Cambridge tops The Times’ Good University Guide, yet is lowest for social inclusion
In spite of coming top of the Good University Guide, Cambridge gets beaten by Oxford for the title of ‘University of the Year’
Today (18th September), The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide was released, and Cambridge has topped the overall league table for the eighth consecutive year, yet was simultaneously ranked as the least socially inclusive university in the country. This trend is reflected by other top Russell group universities, as the academic top three (Cambridge, Oxford, St Andrews) are three out of the four least socially inclusive universities.
The Good University Guide comprises of 67 subject league tables, an overall league table, as well as a league table assessing social diversity in UK universities.
Here are this year’s top 20 universities:
|National rank||University||Last year’s national rank||2020 National student survey teaching quality (%)
|2020 National student survey student experience (%)||Graduate prospects
(% in high-skilled jobs or graduate-level study)
|1||University of Cambridge||1||n/a||n/a||91.4||98.7|
|2||University of Oxford||2||n/a||n/a||90.6||98.1|
|3||University of St Andrews||3||86.7||86.3||81.9||95.0|
|4||London School of Economics and Political Science||6||77.3||74.3||92.5||97.2|
|5||Imperial College London||4||75.5||78.5||95.4||96.8|
|8||University College London||9||75.4||75.7||86.1||94.6|
|9||University of Bath||11||79.1||80.9||89.4||96.2|
|10=||University of Warwick||10||78.6||77.9||85.2||94.9|
|12||University of Exeter||12||78.4||79.3||83.3||94.6|
|13||University of Bristol||15||76.4||75.0||83.6||95.0|
|14||University of Glasgow||16||78.4||79.4||81.3||88.0|
|15=||University of Leeds||13||77.7||77.2||82.0||93.5|
|15=||University of Southampton||20||79.0||78.8||81.6||92.0|
|17||University of Edinburgh||25||72.8||72.9||81.2||93.8|
|18||University of Manchester||18||76.7||75.5||83.0||93.5|
|19||University of Birmingham||14||76.4||74.9||84.7||94.6|
|20||University of York||22||80.7||78.7||81.7||94.3|
Unmatched academically, The University of Cambridge tops nearly 50% of the 67 subject areas that are assessed by the guide, but this gap has started to narrow as Oxford and St Andrews have gained on Cambridge in the last 12 months.
Despite coming second overall, it is Oxford University which has claimed the title of “University of the Year” as a result of its recent commitment and action on social diversity. The university has made a commitment to admit a quarter of its students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds by 2023. The guide also highlights Oxford’s decision this summer to give places to most of the students to whom it had made offers in the wake of the chaos of A-level results as contributing to its win.
Cambridge has made a similar commitment to social diversity, promising to admit one in six students from the 40 per cent of postcodes with the lowest access rates to higher education by 2024-25 and to admit 69.1 per cent of students from state schools.
In 2018, 43 per cent of students admitted to Cambridge were from non-selective state schools and 65.3 per cent were from state schools overall. Yet despite successive increases in the proportion of state school entrants, and a record total of 91 black students being admitted in 2019, Cambridge found itself ranked as the least socially inclusive university in the U.K.
The eight metrics used to measure social inclusion covers the proportions of entrants taken from non-selective state schools, ethnic minorities, and areas of low participation in higher education; those who are first-generation students, mature or disabled; the black attainment gap; and the gap between the dropout rate of students from the areas of the country with the lowest participation rates in higher education, compared to the rate for students from the rest of the country.
Queen Mary University London is the highest-ranking Russell group university for social inclusion which The Times and Sunday Times. With 80 per cent of its students being non-selective state school educated, 70 per cent BAME and 48 per cent being the first in their family to attend university, Queen Mary far outperforms other Russell group universities in the social inclusion table.
Here are this year’s 15 worst universities for social inclusion:
|Ranking||University name||State schools (non-grammar) (%)||Ethnic minorities (%)||First generation students (%)|
|1||University of Cambridge||43.0||27.2||14.7|
|3||University of Oxford||42.5||22.0||14.0|
|4||University of Bristol||55.2||17.4||21.8|
|5||Imperial College London||43.4||56.9||22.3|
|6||University of Exeter||52.8||11.3||26.9|
|7||University College London||49.4||50.9||26.2|
|8||University of York||69.9||13.5||30.3|
|9||University of Nottingham||64.8||29.1||30.9|
|11||University of Bath||56.9||19.7||25.1|
|13=||London School of Economics||49.0||56.0||29.5|
|13=||University of Leeds||69.1||21.0||33.6|
|15||University of Warwick||59.6||38.3||31.5|
Another factor in Oxford’s “University of the Year” status was its efforts in the global coronavirus vaccine race. The editor of The Sunday Times Good University Guide, Alaistair McCall, further commented: “Oxford is the standout candidate for University of the Year, playing a critical role in some of the critical issues facing us today and providing academic leadership at key moments. The whole of mankind stands to benefit from its Covid-19 research, where Oxford academics have led the way from the outset and are now trialling a vaccine.”
This year’s guide will also consider the impact of Coronavirus on student life. This is in light of the various changes that have taken place as a result of the pandemic, ranging from lectures moving online to reduced occupancy levels in university halls.
The new edition of The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021, a free 96-page supplement will be published this weekend in The Sunday Times (September 20).
Cover image credit: Christopher Hilton (Creative Commons License)