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THE UK: Destination Guides

Useful tools for UK university research: League tables and student reviews

University research can feel overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created this guide on the best tools to use when searching for a course and university in the UK.

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For international students there are many considerations when applying to study abroad. From choosing a country and course that you are interested in to finding a university with a good reputation. So where to begin?


University League tables are one of the best places to start. Why are university league tables useful? Well, you can compare and contrast different universities and subjects. This will give you an overall idea of how the institution performs in relation to others according to various criteria.


While international league tables are useful when choosing a study destination, such as Times Higher Education or Universitas 21, if you’re interested in the UK, it can be useful to assess universities within the country itself.


We recommend using the Complete University Guide (CUG) league tables in combination with our international student reviews.


What are the CUG 2021 league tables?

The most up-to-date rankings of UK universities, the CUG tables cover 70 different subject areas. Complied by experts with 20 years’ experience and using data from several official sources, the league tables allow you to assess the following measures when sorting the rankings:

  • Entry standards
  • Research quality
  • Student satisfaction
  • Research intensity
  • Academic services spend
  • Graduate prospects
  • Degree completion
  • Facilities spend
  • Good honours
  • Student-staff ratio

These measurements are important factors to consider when choosing a university in addition to other, more personal criteria such as the number of university clubs and societies.


Don’t forget that data for the Complete University Guide league tables was collected prior to the outbreak of coronavirus. This means that these findings will not have been affected by the impact of the pandemic and are representative of the typical operation of an institution.


Who should use the CUG league tables?

  • Any prospective international student looking to study in the UK, whether that’s at undergraduate or postgraduate level.


If you are interested in other countries, you can refer to international league tables or other country-specific rankings. If you find yourself in clearing as an international student, you can also use league tables to help with the decision-making process.


Find out more about clearing for international students.


Why use student reviews?

Current students or graduates can share their personal experience of university on Hotcourses Abroad, including both the good and not so good feedback. This is to provide you with a trustworthy and honest assessment of a university to help you make an informed decision. These reviews are based on the following categories:


  • Admission process
  • Funding/scholarships
  • Study experience
  • Life experience
  • Job prospects


How do I use university league tables with student reviews?

With the fast-approaching UCAS deadline (18th June) for anyone applying to study in the UK, one efficient way to compare universities is to use both league tables and student reviews. This will provide you with two complimentary perspectives. Firstly, league tables offer a way of assessing subjects, entry requirements and prestige while student reviews reveal real-life evidence of the university experience. You can hear from other international students to gain a clear idea of whether the course and institution is the right fit for you.


These days, it’s not unusual for us to read reviews of restaurants and cafes before committing, particularly when abroad. It should be no different for universities. Think of these reviews as a rating system for higher education in a country. With more than 10,000 student reviews on our site, you’ll be sure to gain valuable insight into courses and universities in the UK.

Want to know more about applying to study in the UK?


How do I refine my university search?

When researching courses and universities, you might have a few necessities in mind. For example, you might already know which course you want to study. In this case, you can filter the league table by subject to see how universities compare and perform according to the field of interest. You might also have an area of the UK that you’d like to study in, such as London. With these tables, you can further personalise your search by filtering according to the region. Each of these filters allows you to narrow down your search, leading you towards deciding and then applying. Once you’ve played around with the tables, you can create a shortlist of your favourite universities for your own reference.


So, to get started, follow the steps outlined here and put yourself in the best possible position when applying to study at a UK university. If you’ve missed the 18th June UCAS deadline, don’t fret. You can still apply through the UK clearing process until mid-October 2020.


*A version of this article originally appeared on the Whatuni student website.

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