The University of St Andrews has emerged top of the UK university system in a different ranking from the one it previously did so. What that means is that the university based in Scotland has retained the top position in two out of the three ranking systems in the UK.
It came top in the 2021 The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide. That was the very first time that any other UK university beat the University of Oxford or Cambridge to the first position. The university has done it again in the 2023 edition of the Guardian University Guide, beating Oxford and Cambridge to the second and third positions for the second time in the 30-year history of university league tables in the UK.
Ranking and performance in it has concretised into a dominant feature of the university system and only countries such as Nigeria which revels in battering its own universities and trying to humiliate knowledge producers that news of a ranking exercise will not be a big story. Although Nigeria and the UK are not necessarily in competition, universities are not local categories and stories of which ones are raising the stakes and which ones are not will always have a global connect.
Observers of the Nigerian scene say there are no signs that the powers that be appreciate the dangers of defeating ASUU in the competing views on how to restore the universities to what they were up to the early 1980s, wondering if Nigeria has not already lost it when compared to university system in those countries Nigeria should be competing with today.
Meanwhile, the University of St Andrews has been forthcoming on its number One position. It said in a statement which runs in part as follows:
The Guardian places St Andrews top in its ranking of the UK’s 130 universities for the first time. St Andrews first broke the Oxbridge duopoly in 2019, unseating Oxford to take second place, and holding that position in the Guide the following year.
The Guardian has now coined the term ‘Stoxbridge’ to describe what it says may be the new world order in UK university rankings.
Matt Hiely-Rayner, who compiled the Guide, said: “There was little to separate the three Stoxbridge members, with the narrowest difference between first and third place in the Guide’s history.
“What’s clearer is the extent to which these three are removed from the rest of the sector.”
Seven of St Andrews’ academic subjects also ranked top in the UK: Art History, Neuroscience, Chemistry, Economics, English, History, and International Relations. Sixteen of the 22 subjects taught at St Andrews ranked in the top five.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Sally Mapstone said: “I hope that St Andrews’ terrific students and all of my hard-working colleagues will feel the recognition of this very significant achievement. They entirely deserve it.
“The amalgam of our strengths in the key areas which The Guardian measures has set us narrowly ahead of some of the very best universities in the world. For a small Scottish university to shake the established order repeatedly is a great tribute to everyone who works and studies here.
“What a fantastic way to begin a new academic year, and at a time when the world we serve has rarely been in greater need of the transformational powers of the highest quality of independent research and teaching.”
The Guide ranks universities by the strength of student satisfaction, expenditure per student, student/staff ratio, career prospects, entry tariff, value-added and continuation.
The first fifteen universities, going by the ranking now, are the University of St Andrews; Oxford; Cambridge; the London School of Economics; Imperial College; the University of Durham; the University of Bath; the University of Warwick and the University College London.
Others are the University of Loughborough; the University of Glasgow; the University of Edinburgh; the University of Aberdeen; University of Lancaster and the University of Exeter