of Kent (44th) has fallen 19 places. Kent’s drop is due to an increase in Student-Staff Ratio, as is the case with University of Hull (94th) which has fallen 20 places. Falmouth University (90th) and City, University of London (=66th) which have fallen 27 and 24 places respectively, saw a decrease in Graduate Prospects along with Middlesex University (105th), which has fallen 32 places – more than any other university.

Another significant mover is Nottingham Trent University (42nd), which has climbed ten places becoming the highest ranking post-1992 university. It has pipped the University of Lincoln (43rd) and replaced Coventry University (47th).

Two newcomers, the University of Wolverhampton (129th) in the table for the first time since 2010, and Leeds Arts University (81st) on achieving university status, complete the 2019 rankings.

Dr Kingston said: “With the inclusion of the University of Wolverhampton, we are pleased to be able to provide the first full ranking of all 131 eligible UK universities. It has been a long and, at times, difficult journey to reach this point, with debate about public interest and commercial sensitivity to the fore. But throughout, uppermost in our stance has been what’s best for university applicants and ultimately, for the universities themselves. The underlying data in our independent rankings are theirs and their appearance gives both the public at large and the universities an opportunity to compare and contrast in an open and flexible way.”

Notable Climbers
2019 Rank 2018 Rank Rise (places)
Staffordshire =73rd 105th +32
Norwich University of the Arts 64th 84th +20
Salford =79th 98th +19
Queen Margaret 75th 92nd +17
Liverpool John Moores 59th =75th +16
St Mary’s, Twickenham 104th 120th +16
London South Bank 93rd 108th +15
Westminster 82nd =95th +13
Huddersfield 60th 72nd +12
Arts University Bournemouth 49th 61st +12
De Montfort 70th 82nd +12
Aberdeen =28th 40th +12


Notable Fallers
2019 Rank 2018 Rank Fall (places)
Middlesex 105th 73rd -32
Falmouth 90th 63rd -27
City, University of London =66th 42nd -24
Hull 94th 74th -20
Kent 44th 25th -19
Brighton 106th 89th -17
West of Scotland 114th 100th -14
Bath Spa 103rd 90th -13
Abertay =99th 88th -11
Goldsmiths, University of London =62nd 51st -11
Cardiff Metropolitan =77th 67th -10
Royal Agricultural University 117th 107th -10


For the third year running, has published a ranking of specialist arts, drama and music institutions, with 13 colleges and conservatoires. The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London is in first place replacing the Courtauld Institute of Art (third). The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (second) has moved up five places.

In separate listings covering 70 subjects, only five universities come top in more than two subjects: Cambridge is first in no less than 32 subjects, the University of Strathclyde leads in seven, Oxford tops six, the University of Glasgow leads in five and St Andrews in three.

Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London and the Royal Veterinary College all feature within the Top Ten for every subject that they teach (41, 37, 14 and two respectively). Interestingly, neither Imperial College London nor the Royal Veterinary College place first in a subject table.

Robert Gordon University (ranked 83rd in the Main Table) and Glasgow Caledonian University (85th) are notable subject table toppers in Food Science and Optometry, Ophthalmology & Orthoptics respectively.

Dr Kingston observed: “Entry Standards, one of the measures used in the Main Table and subject tables relies on the UCAS Tariff for the underlying data. A new Tariff with an updated methodology has replaced the original one since the 2017 admissions cycle. This has positively impacted on the Entry Standards measure for most Scottish universities and, hence, on their rankings, particularly in our subject tables.”

Overall, the 2019 table reflects improvements in measures including Academic Services Spend and Student Facilities Spend. The measures Graduate Prospects and Good Honours have had their best mean scores since inception of the tables, with Graduate Prospects increasing to 73% and Good Honours now at 74.4%. These are real shifts not caused by a change in the methodology.

Simon Emmett, CEO of the Hotcourses Group said: “Since joining the Group three years ago, the Complete University Guide has lived up to its name and, with the return of Wolverhampton, has achieved its goal of publishing the first free-to-access complete rankings of all the UK universities. These independent and unbiased league tables are used by almost a million applicants and their advisers monthly and are, as importantly, also well respected by the universities themselves for their accuracy and stability.”

“The Guide is an essential element of the wide-ranging portfolio of information, advice and guidance available through Hotcourses and its parent company IDP. It complements the counselling and insight programmes and thousands of student reviews which, altogether, offer the biggest, busiest and unparalleled worldwide resources available on UK higher education institutions and their courses.”

Fully online and free to access, university rankings provide users with greater flexibility than other rankings. Each of the Guide’s tables can be sorted by their individual measures, year, region and mission group (including unaffiliated universities). The league tables can be found in full, along with the methodology and more information at

The team behind has compiled university league tables for more than 20 years. Since 2007, these have been freely available online, enabling users to tailor the tables for their personal use by choosing the criteria that are directly important to them. The Guide is an autonomous division of Hotcourses Group, the international educational listing company, from which, by mutual agreement, it retains its complete editorial independence. In January 2017, Hotcourses Group was acquired by IDP Education, a global leader in international student recruitment with HQ in Melbourne, Australia. IDP is 50% owned by 38 Australian universities and the remaining 50% shares traded on the Australian Stock Exchange.



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