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Best UK universities 2021: Guardian League Table verdict

Use the following rankings to make a decision about which university to apply to in the UK.

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The UK is one of the most popular countries in the world for international students. But where exactly is best to study in the UK and which institutions should you apply to? We’ve taken a look at the most recent league table compiled by the widely respected UK news organisation, The Guardian. Both students and parents can use these rankings when deciding on a shortlist of UK universities. This is a great place to start your research in combination with other helpful resources.  


Top 10 UK universities 2021

This league table considers several factors such as course satisfaction, student to staff ratio, teaching and the newly added category of finding a career after 15 months. The individual results are then scored out of 100 for each of the 121 universities in the UK, which results in the final league table. If you’re unsure about how to use these rankings for your research, you can refer to our guide on understanding league tables.


The top ranked institutions overall for 2021 are:


2021       2020            Institution

1               3                 Oxford

2               2                 St Andrews

3               1                 Cambridge

4               5                 Durham

5              19                London School of Economics

6               6                  Bath

7               4                  Loughborough

8               9                  Warwick

9               7                  Imperial College

10             7                  Lancaster


Universities like Oxford, Cambridge and St Andrews regularly rank within the top three positions for overall performance, reflecting their already prestigious reputation around the world. However, in comparison to last year, we can see that Oxford and Cambridge have swapped places and London School of Economics has jumped from 19th to 5th position. These notable changes are worth observing, but minor changes in ranking position shouldn’t be of major concern and certainly shouldn’t sway your decision. There are many other factors to consider when researching universities such as location, weather, subject ranking, facilities and support services.


With that in mind, we’ve selected a few popular degree subjects to find out which universities come out on top for their programmes in the UK.



A highly desirable course among international and domestic students, the UK is home to some of the world’s leading medicine degrees. Although competitive, a medicine degree from a UK university is widely recognised across the world.


Search for medicine courses in the UK. The top universities for studying a medicine degree in the UK are:


2021 Ranking      Overall ranking

1                             19                                 Dundee

2                             20                                 Aberdeen

3                             13                                 Edinburgh

4                              1                                   Oxford

5                              n/a                               Brighton Sussex Medical School

6                              3                                   Cambridge

7                              24                                 Swansea

8                              35                                 Keele

9                               2                                   St Andrews

10                            18                                 Leeds


You can see that while the overall ranking of the university may be lower in the league table, they perform highly for a particular course. From this subject ranking, we can see that Scottish universities come out on top for medicine courses, taking the top three positions. Want to find out more about studying in Scotland?



A degree for students interested in human behavior, mental health and cognitive processes. Psychology is a commonly applied for subject in the UK with the following institutions ranking highly for this course:


2021 ranking        Overall ranking           University

1                               3                                    Cambridge

2                               42                                  Kings College London

3                               2                                     St Andrews

4                               6                                     Bath

5                               1                                     Oxford

6                               14                                   UCL

7                               98                                   Cumbria

8                                29                                  Chichester

9                               37                                   Cardiff

9                               16                                   York


Start searching for psychology courses in the UK.



A high income, excellent employment prospects and the satisfaction of helping people, dentistry is a desirable course. As with medicine, a dentistry degree from a UK university is highly sought after as the teaching quality is among the best in the world. See below for top ranking dentistry schools for the Guardian University Guide 2021:


2021 Ranking         Overall Ranking     University

1                                 20                            Aberdeen

2                                 53                            Plymouth

3                                 19                            Dundee

4                                 12                            Glasgow

5                                 46                            Queen’s, Belfast

6                                 68                            Queen Mary

7                                 18                            Leeds

8                                 51                            Newcastle

9                                 21                            Birmingham

10                               31                            Sheffield


Browse dentistry courses in the UK.


Nursing and Midwifery

Due to a national shortage of nurses and midwives in the UK, there are ample opportunities for employment after studying. This is one major advantage of completing a nursing and/or midwifery degree in the UK, as you may be eligible to stay to work once you graduate. Here are the top universities for these fields:


2021 Ranking      Overall Ranking      University

1                               13                              Edinburgh                        

2                               37                              Cardiff 

3                               59                              Liverpool

4                               65                              Queen Margaret   

5                               12                              Glasgow

6                                16                             York

7                                26                             Coventry  

8                                70                             Manchester Met

9                                25                             Manchester

10                              90                             Northampton


Find nursing and midwifery courses in the UK.


Computer science

Graduates with a degree in computer science are highly desirable among employers in many parts of the world. In fact, almost 75 per cent of computer science graduates find employment within six months of leaving university. This, in addition to a high earning potential and high demand for these skills, are just a few reasons why computer science is such a popular course in the UK. The top-rated universities for the subject are:


2021 Ranking     Overall Ranking     University

1                            2                               St Andrews

2                            3                               Cambridge

3                            1                               Oxford

4                            9                               Imperial College

5                            25                             Manchester

6                            10                             Lancaster

7                            6                               Bath

8                            11                             Bristol

9                            20                             Aberdeen

10                          7                               Loughborough


Find a computer science course in the UK today.


Interested in comparing and contrasting universities and courses? You can take a look at our analysis of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, The Complete University Guide League Tables and QS World University Rankings. Still can’t decide on a course and university in the UK? Let our course matcher tool do the work.

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