How to present subject ranking information from university league tables
Find out how to correctly use subject ranking information from national league tables in marketing materials.
How to source subject ranking information from league tables
We use ranking information from recognised national league tables in our marketing materials. Overall rankings are promoted across the University, but you should also promote more specific achievements from specific subject areas.
Follow guidance from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Any claims you make must:
- be legal and honest
- reference the evidence
- not be solely based on your own interpretation of the data, unless you explicitly make clear that you have manipulated the published data
League table publication dates
- The Complete University Guide: April or May
- The Guardian University Guide: June
- The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide: September
The Complete University Guide
Overall subject ranking
The Complete University Guide subject rankings are presented out of 100 and go to one decimal place beyond what is shown in the table. For example, a score of 99.8 may appear in the table but the actual figure may be 99.84. You should trust the rank in the Overall Score column, even if it appears we are tied for the same score.
The Complete University Guide uses the categories Graduate Prospects and Student Satisfaction. Joint rankings are presented alphabetically when a score is tied. In these instances you should make it clear that we are ranked jointly using standard competition ranking.
The Guardian University Guide
Overall subject ranking
The Guardian University Guide subject rankings are presented out of a score of 100 and rankings are listed up to one decimal place. Standard competition ranking is used for tied scores and you must indicate if your ranking is joint.
The Guardian University Guide uses the categories Satisfied with Course and Career after six months. Joint rankings are not presented alphabetically when a score is tied. When using these results you must make it clear that we are ranked jointly using standard competition ranking.
The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide
Overall subject ranking
The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide subject rankings are presented out of a score of 100 and rankings are listed up to one decimal place. Standard competition ranking is used for tied scores and you must indicate if your ranking is joint.
The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide uses the categories Student Experience and Graduate Prospects. Joint rankings are not presented alphabetically when a score is tied. When using these results you must make it clear that we are ranked jointly using standard competition ranking.
You must save a copy of any evidence to back up the claims you make if challenged.
The easiest way to do this is by saving a screen capture of the league table website displaying the ranking. Your screen capture must include the:
- page URL
- name of the subject ranking
- results correctly ordered by the category or subcategory your claim relates to
- the date (this should be visible in the taskbar)
How to present subject ranking information from league tables
We use a standard competition ranking for when there is a score that is jointly held. This means that we will use the higher ranking position and indicate it is joint.
Example of the standard competition ranking model
In this scenario, institutions A and B can claim they are ranked joint first, while institutions D and E can claim they are ranked joint fourth. Institution C cannot claim to be ranked second and F cannot claim to be ranked fourth.
Publicising a ranking
You must use the most recent ranking from a league table, even if we were ranked higher in previous years. If the current year rankings are not suitable, then consider using the results from another provider.
You should include the:
- sub-category (if applicable)
- subject area
- full name (including ‘The’) and year of the league table
- a link to the result on the league table publisher’s website (when referencing in web content)
Use this standard format to be consistent with other subjects:
'[ranking] for [category] in/for [subject area] in [full name and year of the league table]'
- 1st for Graduate Prospects in Economics in The Complete University Guide 2017
- Top 10 for Sports Science in The Complete University Guide 2020
Be consistent when writing rankings. Use:
- the specific ranking for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd
- 'Top 5' for 4th or 5th
- 'Top 10' for 6th to 10th
- 'Top 20' for 11th to 20th
- 'Top 50' for 21st to 50th
- 'Top 100' for 51st to 100th
If your ranking falls outside of these specifics, then do not use vague claims such as ‘highly ranked’. Any description of the ranking must not be misleading.
Don’t manipulate data to create a ranking that it is not simple to prove. Readers should always be able to verify the ranking by looking at a league table.
For example, the claim ‘Best University in the South West’ may be misleading if the definition of the South West is not defined by the published data.
According to the ASA ‘Only refer to information, analysis and categories that are explicitly stated and defined in relevant reports or league tables’. You must follow their guidelines.