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The University of St Andrews Beats Oxford and Cambrige in Times University Rankings

The University of St Andrews has ranked number one in The Times and Sunday Times ‘Good University Guide 2022’. This marks the first time in history that a university other than Oxford or Cambridge has topped The Times guide.

In addition to scoring highest for teaching, research, student satisfaction, quality, entry standards, and graduate outcomes, the University of St Andrews also topped seven of the subject tables. The University ranked first in Business Management and Marketing, Computer Science, Physics and Astronomy, Philosophy, English, Middle Eastern and African Studies, and Politics (IR).

In an email to the student body, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sally Mapstone, said, “This is a remarkable achievement; it is entirely yours, and it is where you deserve to be.

“You don’t get to the top of a league table like this, regarded as the gold-standard of UK rankings, unless you have the most gifted and committed staff, the highest quality of teaching, world-leading research, and are attracting the very brightest students who then achieve their potential. St Andrews has all of these.”

She added, “The fact that the staff and students of a small, Scottish institution have been able to break through a hitherto impenetrable ceiling will, I hope, inspire others, and shows that the status quo need only be that if you allow it to be.”

Students’ Association President, Lottie Doherty, also spoke out about the University’s ranking in The Guide saying, “It’s amazing news. It’s brilliant that St Andrews has made number one, not just for the University and its staff but for all the students here as well. It really is a testament to how well the last year has gone despite the difficult conditions.

“Students worked so hard to get good grades and engage with their classes and studies even though it has been online and under very difficult circumsatnces. It is brilliant to see that recognised.

“I think it really shows how hard working and passionate the students and staff are about St Andrews and about their learning to adapt to such difficult circumstances and come out number one this year.”

In the Guardian University Guide Rankings, the University of St Andrews fell below the University of Cambridge, landing it the number three overall spot in the UK. The University of St Andrews previously held the number two overall spot, ahead of the University of Cambridge, but behind the University of Oxford

This new ranking comes in spite of the University of St Andrews ranking top in the UK for student academic experience, according to the National Student Survey 2021, published July 15, 2021. This was the thirteenth time in fifteen years that the university has been awarded the top slot.

The results of the National Student Survey (NSS) are considered when compiling the Guardian Guide rankings. However, it is worth noting that the weighting of the metrics of the National Student Survey has been reduced from 25% to 20% due to policy changes within the NSS, as well as providers no longer being obligated to promote the survey to final year students. In previous years the results of the NSS were considered with 10% being awarded to ‘the teaching on my course’, 10% to ‘assessment & feedback’ and 5% to ‘overall satisfaction’. The ratio of percentages has since been changed to 8%:8%:4%.

Additionally, satisfaction with courses, teaching, and feedback all decreased, though in each case it was by less than a point. Time will tell if this was a side effect of an unusual year, or an ongoing trend. In the Guardian Guide, each subject is ranked individually based on a variety of metrics including entry standards, student-staff ratios, expenditure per student, continuation, student satisfaction, value added, and career prospects.

The institutional ranking then considers the university's performance in the subject tables, while also taking into account the number of students in a department, and the number of institutions included in the subject table, which has an effect on how much a department will affect the overall institutional table.

A variety of factors could explain the University of St Andrew’s slip in the Guardian University Rankings, including a global pandemic, as well as a lessened focus on the National Student Survey. Additionally, the results of the graduate outcomes survey for the 2019/2020 cohort was not used in compiling the percentage of students in graduate-level jobs or continuing their education fifteen months after their graduation due to a delay in survey results and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment.

Outcomes will likely continue to be affected by the pandemic in years to come, and universities will have to find newer and more creative ways to keep their numbers high and maintain their rankings.

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