Go back

Top UK universities for excellence in research

Images: Getty Images, Steve Cadman [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr, and Getty Images

Summer read: Earlier this year, UK funding bodies evaluated research excellence. These were the results

The UK has seen an increase in high-quality research at its universities around the country, in the latest iteration of its mammoth assessment exercise called the Research Excellence Framework.

Government funders in the UK evaluate research excellence every seven years, and the results of the latest exercise published in 2022 reveal the universities with highest amounts of top-rated research.

While the funding agencies that administer the research assessment exercise do not endorse the creation of rankings from the data, Research Professional News has used their data to produce the much-demanded league table.

The analysis is based on the power score, which considers the number of researchers submitted to the evaluation and the proportion of all submissions rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.

The analysis has revealed that the University of Oxford has topped the table, remaining unmoved from its lead position in the previous analysis in 2014.

The entire top 10 is similar this time around, too, with only King’s College London and Imperial swapping places in sixth and seventh, respectively. UCL, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol and Leeds complete the top 10.


Research Professional News has also created rankings from the REF results for different subject areas:

Clinical medicine

With many of the UK’s large research universities hosting medical schools, the clinical medicine rankings are not dissimilar to the overall league table.

Oxford leads the rankings, followed by Imperial, Cambridge and UCL. Universities making it into the top 10 for clinical medicine from further down in the overall rankings are Birmingham, Queen Mary University of London and Glasgow.

Allied health professions dentistry, nursing and pharmacy

King’s College London tops the table for allied health professions dentistry, nursing and pharmacy. Queen’s University Belfast, Sheffield and Manchester follow King’s in the ranking, with several universities lower down the overall ranking—such as Ulster, Surrey and Northumbria—showing their research strength in the field.


For engineering, Imperial College London took the top spot followed by Cambridge, Manchester and Southampton, beating the leaders of the overall standing, Oxford and UCL. Cranfield, a much smaller institution, also squeaks in at number 10, while placing 59th in the overall league table.

Computer science and informatics

In computer science and informatics, Edinburgh ranked first, followed by the other leaders of the overall rankings: UCL, Cambridge and Oxford, in that order.


While Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh take the top three places for law, largely mirroring the overall league table, the University of Essex stormed into fourth place despite placing 36th in the overall ranking. Queen Mary University also performed well, coming in at number five, ahead of its London rivals UCL and King’s College London.

Business and management studies

In business and management studies, the top 10 looks conspicuously different to the overall league table. Lancaster takes the top spot followed by Manchester, Warwick and Cardiff. Institutions from further down the overall rankings with strong showings for business and management studies include City, University of London and the London Business School.

English language and literature

Oxford and Cambridge top the table for English language and literature with the University of Birmingham coming in at number three. Alongside Birmingham, several other major universities that didn’t make the top 10 in the overall rankings performed well in English language and literature, including Exeter, Cardiff, Glasgow and Newcastle.

Art and design—history, practice and theory

University of the Arts London leads in the ranking for art and design—history, practice and theory. Manchester Metropolitan University and the Royal College of Art have come second and third. The only two Russell Group universities to make the top 10 are Edinburgh and Leeds. Falmouth University, ranked just 111th in the overall league table, takes the number 10 spot.

The full table to see all 157 institutions and their scores, is available to subscribers, as is the methodology for the metrics used.