On education in Europe and the USA

Clever Magazine
Universities United Kingdom Student life Kirill Delikatnyi Rankings

Clevermagazine 2023/24 University Guide

Happy New Year to all our readers! Whether you are graduating, completing yet another year of studies or only starting on your course, we look back at this academic year with joy for all the progress we have achieved together. In this report, we have compiled university rankings from across all national boards to determine which universities have excelled at teaching, research, and graduate prospects in the UK in 2023; moreover, we are compiling what UK students themselves say about their university experiences. All to determine the best university in the UK for this past academic year. Find out who claims this year’s Clevermagazine University Award below.

Good University Guide from The Times and Sunday Times

The Times, a renowned British news agency, collects data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, Research Excellence Framework, and National Student Survey to output its annual institutional rankings. This approach encompasses most of the aspects there are to universities - their excellence in teaching, worldwide impact of research, student satisfaction, and more, providing a holistic overview of university performances.

According to this Good University Guide, the 2023/24 academic year is led by the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Out of the top 10 universities in these rankings, the University of St. Andrews exhibits the best teaching quality, enjoys the highest level of student experience, and outputs the highest proportion of its students with 1st level degrees. Let’s break down exactly what the University of St. Andrews is doing to maintain its leading position.

Teaching quality is assessed via student satisfaction, continuation rates, employment rates, and academic support metrics, through the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). TEF is a national scheme run by the Office for Students (OfS) that aims to encourage higher education providers to improve and deliver excellence in the areas that students care about the most: teaching, learning, and achieving positive outcomes from their studies. The University of St Andrews has achieved the highest possible ranking in a new assessment of the quality of teaching and the undergraduate experience at universities across the UK: The Gold Award. The TEF panel found that the University of St. Andrews exhibits:

  • Exemplary teaching quality through a strong emphasis on the development, sharing, and dissemination of good practice
  • An institutional culture of rigour and stretch within a research-intensive environment that stimulates optimum levels of enthusiasm for learning across the entire student body
  • Well-equipped learning and teaching spaces and use of digital resources that create a learning and teaching environment of the highest quality
  • An overall environment of student engagement, motivation, and collective identity supporting optimum retention and completion rates

The most famed evaluation of student experience in the UK is provided by the National Student Survey (NSS). The NSS questions cover students’ opinions on teaching quality, assessment and feedback, support for mental health, and facilities. Students at St Andrews recorded the highest positivity score across 13 subject areas in Scotland, including Medicine, Physics, International Relations, and Classics. St Andrews was also top in the UK for positivity for four national subject areas; Russian, Comparative Literature, Classics, and general degrees.

University of St. Andrews’ leading position is closely followed by the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, London School of Economics (LSE), Imperial College London, University College London (UCL), Durham University, University of Bath, University of Warwick and Loughborough University in the top 10 institutions of the 2023/24 academic year as per the Good University Guide. Their scores are broken down in more detail in Figures 1a and 1b below:
Figure 1b: Please note that scores for teaching quality and student experience are not available for the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.

The National Student Survey

Data for the National Student Survey is collected by Higher Education providers directly from students. At the end of each academic year, students are asked by their institutions to review their course, subject, and overall university experience based on 28 questions. These questions assess metrics based on 6 themes: Teaching on my course, Learning opportunities, Assessment and feedback, academic support, organisation and management, and learning resources.

Based on these metrics, as well as the social inclusion for England and Wales, Scottish social inclusion, Black achievement gap, disabled students, ethnic minority students, first-generation students, grammar school admissions, independent school admissions, mature students, state school admissions, low participation areas, and deprived areas dropout gap rankings, the University of West London comes in first place. Joint second place is awarded to the Aberystwyth University and the University of St. Andrews; in 4th place comes the University of Bath, followed by University of Surrey and Loughborough University in joint 5th place. The 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th places are taken by St. Mary’s University (Twickenham), Royal Agricultural University, University of Aberdeen, and the London Metropolitan University respectively. This data is broken down in Figure 2 below.

Complete University Guide

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. The Complete University Guide’s university rankings are compiled from publicly available data collected from UK universities. They 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.

The Complete University Guide measures entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality, research intensity, academic services spend, facilities spend, continuation, student-staff ratio, graduate prospects-outcomes, and graduate prospects on track. Encompassing all of these metrics, the Complete University Guide has published the following 10 leading universities of this past academic year (Figure 3a):
The specific metric performances of these leading universities are closer explored by Figure 3b below:

Guardian University Guide

The Guardian intends to indicate how likely each department is to deliver a positive all-round experience to future students and, to assess this, they refer to how past students in the department have fared. They quantify the resources and staff contact that have been dedicated to past students, looking at the standards of entry and the likelihood that students will be supported to continue their studies, before looking at how likely students are to be satisfied, to exceed expectations of success and to have positive outcomes after completing the course. Bringing these measures together, the Guardian gets an overall score for each department and ranks departments against this.

The Guardian University Guide encompasses the following metrics: satisfaction with teaching, satisfaction with feedback, student-to-staff ratio, spend per student, average entry tariff, value-added score, career after 15 months, and continuation.

Without further ado, The Guardian University Guide reveals its top 10 2023/24 academic year Higher Education providers as such (Figures 4a and 4b):
Figure 4b: Please note that ‘satisfied with teaching’ and ‘satisfied with feedback’ metrics are not available for the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge

Clevermagazine Guide

You can think about our Clevermagazine Guide as a meta-analysis of university rankings provided by other renowned services listed above. We analyse data that is available to us, across a range of rankings and league tables provided by other reports for the purpose of evaluating overall performance of universities. Therefore, whereas external reports may have individual differences among them, our guide encompasses all of the metrics included in external reports collectively. We do not provide a league table, but instead award the leading university position to one Higher Education provider each academic year. We also always provide the data that we analyse to conclude our winner, for clarity purposes and to inform you of all the metrics universities are reviewed on. We hope that with our reports, you will find decision-making statistics so that you can select the right university for you.

Our award, the Clevermagazine medallion, is presented to one of the top 10 universities who improves in rankings the most from the previous academic year. In the 2023/24 academic year, the University of Bath has shown greatest improvement in its ranking across the board, moving up 3 positions in The Complete University Guide, and 1 position in The Good University Guide.