Student life

10 top universities in UK for first class degrees

When you’re making the choice of which uni to go to, let’s be honest, your first question may not be ‘What are the highest achieving universities in the UK?’ You may be thinking along the lines of ‘Which uni has the best campus?’, ‘Which uni has the best night life?’ or even “Which uni city has the best food?’. You might be focusing on the things you’ll enjoy and really help you become yourself at uni, rather than the academic side of things.

Although you might not be too fussed about how well your uni is doing now, you may find that this changes once you start studying. If you study in a city where there’s more than one university, you’ll quickly find out about uni rivalry and start to feel a strange sense of pride if your uni is doing really well!


Also, the closer you get to third year, the more important your grade seems. We’ve been taking a look at the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)’s list of undergraduate qualifications obtained per university last year (2018/19) and thought we’d share them with you!

Here are the top universities in the UK for first class degrees.

Top ten universities in UK for first class degrees

1. The University of Manchester

It’s a strong start with Russell Group uni, University of Manchester. UoM tops the list with a huge 2,680 firsts last year! Manchester is also the largest single-site uni in the UK, with its city-based campus and well-funded student facilities.

2. The Manchester Metropolitan University

There must be something in the air in Manchester, because taking second spot is another Manchester-based uni. No doubt that there’s a strong (friendly) rivalry between different types of Manchester students on nights out – with just 500 degrees difference, Manchester Met takes second place with an enviable 2,180 first class degrees.

3. The University of Leeds

Setting the standard for West Yorkshire is the University of Leeds coming in at third place with 2,120 first class degrees.

4. University of Nottingham

The last of the unis with first class degrees in the 2,000s, but the first located in the Midlands, the University of Nottingham comes in at fourth place with 2,080 firsts.

5. Coventry University

Finishing the list of top five universities in the UK for first class degrees is Coventry University, who are representing the Midlands with a strong 1,990 firsts.

6. University College London

Coming in at sixth place is the first and only London-based uni on the list, University College London. UCL is ranked as a “super-elite” uni and had an admirable 1,970 first class degrees in 2018/19.

7. Sheffield Hallam University

Heading back up north, Sheffield Hallam are representing South Yorkshire in seventh spot with 1,935 firsts last year.

8. De Montfort University

De Montfort brings another win for the East Midlands with 1,835 first class degrees.

9. University of Birmingham

Campus-based red brick uni, University of Birmingham, tallied an impressive 1,785 firsts.

10. The University of Liverpool

We’re heading back up north as we complete the list of top universities in the UK for first class degrees. Position 10 is original red brick uni, The University of Liverpool with 1,765 firsts.


There were so many unis who nearly made the top 10. If your uni made it, don’t forget to show your mates. If your uni didn’t quite make it, take a look here to see where your uni sits on the list.

Whilst uni rivalry is a little bit of fun, you should be proud of yourself regardless of where your uni sits on any list. If you’re studying any form of education, you’re making an attempt to develop yourself. And we think that should be applauded!

List of top universities in UK

If you’re looking for a more general list of the top universities in the UK, take a look at the following resources:

University League Tables and Rankings
Russell Group Universities List


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This article has been written based on data published on the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s website (HE qualifiers by HE provider and level of qualification obtained 2014/15 to 2018/19 – Classification of first degree) which can be found here.

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