Good University Guide 2023

Lancaster University

National rank

Firsts / 2:1s
Completion rate

Key stats

Teaching quality
Student experience
Research quality
Graduate prospects

Lancaster, now 12th in our main academic league table, has featured consistently near the top in recent years, joining Warwick as the most successful of the 1960s generation of universities. 

A former winner of our University of the Year title, and our International University of the Year in 2019, Lancaster’s global outposts include a joint institute near Weihai, in Shandong province in China, a branch campus in Ghana and another in Leipzig, Germany. An academic partnership with Sunway University in Malaysia paves the way for students on a range of undergraduate programmes to graduate from both universities. 

At home, the university is set within a 560-acre parkland campus on the outskirts of Lancaster in the northwest of England. Impressive physical facilities on campus benefit from continuing development. The Margaret Fell lecture theatre — the biggest on campus, with capacity for 400 people — is among the latest buildings to open. A three-floor extension of the library has created 400 extra study spaces and 120 for silent work. In 2020 Lancaster opened a hi-tech architecture studio providing specialist facilities for up to 48 students. 

The Management School has also undergone a revamp, extending into a five-storey West Pavilion with three lecture theatres, two executive teaching suites and an abundance of workspaces. The school also recently signed up to the Principles of Responsible Management Education action plan — a United Nations initiative to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals through responsible management education. 

The extra floorspace is much needed because student numbers have swelled in the past decade. Enrolments in 2021 were about 43 per cent higher than they were in 2011. Applications were at their highest in the 2020 recruitment cycle and, though they dipped a little in 2021, they remained 24 per cent higher than they had been a decade before. Fifteen per cent of 2021’s new entrants gained their place via Clearing. The curriculum gains a new degree in international management from 2023.

A strong performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) resulted in 91 per cent of Lancaster’s research being assessed as internationally excellent or world-leading (the top two categories) — up from 83 per cent in 2014. Of this, 46 per cent achieved the highest (4*) category. Against even bigger rises elsewhere, Lancaster loses four places to rest 19th in our research quality index. Linguistics, geography, mathematics, social policy, social work, and architecture produced some of the university’s best results.  

Lancaster also performs well in the eyes of its students. It remains in the top 20 (17th) for satisfaction with the wider student experience, according to our analysis derived from the latest National Student Survey, published in summer 2022. It ranks 31st for what students think of the university’s teaching quality.

Contented students tend not to drop out. Lancaster is 15th in our analysis of the latest course completion figures, with a dropout rate well below the level expected in light of its course and student mix.

All students belong to one of nine colleges at Lancaster, each with its own advisory team dedicated to student support — providing access to help such as the wellbeing, counselling and mental health service. 

Alan Milburn, the chancellor, who is the former chairman of the Social Mobility Commission and a Lancaster alumnus, said he “got lucky” in finding his way to the university from one of the most deprived comprehensives in Newcastle. His time at Lancaster then set him on the path to top jobs in the Labour government between 198 and 2003. The university continues its efforts to widen participation and introduced contextual offers two A-level grades (or equivalent) lower than the published entry standards in 2021, aimed at supporting applicants whose personal circumstances may have impacted their achievement in education. 

Lancaster is also a member of the Realising Opportunities programme for research-intensive universities and has pledged its support to students from military families and care leavers. An access programme for students from school year 9 and above includes information and skills-based workshops and, for those who complete the course, a typical alternative offer two grades below advertised grades.

The university ranks 93rd in our social inclusion ranking for England and Wales, with 19.6 per cent of students from an ethnic minority. Only 5.4 per cent of the intake are white working-class boys, the most underrepresented group. Just over a third of students are the first generation of their family to attend university. 

About a third of the intake is expected to qualify for some form of financial assistance — such as a £1,000 annual bursary for UK students with a household income of less than £30,000 or a £2,000 Lancaster scholarship awarded to all UK entrants with at least AAA at A-level (or the equivalent) and five GCSEs at grade A/7 or above. There is a sanctuary bursary of £2,000 per year for two applicants classed as refugees or with humanitarian protection. 

The university's links with industry span relationships forged with corporations, small to medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurs, and the public, private and third sectors. In our graduate prospects ranking, based on the proportion in highly skilled jobs or undertaking further study 15 months after finishing their degree, Lancaster slips four places to 23rd.  

The sports centre has four sports halls, a swimming pool, strength and conditioning room and a “human performance lab” among its facilities while a trim trail and woodland walk make use of the campus countryside. Off campus, Lancaster has a boathouse on the River Lune. 

The university’s eco-friendly student residences have won best halls awards in the National Student Housing Survey and students can add bolt-on cards for meals. First-years who make Lancaster their firm choice and who apply by the early August deadline are guaranteed a room. There are more than 200 clubs and societies and the self-contained campus offers a range of activities. 

The city of Lancaster might be small but it tends to charm those who visit, and the nightclubs are said to be decent. The Lake District is an hour away and transport links to Manchester and Liverpool bring their bright(er) lights within reach.

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Category Score Rank
Ranking - 12 (11)
Teaching quality 77.6 31st
Student experience 76.6 17th
Research quality 57.4 19th
Ucas entry points 146 35th=
Graduate prospects 82.6 23rd
Firsts and 2:1s 82.9 36th
Completion rate 94.1 15th
Student-staff ratio 14.1 24th=
World ranking - 146 (132)

Vital statistics











Applications/places 22,210/4,115
Applications/places ratio 5.4:1
Overall offer rate 88.2%


Places in accommodation 10,634
Accommodation costs £111 - £172
Catered costs £183 - £205
Accommodation contact


UK/EU fees £9,250
Fees (placement year) £1,850
Fees (overseas year) £1,385
Fees (international) £19,930 - £24,070
Fees (international, medical) £36,420
Finance website
Graduate salaries £25,000


Sport points/rank 994, 40th
Sport website

Social inclusion and student mix

Social Inclusion Ranking 93
State schools (non-grammar) admissions 78.3%
Grammar school admissions 10.9%
Independent school admissions 10.8%
Ethnic minority students (all) 19.6%
Black achievement gap -18.8%
White working class males 5.4%
First generation students 34.7%
Low participation areas 8%
Working class dropout gap -0.4%
Mature 3.9%
EU students 10.5%
Other overseas students 19.2%

Student satisfaction with teaching quality

Sports science 92%
Physics and astronomy 88.7%
Communication and media studies 84.8%
Medicine 84.6%
Subjects allied to medicine 84.6%
English 83.5%
Law 82.4%
Chemistry 81.9%
Creative writing 81.3%
Social work 81.3%
Art and design 81.1%
Biological sciences 81%
Drama, dance and cinematics 81%
Geography and environmental science 80.2%
History 78.8%
Accounting and finance 78.4%
Linguistics 78%
Business, management and marketing 77.5%
Theology and religious studies 77.3%
Mathematics 76.1%
Natural sciences 74.5%
Mechanical engineering 74.4%
Politics 73.2%
Psychology 72.9%
Criminology 71.8%
Sociology 71.8%
Philosophy 71.5%
Electrical and electronic engineering 70.4%
Computer science 69.4%
Economics 69.2%
Iberian languages 69%
Chemical engineering 68.8%
French 68.2%