What are University Rankings?

Researching and applying for University can be a confusing and overwhelming process at times.

There’s a huge range of things that students can use to work out which University they should attend and all of them have different uses and reasons for being.

This blog will answer the following important questions:

Are University rankings useful?

What do they mean?

Can you cook super noodles in a bath tub? Read on to find out….

Who makes the Rankings?

There are three main producers of University rankings in the UK, these are:

The Guardian and The Times are both British newspapers whereas The Complete University Guide is just what it says on the tin, a dedicated guide just for University students.

What exactly are the rankings? What are they for?

The purpose of these ranking tables is to allow students to directly compare Universities to one another against a range of criteria.

These criteria differ between each rankings provider and each provider uses different methods to process all their data before it goes into the rankings.

Due to these different processing methods, we recommend that you always check each different ranking table to make sure that you get the most balanced view of where a University sits.

Are they even worth looking at?

Rankings are absolutely worth looking at, they provide a great way to get important information on a university and its courses all boiled down in a simple and easy to view table. Lovely.

Rankings however, only accommodate statistical data, which is a double edged sword in this case. Lets have a look at the main pro and con of rankings:


  • Quick breakdowns of data on any given University


  • Not useful if you’re trying to obtain more detailed information about a University, such as living costs and its location.

For detailed and nuanced information about a University and its surroundings, always go to the University’s website (here’s Portsmouth’s) and have a good look around student forums for the opinions and thoughts of fellow students (The Student Room is always a good place to start).

Keep in mind that it’s easy to fall into the trap of judging Universities solely by their ranking, so always ensure you read around each University you look into.

Wait, there are more types of rankings?

Now, just to add another layer to this ever increasing rankings-cake, not only do rankings tables exist that place Universities against one another in general, you can also get rankings for courses across the UK by filtering the tables.

Take for example a simple degree in Engineering (just kidding, Engineering is the mortal enemy of simple). Say we decide to look up Engineering Bachelor’s degrees across the UK using The Guardian’s rankings table. Just filter for Engineering and you’ll be greeted by all the different types of engineering courses across the UK, from there we can filter down to see the different specific types of engineering courses and how they rank next to each other, or we could go back to the search bar above and refine what we’re looking for.

So, what are the criteria for these rankings? 

As previously mentioned, each rankings table uses slightly different criteria, but in general each table or guide will rank universities based on the student experience, the ability of student to get a job after attending the university (which is particularly important) and the quality of the research that universities do. Here’s a quick look at The Complete University Guide and The Guardian’s different criteria:

The Complete University Guide

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The Guardian

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Go forth with your new found ranking knowledge

There you have it, all you need to know to get started with University rankings!

They’re an incredibly useful tool when it comes to working out where a University lies in relations to others and how individual courses differ and stand up to their peers in the field.

P.S. Yes you definitely can cook super noodles in a bath tub.