Ranked: The UK universities that produce the most sports stars

Loughborough isn’t number one!!

Where you go to university matters. Everyone loves to harp on about their university’s ranking in the league tables – but what do they actually mean? There seem to be dozens of league tables and lots of them are in part based on the quality of the university’s research. Who cares? When I am in the pub, am I really going to proudly flaunt my uni’s academic research prowess?

Famous sporting alumni is something everyone can put into real terms and visualise. Whether you are dreaming of becoming the next Sir Mo Farah or the idea of running to the end of your street is about the last thing you’d want to do on Earth, here is a ranking of unis based on something you can proudly boast about.

After analysing 10,000 notable sports stars, PureGym has traced back which universities they attended to help create a ranking of the UK unis that produce the most notable sporting athletes. Here are the the 10 UK universities that produce the most sports stars:

10. Northumbria University – 19 sports stars

Northumbria has a couple of very famous Olympians among its alumni. Track cyclist Victoria Pendleton is one of Britain’s most successful female Olympians with two gold medals and a silver medal in her collection. She graduated from Northumbria in 2002 with a degree in sports and exercise science. Steve Cram, who set world records in the 1500m, 2000m and mile in a 19-day period in 1985 graduated two years earlier with a degree in sports studies.

9. Brunel University London – 20 sports stars

Hockey legend Kate Richardson-Walsh is one of Brunel’s sports stars. She graduated with a 2:1 in sports science in 2003. As captain, she led Great Britain to a bronze medal at London 2012, before winning gold four years later in Rio.

8. Cardiff Metropolitan University – 25 sports stars

Cardiff Met is one of Wales’ best sports universities. Its university football team is currently top of the Welsh Premier League and reached the preliminary round of the Europa League in 2019-20. Two-time Olympic champion Helen Glover also attended Cardiff Met studying sport and exercise science.

7. University of Bath – 28 sports stars

Amy Williams became Britain’s first individual gold medallist at a Winter Olympics in 30 years when she won skeleton gold in 2010. Three years earlier, she completed a foundation degree in sports performance. Bath is also home to other winter athletes in the form of Paralympic gold medallist Kelly Gallagher.

6. University of Birmingham – 30 sports stars

Having just hosted the Commonwealth Games athletes village in its university halls, it’s no surprise Birmingham has sporting pedigree. Some of its sports stars include British Paralympic swimmer and cyclist Melanie Easter, who won five medals across two games and hockey player Lily Owsley, who also studied sport science at the university.

5. University of Edinburgh – 31 sports stars

Edinburgh Uni taught the most successful track cyclist of all time. Sir Chris Hoy won 11 world titles and a further six Olympic gold medals. He graduated in 1999 with a BSc in applied sport science. The university is also home to sporting royalty in the form of rower Dame Katherine Grainger, who graduated with a law degree in 1997 and won a prestigious prize from the university in the same year.

4. Loughborough University – 38 sports stars

With 14 medals, three of which gold, if Loughborough was a country, it would have outperformed Sweden and Belgium at the last Olympic Games. It might therefore be a little surprising to see it ranked fourth in the number of notable sports stars. Among those sports stars, they include Sebastian Coe, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Paula Radcliffe.

3. University of Cambridge – 73 sports stars

Cambridge might be more well-known for its academic alumni, however it still boasts 73 notable sports stars. Former England cricket captain Michael Atherton studied history at Downing College, Cambridge. Emma Pooley, one of Britain’s most successful road cyclists studied mathematics and then engineering at Trinity.

2. University of Oxford – 86 sports stars

Oxford can proudly boast 170 Olympic medals between all its alumni. One of its first came from John Boland who in 1896 attended the first modern games as a spectator. After being secretly entered into the men’s tennis tournament by his mates, the Irishman won gold in the singles and the doubles. More recently, ex-Premier League footballer, Steve Palmer studied software engineering at Cambridge.

1. Durham University – 141 sports stars

Durham has been the UK’s top team sports university since 2013 as ranked by BUCS. There are 700 different teams making it one of the largest sports programmes in the country. Former Commonwealth Games athlete and now famed for her presenting skills, Gabby Logan, studied law at Durham. Triple jump gold medallist Jonathan Edwards studied physics, and England’s youngest ever Test cricketer Holly Colvin studied natural sciences from 2009. Four years earlier, aged 15 she made her England debut.

Data based on stats compiled by PureGym

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Featured image before edits via Vadim Sherbakov on Unsplash