Complete University Guide provides valuable insight into life beyond the top 10


Aiming to provide a populist alternative to the Guardian league tables, the Complete University Guide (CUG) is compiled annually by Mayfield University Consultants, who have been working interpreting data sets and producing league tables since 1995. Closely aligned to a number of leading British newspapers and prestigious publishing bodies, CUG works in directly communication with the UK’s universities to provide a thorough and analytical guide to subject-based, regional, and reputation-based academic provision.

Compiled from a range of public-domain sources from HESA to the National Student Survey, CUG’s overall ranking takes into account nine criteria sets, subjecting them to an expansive Z-transformation technique. Most importantly for their popularity and repute among students and newspapers, CUG works in consultation with the universities themselves, who are given access to their respective data and asked to clarify, confirm, and fill in any glaring omissions. Due to this approach certain institutions have been either omitted for lack of information or have risen in the rankings when compared to rival league tables.  An annual advisory group also meets with representatives from each institution to fine-tune the methodology and as such CUG can be seen to be making one of the most proactive efforts to provide transparent research into university performance.

Attempting to be the easily accessible table of choice for UK students and international students aiming to study in the UK, CUG fills in the gaps the Guardian league tables have left open. Including indicators such as research assessment, facilities spending, completion rates, and peer assessments – all omitted by the Guardian’s guide – CUG corrects much of the bias that hinders modest institutions from showing off their own standout department or research center.  Despite this, there have been no entrances or exits from the top 10 since 2013, only a slight but perceptible reordering:

  1. Cambridge
  2. Oxford
  3. London School of Economics
  4. St Andrews
  5. Durham
  6. Imperial College London
  7. Warwick
  8. Bath
  9. University College London
  10. Exeter

For a ranking table that stresses its comparison with its Guardian-led counterpart, the best insights should be sought outside of the top 10. CUG’s data is more succinctly presented than many of its rivals, allowing an in-depth glance at unique data sets such as a Who’s Who of the 67 Subject Tables and ranking top universities by mission group. Students can also browse the top five universities in their region as well as peruse their green league table courtesy of People and Planet Green League, which charts the environmental credentials of British institutions. Some of the data is even presented in a Buzzfeed style which is sure to appeal to prospective students in need of a quick information hit.

CUG seems to have been partnered with a different, and politically disparate UK newspaper every couple of years. From the right-leaning broadsheet the Daily Telegraph to the leftist broadsheet the Independent, right through to its current partner the tabloid Daily Mail, their wider platform can at times betray a tendency towards condescension. Including advice that ranges from the blasé to the banal (tips on insuring your possessions and to how to make take-away style food at home) CUG still manages to insist on transparency for the sake of student choice. By demonstrating a clear and pronounced knowledge of the realities of student needs CUG simultaneously presses universities to respond to them.