Cambridge University has claimed the top spot on a leading national university league table for the third year in a row, the Daily Telegraph revealed on Monday.
Oxford re-took second place after a much-publicised drop to third in last year’s league tables, behind the London School of Economics (LSE). Oxford previously occupied first place in the annual rankings for three years in a row, from 2009 to 2011.
The Complete University Guide, which has been published in the Telegraph since 2007 and is compiled by Mayfield University Consultants, assessed universities in the United Kingdom on nine criteria, including student satisfaction, research, entry standards, staff to student ratios, spending on academic services, spending on facilities, good honours degrees, graduate prospects and completion data. The Guide ranked 124 British institutions in this year’s table.
Monday’s table for the 2013-2014 academic year named the LSE as third, followed by Imperial College London, Durham, St Andrews, University College London, Warwick, Bath, and Exeter.
Subject-specific tables are also produced showing the best universities for different academic disciplines. Cambridge was ranked first in 34 of the 46 subjects it offered. Oxford was top in 6 out of 37 subject areas.
Oxford retained its crown in the subject tables for Politics, Philosophy, Business, French, and German, but slipped in Ancient History, Classics, Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, Law, Mathematics, and Materials Science. The largest drop was in English, where Oxford went from first place last year to fifth place.
Student reactions to Monday’s league table at Oxford ranged from dismissive to cautiously pessimistic. Jingyi Wang, a second-year student reading Law at Brasenose College, remarked: “I’m usually skeptical about the methodology behind such rankings, especially since a lot of them are very focused on research, i.e. how much research the university has done or how many papers it has produced, instead of the quality of its teaching.”
Sangjae Lee, a first-year physicist at St. Anne’s College, commented: “While the table itself probably doesn’t have any significant meaning behind it, the fact that Cambridge has been ranked higher than Oxford for three years might be saying something.”
Wang, whose subject was ranked fourth in this year’s table, also suggested: “We have a much heavier emphasis on theory, rather than application, compared to most other universities,” and added that this may have had an impact on the law course’s rating in graduate prospects.
Lee, whose subject is only offered as part of a wider Natural Sciences degree for undergraduates at Cambridge, added: “A lot of people say that Cambridge is better than Oxford for science subjects, but in the case of physics, Cambridge doesn’t offer a separate physics course. In the context of considerably shorter academic terms at Oxbridge, one additional year of specialised study can a make a big difference. That’s something the league tables don’t reflect.”
In a separate table published in the Daily Telegraph last Friday, 24th April, Oxford was ranked first amongst 20 British universities for the number of “ultra high net worth” individuals in its alumni population. Oxford counted 401 such alumni with a total net worth of $51 billion (£33 billion). Cambridge came second, with 361 wealthy alumni, but with a greater net worth of $93 billion (21 billion).