Oxford the best University Today

Oxford has replaced Cambridge as the UK’s best university, according to the Guardian’s annual guide.
Published today, the guide includes the first comprehensive list of fees, bursaries and scholarships on offer to students.

The university league table, which assesses teaching quality, staff-student ratios and graduate job prospects, is dominated by Oxbridge, with London-based institutions such as the School of Oriental and African Studies, the London School of Economics, and Imperial College close behind.

But this year’s guide also reveals that many less prestigious institutions offer high quality courses to students prepared to shop around.

The survey, which is set out in full in today’s EducationGuardian, provides a detailed guide for undergraduates choosing full-time degree courses.

For the first time, it provides information on the best financial deals – in the form of bursaries and scholarships – once tuition fees are introduced in 2006.

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The research, which was compiled by the Guardian and Campus Pi, an applied research department at Brunel University, saw Oxford narrowly overtake Cambridge at the top of the overall league table, with London emerging as home to institutions placed third to seventh.

The top 20 places are dominated by the elite Russell Group institutions, with the University of Central England listed as the highest ranking former polytechnic at 49.

Last year, Cambridge narrowly beat Oxford to the top spot, and more former polytechnics outperformed their established rivals. But, because of the way teaching quality was assessed this time, direct year-on-year comparisons are not possible.

As well as the overall table, the guide lists the top 20 universities in each subject area. Again, Oxford and Cambridge figure prominently, although there are some surprising success stories.

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Tourism, at Huddersfield University, came third in its category, while Warwick topped the media studies league and Liverpool came first in materials engineering.

Most institutions have already unveiled plans to charge the maximum £3,000 when tuition fees are introduced in 2006, although today’s guide shows there are differences in the bursaries and scholarships on offer.

To help students find the best deal, the guide includes a complete list of every institution, their fees, and the bursaries and scholarships available.

Apart from teaching, student-staff ratio and job prospects, the survey takes into account the average entry qualifications required, spend per student, the value-added improvement each university gives students, and their record on attracting candidates from under-represented groups.

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Will Woodward, editor of EducationGuardian, said: “Oxbridge and the London colleges dominate our overall top 10. But our tables show that you can shop around to find top-quality departments in many less well-known universities, including many former polytechnics.

“The new market in higher education will make demands on universities, as students seek courses that they know will be value for money. League tables will play an increasingly important part in this selection process.”

Full, interactive versions of the tables, including extra student data and the option to rank institutions according to different criteria, are available online at EducationGuardian.co.uk/universityguide2005.

In June, the Guardian will publish a book, The Guardian University Guide.