St Andrews has been crowned the best university in the UK, an achievement unmatched by any other university, with the top two places dominated by Oxford and Cambridge.
The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022, released today, ranked the Fife institution first in the UK and Scotland.
It is the first time in the league table’s 30 year history that neither the University of Oxford nor the University of Cambridge have dominated the top spot.
St Andrews has been challenging their dominance for a number of years with high levels of student satisfaction amongst graduates.
Even amidst the coronavirus pandemic when it was forced to move classes online, the university recorded only a small decline in student satisfaction whilst others around the country saw a sharp fall.
The annual National Student Survey showed the university was ranked some 4 percentage points ahead of any other institution in terms of student satisfaction and teaching quality.
Historic ranking as Oxford and Cambridge toppled from top spot
Reflecting this, the Times league table moved St Andrews from third place last year to first, overtaking Oxford and Cambridge for the first time ever in the history of domestic league tables.
The university was also recognised for its academic research work after it scored highly in the most recent Research Excellence Framework, including for its work with Edinburgh University on chemistry and physics.
It is also renowned for its marine research, pioneering medical work and the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence.
St Andrews’ achievement in topping our institutional table should not be underestimated
Alastair McCall, editor of The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide, said: “St Andrews’ achievement in topping our institutional table should not be underestimated.
“Never before has any university other than Cambridge and Oxford finished top of our – or any other – domestic ranking of universities.
‘St Andrews University now rivals Cambridge and Oxford’
“It is no fluke. The university has been closing in on the Oxbridge duopoly for several years, buoyed by outstanding levels of student satisfaction which have peaked during the past year of pandemic disruption on campus.
“The lead St Andrews now has over other universities in this key area of university performance is remarkable.
The lead St Andrews now has over other universities in this key area of university performance is remarkable.
“Its wider contribution as a centre of teaching and outstanding research marks it out as a global player in the international higher education marketplace.
“Strange to say for an institution that has been around for 600 years, but topping our UK rankings for the first time truly marks St Andrews “arrival” as a serious challenger to Oxford and Cambridge.”
Professor Sally Mapstone, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of St Andrews, said she was “thrilled” for the students, staff and alumni.
“They are the people who made this happen. As one community, we strive constantly for excellence, and have a strategy that hasn’t been afraid to believe St Andrews could challenge at the very top by combining the best teaching, world-leading research, and an unswerving commitment to student satisfaction and achievement,” she said.
Professor Mapstone said she expected some good-natured cross-border teasing amongst colleagues as the university enjoyed the “remarkable” result”.
“We have been in very good company close to the top of this important league table for several years, but until now, always on someone’s shoulder.
“I hope the fact that the staff and students of a small, Scottish institution have been able to break through the hitherto impenetrable Oxbridge ceiling will inspire others, and show that the status quo is only that if you allow it to be.”
University Chancellor, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, said: “This welcome and deserved achievement reflects the outstanding nature of the student experience at St Andrews University.”
Sir Menzies Campbell added: “Under the inspired leadership of the Principal, Professor Sally Mapstone, and her senior team, the standards set in these difficult times in teaching, research, and management at every level are truly remarkable.”
Elsewhere in Scotland, the University of Glasgow achieved its highest ever UK ranking at 12th in the national league table.
Mr McCall, added: “A fifth consecutive rise in our rankings lifts Glasgow to its highest ranking yet in our university league table, now on the fringes of the UK top 10.
“One of the most ambitious campus upgrades, at a cost of £1 billion, will enhance a student experience that is already rated highly.
“Glasgow’s ranking for student satisfaction with teaching quality and student experience rose sharply in the past year off the back of its pandemic response.
Universities recognised for rising to challenge of pandemic
“In a year when we have recognised those universities which rose to the challenges of the pandemic, this was another reason to make Glasgow our Scottish University of the Year.”
The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022 provides a ranking for UK universities with a comprehensive overview of higher education in Britain.
It includes profiles on 135 universities, making use of the latest data published in the past two months.