Photograph: Selwyn College Old Court Panorama from North-West corner
However, surprising changes did occur lower in the ranked list. For example, Liverpool Hope has only been a university for 15 years but is already ranked at 56, ahead of the University of Liverpool, which came in at 67. Edge Hill University tied Liverpool Hope in the rankings, meaning it also surpassed the University of Liverpool. Liverpool’s descent in rankings is mostly due to a decline in graduate employment prospects. Another notable change in rankings is the University of West London, which placed 96th last year but has risen to 58th this year.
Not surprisingly, 12 of the top 20 universities are members of the research-intensive Russell Group, but three of those members – Cardiff (42), Queen Mary (44), and Liverpool (67) – fell outside the top 40. Sarah Stevens, head of policy at the Russell Group, reminds students that university rankings may be useful, but they should not be the sole criterion when deciding which school to attend. “It is hard for any university ranking to capture the full student experience that an institution provides. Applicants should look beyond league tables to pick the course that is right for them.”
Photograph: Oxford University Aerial Panorama in 2016. Credit: Chensiyuan
The Guardian’s rankings emphasize teaching quality, student satisfaction, and employability, factors that may be important to young people as they decide where to study. The ranking guide was produced by Intelligent Metrix, and it scores universities according to spending per student; the student/staff ratio; graduate career prospects; the school’s selectivity of students; the students’ entry qualifications compared to their final degree results; and student satisfaction with their courses.
Liverpool Hope’s ascendancy to 56th place from 104th two years ago is largely due to graduate job prospects. However, it has also improved its biosciences, business, and social policy departments. The university has strived to support students individually and to keep class size low. Says professor Gerald Pillay, vice-chancellor of Liverpool Hope, “We break up the students – especially the first-year students – into groups of 10, each with a teacher. That has led to a great improvement in student engagement.”
The overall rankings list is accompanied by subject rankings. These subject rankings compare universities across 54 disciplines, allowing students to see which universities are highest ranked in their desired area of study.
Of course, another important consideration for students is the cost to attend university. All English universities – except University College Birmingham and University of St. Mark and St. John – plan to increase their tuition and fees this year. For the 2017-2018 academic year, most schools will charge a maximum of £9,250 for undergraduate courses.