This article is more than 3 years old

Happy days are here again – it’s the 2021 Times & Sunday Times league table

Paul Greatrix on the 2021 Times and Sunday Times university rankings.
This article is more than 3 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

Despite the pandemic, university league table production continues unabated.

This means we can all celebrate the arrival of the most eagerly awaited domestic university ranking of the year. No – not the Wonkhe Car Parking ranking… it’s the Good University Guide for 2021 courtesy of The Sunday Times.

To avoid disappointment, it is important to stress that this piece contains only the most superficial commentary on this latest and most exciting of university rankings. If you want more detail you are going to have to buy the paper or a sub to The Times online. Whilst in confessional mode I would also like to be completely open in advising all readers not to waste valuable hours trying to work out the reasons for ups and downs in this or other university league tables. Honestly, life is really too short and all that will happen is that they will change the methodology before you know it and you’ll be left holding the soggy paper in your little hand and crying like a baby.

Anyway, back to the action. Just in time for those starting to think about university entry next year, we have the originator of the UK league tables craze, now in its 100th year (or that’s what it feels like), the all new Times & Sunday Times Good University Guide ranking for 2021.

And what a year it has been for those keen on such stuff. We can only give you the very briefest of glimpses here at the top 20 in the rankings and you’ll have to head over to the Sunday Times website (£) for full details. So, happy days indeed – here is the top 20 for 2021:


Good University Guide 2021

3(3)St Andrews

Room at the top

Cambridge is at the top of the pile for the nth year in a row and Oxford is runner up yet again. The top 10 is very similar to last year but there are some minor place switches. The same is true in the rest of the top 20, and indeed the top 30, although last year’s big new entry, Harper Adams University, has slipped back a little.

The methodology looks to be unchanged which does explain the general stability in the table overall. The absence of NSS data for Cambridge and Oxford has, fortunately, not impacted negatively on their scores. It just goes to show that you don’t need to have great student satisfaction scores to finish at the top of the table.

It is going to be really interesting to see what happens if the recently announced review of NSS leads to its demise. All of the league table compilers will then be scrambling to rearrange their data to cope. That will be fun.

Specific awards have been allocated to Oxford as university of the year and to University of Nottingham as sports university of the year (yay). Robert Gordon is Scottish university of the year, Lincoln is modern university of the year and West London is university of the year for student experience.

As well as this there is a fully searchable website with full university and city profiles, 67 subject tables and, as last year, a table on social inclusion. This and other related interactive stuff can be found in the Sunday Times for subscribers.

There are some extra sections on university life during the pandemic, new medical schools and gap year options. You can also enjoy a couple of bonus features on access by Chris Millward and on free speech on campus. Lucky you.

There you have it then, your entirely superficial overview of the Times and Sunday Times league table. If you are considering applying to university then do gather as much information as you can about the options available. League tables are not necessarily the best guide to what is right for you but there is plenty of additional information in this and other guides to help you on your way. Happy days indeed.

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