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Many universities have improved their position in this year's Complete University Guide rankings by recruiting more teaching staff, according to the compilers of the rankings. The recruitment drive, along with falling student numbers, has meant better student staff ratios at many institutions, a key measure in the Guide's league table.
Cambridge tops the rankings once more, while the biggest climbers were the University for the Creative Arts, Abertay University, Arts University, Bournemouth, Sheffield Hallam and Derby.
Institutions with the biggest fall in the rankings include Royal Agricultural University, Aberystwyth, Birmingham City, St George's, University of London, Hull, Northampton, Buckinghamshire New University, Anglia Ruskin, Bedfordshire and Ulster.
The University of Oxford retains second place in the ranking of 123 universities, with the London School of Economics and Political Science third.
The Top Ten is unchanged compared with last year. The Universities of Southampton (16th) and Newcastle (20th) enter the Top 20, while Edinburgh (21th) and King's (28th) drop out.
Oxford Brookes University, in 48th place, is the highest ranking "new" university, although it falls three places from last year.
Student: staff ratios have improved significantly at many institutions as a result of increased staff recruitment and falling student numbers, while spending on student facilities has also risen widely. Entry standards continue to rise, with the mean UCAS score up from 337 in 2012 to 350 last year and 358 in the new Guide. They are beneficiaries of a revised approach to classifications of staff, which has enabled them to treat many of their technical staff as academics, thereby significantly improving student: staff ratios.
In separate listings covering 67 subjects, Cambridge takes top place in 29 of the 46 it offers, and in the top ten for 45. Oxford is in the leading ten universities for 34 out of 37 subjects offered, and is placed first in five.The LSE is in the top ten for 11 of the 12 the subjects offered and is top in one.
Dr Bernard Kingston, principal author of Guide said: "The league tables, taken with the rankings for specific subjects, offer would-be students an accurate and independent guide to the UK university system. They should not be used in isolation but alongside all the other advice and information in the Guide. Its tables are recognised for their stability and consistency, and this year once again demonstrates this.
"Many of the changes this year are attributable to changes in definitions and weighting. There was an official and fundamental review of the staff record data between the two years, while the old distinction between graduate and non-graduate employment has been replaced by one between professional and non-professional employment. In addition, the weighting of both spending measures used has been halved (from 1.0 to 0.5)."
Nationally the top ten universities are Cambridge, Oxford, LSE, St Andrews, Durham, Imperial College London, Warwick, Bath, University College London and Exeter. Both Imperial and UCL slip slightly, from fourth to sixth, and from seventh to ninth, respectively.
A new university mission group - the Cathedrals Group - appears for the first time in the 2015 tables. An association of 16 universities and university colleges with Church foundations, its highest placed universityis Winchester (59th), followed by Chichester (76th) and Chester (78th). The 1994 Group of smaller research-intensive universities was dissolved in November 2013.
Nova Jayne Robinson, Director of The Complete University Guide, said: "Once again, The Complete University Guide is first to give university applicants reliable and comprehensive information on which to base one of the most important choices of their lives."
Data for the rankings have been derived from official sources and have been meticulously checked directly with the universities to create an independent and authoritative league table designed to match applicants' needs.
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