North East university rankings released: How Sunderland, Durham, Newcastle, Teesside and Northumbria fared

Picture by Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Picture by Chris Radburn/PA Wire

The rankings of North East universities have been released.

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 has revealed its top picks for the region.

Unsurprisingly Durham University has been named the top university in the region, scoring highly for completion rate and graduate prospects but fell one place in the overall league table to fifth place this year.

The new edition of The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 is published over three days, beginning with a free 96-page supplement published this weekend in The Sunday Times.

It provides the definitive rankings for UK universities and the most comprehensive overview of higher education in Britain, including profiles on 131 universities and the definitive UK university rankings, making use of the latest data published in the past two months.

Sunderland and Teesside praised for 'inclusive' approach

Sunderland and Teesside – both risers in this year’s table – are the most inclusive universities in the country, with the highest proportion of students from low participation areas, standing at 29.7% and 28.1% of admissions, respectively.

Sunderland, however, has seen applications fall by 44% since 2011 – the final year before £9,000 fees were introduced. Roughly a quarter of its 13,000 students are from outside of the UK, which provides much of the university’s income and a campus in Hong Kong opened this year to increase its footprint in the Far East.

Teesside moved up nine places and into the top 100 this year. It is in the top 40 for graduate prospects after rising more than 50 places in this measure. The university has launched no fewer than 40 new undergraduate programmes this autumn, ranging from a four-year integrated master’s in computer games design to an innovative suite of Higher National Certificate and diploma courses in home construction, developed with the television architect George Clarke.

It is aiming to draw on its strength and heritage in digital technology to enrich the student experience. DigitalCity Innovation, the university’s centre for digital excellence and entrepreneurship, has helped in the creation of hundreds of new companies and contributed to Teesside’s winning of a Queen’s Anniversary prize for services to business and enterprise.

Durham University - and old institution with a modern outlook

One of the oldest universities in the UK, Durham has embarked on perhaps the most radical makeover in its history as it sets out to grow by more than 40% over the next 10 years.

With six applications for every place and the seventh-highest entry standards in the UK, the university has plenty of scope to take more students, and the university is promising to maintain staffing levels as it grows.

The first project to accommodate this growth will be the construction of a teaching and learning centre, close to the main library.

By 2020 there will also be new buildings for mathematical sciences and computer science, plus a new sports park to complement its already extensive sports facilities.

It has been a Russell Group member since 2012 and it is inside the top 100 in both the QS and Times Higher Education world rankings.

Four fifths of its work submitted to the Research Excellence Framework was considered world-class or internationally excellent. It has the fifth highest completion rate and its graduates are the equal fourth highest paid out of any UK university, with a median salary of £25,000 six month after leaving.

Among multi-faculty universities, only Oxford and St Andrews take a higher proportion of undergraduates from independent schools than Durham. But, a scheme to target able pupils from schools in the northeast, West Yorkshire and Cumbria has helped to attract more applications from non-traditional backgrounds.

Newcastle top for 'student experience' and completion

Newcastle University came out top in the region for student experience and a close second for completion rates.

It was the only university in the northeast to receive a gold award in the Teaching Excellence Framework – the government ratings system for teaching, published in the summer.

While the Good University Guide does not incorporate the TEF directly in its rankings, the key TEF ingredients of student satisfaction, graduate prospects and degree completion rates have been part of the ranking methodology for more than a decade.

The TEF panel noted that it was impressed by “exceptional” support for students, including tailored provision for the disabled.

It has seen one of the biggest rises in applications of any in 2017. The 6.3% increase is partly due to popular new degrees in pharmacy, and sport and exercise science, but the demand for places has been rising for more than a decade.

For example, there was a 22% increase in enrolments in 2016 alone. It is one of the few universities to offer courses in medicine, dentistry, biomedicial sciences, psychology and pharmacy.

It was also the first university to open an overseas medical school offering full degrees in medicine, in Johor, Malaysia, and it has an association with the Singapore Institute of Technology.

At the university’s home campus, a new £75million student village, with 1,300 bedrooms, will be ready for the 2018 intake and a £30m extension to the sports centre is scheduled to open the following year.

The £350m Science Central project, run with the city council, will house the new National Innovation Centre for Ageing, the National Innovation Centre for Data and the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration. The £58m Urban Sciences building is a new home for the 1,395 staff and students in the school of computer science.

Like Durham, Newcastle remains popular with students from independent schools – who took nearly a quarter of places on offer in 2015 – and it, too, has created programmes to attract more students from non-traditional backgrounds.

Northumbria's pioneering degree apprenticeships

Northumbria has dropped one place to 66 in this year’s league table.

The university is a pioneer of degree apprenticeships and is among the leading institutions for graduate start-ups. Although overall enrolments have been steady over recent years, Northumbria’s new strategy on the Continent has produced a rise of 50% in EU applications for degree courses, in contrast to the 5% decline nationally.

The university recruits some of the most highly-qualified students in the modern university sector, ranking 45 this year for entry standards in the Good University Guide league table, its best placing among the nine indicators that feed into the overall ranking.