The top 20 universities in the UK

Oxford University ousted from top spot for the first time

(Image credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Cambridge has come last in a new league table rating the success of individual universities in widening participation to students from all backgrounds.

The experimental “fair access” ranking, created by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), measures universities’ intake of both rich and poor students.

Universities that are part of the Russell Group - which usually rank near the top of most other higher education league tables - generally fare poorly in the new ranking, while more modern institutions perform well.

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The best-ranked university is Hull, followed by Derby and then Edge Hill University in Lancashire.

Among the lowest ranking are “some of the country’s oldest and most prestigious universities”, including St Andrews, Bristol, Oxford and Aberdeen, reports The Guardian.

Although the overall number of young people attending university has risen from between 10% and 15% of the population in the 1980s to more than 45% today, there are still wide discrepancies in intake, with fewer students from disadvantaged backgrounds attending the most prestigious institutions, the newspaper adds.

Iain Martin, vice-chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University and author of the Hepi report, said: “Widening participation and ensuring that students from all backgrounds are provided opportunities to study at a university that matches their talents and aspirations has been a pivotal part of English higher education policy and strategy for many years.

“While much has been achieved, it remains that we do not have an educational level playing field."

A spokesperson for Cambridge University said it welcomed “different interpretations of the data” on the “complex issue”, and pointed out that Hepi’s analysis relies on a single measure.

The bottom ten universities for class equality in the ranking are:

  1. Cambridge
  2. St Andrews
  3. Bristol
  4. Oxford
  5. Edinburgh
  6. UCL
  7. Durham
  8. Robert Gordon
  9. LSE
  10. Imperial College London

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