Rankings vary on what they choose to assess and there are differences in what each ranking sees as being important and how the data is collected.
Rankings will look at:
- Student satisfaction
- Teaching quality
- Employment ratio of graduates
- Student/staff ratios
- How much is spent on facilities
- How much is spent of research
- And more.
The most prominent rankings are:
The Guardian does not include a measure of research, rather focusing on student experience, including graduate feedback and staff to student ratio. The Sunday Times does include research, based on official UK data, and folds in official data on “teaching excellence” as well as considering numbers of firsts and 2:1s awarded as well as drop out rates. The Times reflects student satisfaction, research, completion and, interestingly, money spent on facilities, with particular focus on library and computing spending.
Further measures universities will promote the more recent Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) which awarded universities a gold, silver or bronze award based on their academic teaching. Although, some argue the measures do not actually measure the quality of teaching.
So to end, use rankings as a guide but research further and look at other important consideration such as where in the UK is the university is located,
whether it is a campus or a city university, the cost of the course . Also, look at student work, alumni successes, the staff that are teaching you and try to talk with current students. You tube is a good source and you can get feel for student opinion on the internet and via youtube.