Published on 25/11/2020
Two Aston University students at graduation in 2019
  • Aston University wins top honour of ‘University of the Year 2020’ in The Guardian awards
  • Graduate Employability, Equality and Sustainability play key part in the selection criteria

Aston University has been named University of the Year 2020 by The Guardian.

The prestigious accolade has been awarded after the University rose to number 30 in the rankings of The Guardian University Guide 2021 – a crucial league table that focuses on student satisfaction, graduate employment and quality of teaching.

In making this award, the judges considered the effectiveness of key criteria including:

  • Graduate employability and earnings - Aston University graduates are among the highest paid in the country five years after graduating; the 2020 Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) ranked Aston graduates at 15th in median earnings of £33,200 in the five years after graduation
  • Outstanding student support - Aston has a suite of support services for students, including counselling, peer mentoring, maths tutorials and study skills workshops. We’re ranked 11th in the UK for Continuation, which measures how well we support students (Guardian University Guide, 2021)
  • Closing attainment gaps - In 2018/19, 59% of Aston University’s students achieving a 1st or 2:1 were from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds – the highest proportion in the sector (Higher Education Statistics Agency 2018/19)
  • Embedding sustainability - Aston is one of the ‘greenest’ universities in the UK and is in the top 10 of the 2019 People and Planet University Green League.

Professor Alec Cameron, Vice-Chancellor of Aston University, said:

“Being named ‘University of the Year’ by The Guardian is a fantastic testament to the hard work of all our staff and students here at Aston. I am incredibly proud of our diverse, creative and dynamic community who, particularly since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, have proven that we are truly a team.

“I’ve been particularly inspired by how our staff and students have risen to the challenge of the last nine months, as the education and assessment of our students was disrupted and we moved to online education. Our staff have worked tirelessly to enable us to prepare for a blended delivery model of teaching starting in the autumn term.

"This award is also recognition of the work by our staff across the University to ensure we are giving students the best possible learning experience and supporting them to achieve the best possible outcomes.

“The resilience and flexibility of everyone in our community during this difficult time has been outstanding and I am delighted that they have received this accolade.”

Other notable areas include Aston University’s engagement with the Race Equality Charter and gaining the institutional Silver Athena SWAN award in 2018. The award encourages and recognises commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. The University also signed up as a member of the Race Equality Charter in November 2019.

Rachel Hall, Universities Editor at The Guardian, said:

"Aston University came top of the measure this year thanks to its sustained improvement in The Guardian University Guide, along with its commitment to sustainability and a focus on enabling students from a wide range of backgrounds to achieve their potential, including graduate employability.”

Matt Hiely-Rayner, compiler of the University of the Year award and the University Guide, added:

"Aston University has been on an upward trajectory since our 2017 Guide, when the University fell out of the top 50 for the first time. Climbing in steady increments, the University has reached 30th position and has achieved this while catering to a very diverse student body.

“Meanwhile the University has been taking its commitment to sustainability very seriously. Scoring 63% in the people & planet rankings of 2019, Aston University has the ninth highest score of the institutions included in our rankings."

The awards usually take place at an event held in London, but this year the ceremony will be hosted online due to Covid-19. A full list of winners is available on The Guardian website.

In other successes this year, Aston University was recognised for consistently high earnings for employed Aston University graduates - some of the highest paid in the country five years after graduating - by data released by the Department for Education. The 2020 Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data showed that employed Aston University graduates had the 15th largest median earnings (£33,200) five years after graduation.




Notes to editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

In 2018/19, 55.7% of the total student population came from an ethnic minority background, compared to a national average of 19%, this is the 2nd largest proportion in the UK (HESA data).

The Guardian ‘University of the Year’ is awarded to an institution based upon performance and improvement in its Guardian University Guide; as well as considering a number of key areas including student retention, BAME attainment, engagement with the Race Equality Charter and Athena Swan and also sustainability.

For more information on the Guardian University Guide:

The full list of winners:

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact the press office at

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