Cambridge tops university league tables once again

Cambridge beat rival Oxford for seventh year in a row but ranked among lowest for social inclusion


The University of Cambridge has officially come out on top for the seventh consecutive year in The Sunday Times' rankings.

As well as topping The Sunday Times University League Table overall, Cambridge has come top in 27 subjects including Engineering, Law and Languages.

Cambridge topped the chart based on the guide's criteria for research quality, entry standards, graduate prospects, completion rate and services and facilities.

The completion rate, though slightly lower than last year, remains extremely high at 98.3%. Despite the challenging and pressured environment for which Cambridge is so famous, very few of us are actually dropping out (I know what you're thinking, let's see how that percentage fairs when term begins again).

But the League Table doesn't overlook Cambridge's issues regarding social diversity. Cambridge ranked at the very bottom of the Social Inclusion Rankings for England and Wales, with only 10.2% of its students coming from working class backgrounds last year. Unsurprisingly given these statistics, the University was also deemed one of the worst universities for accepting students from non-selective schools.

The University has, however, publicly committed to improving this: in pledging that a third of students will be from underrepresented and disadvantaged groups by 2035 and in aiming to have an intake consisting of 69.1% state-school educated students by 2024-25.

Since the guide started in the 1990s, Oxford and Cambridge have consistently occupied the two top slots and are widely viewed as the UK's most respected universities. Pipping its rival to the post, The Sunday Times commented that Cambridge remains ahead "on good honours, entry standards and spending on student facilities and leads the field in nearly half of our subject tables".

The guide observed that "Cambridge's gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework owes much to its tutorial system, with personalised feedback and access to world-leading scholars. Its research profile is outstanding."

Alastair McCall, editor of The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020, commented that Cambridge "demands the highest entry standards and spends the most on services and facilities for its students, but most importantly it sets the standards in British higher education for the overall quality of the student experience. From small group – and often, individual – learning with tutors, who are usually leaders in their field, through to the wealth of extra-curricular opportunities on offer in the tightly-packed terms, Cambridge sets up its graduates for life”.

So there we have it: Cambridge is number one for the seventh year running and has the satisfaction of being officially better than Oxford for yet another year.

Cover image: author's own.