A cyclist goes past Cambridge University's King's College Chapel / PA

The elite institution was ranked number one by the Complete University Guide for the fourth year running

The annual clash of the academic titans has seen Cambridge University named the top higher educational institution in the UK.

Beating Oxford University, with an overall score of 1,000 to the former’s 993, the elite establishment retained its number one spot in the Complete University Guide’s (CUG) 2015 rankings for the fourth year running.

Cambridge consistently ranked higher than its rival across all categories.

Founded in 1209, the university has produced 89 Nobel Prize winners and notable alumni include Charles Darwin, Stephen Fry, Clair Balding and Lily Cole.

The London School of Economics took third place with 957 points, with St Andrews and Durham completing the top five with scores of 941 and 930 respectively. 

Rounding out this year's top 10 were Imperial College London, Warwick, Bath, University College London and Exeter.

The CUG uses available data to rank 123 universities on nine areas - student satisfaction, research, entry standards, student to staff ratios, spending in academic services, spending facilities, the numbers of good honours degrees achieved, graduate prospects and completion rates.

The authors said that at many universities, student to staff ratios had improved this year due to institutions taking on more staff and falling student numbers, while more money is also being spent on student facilities and there has been a rise in entry standards.

David Jobbins, a spokesman for the Guide, said there had been a 6.4% year-on-year fall in undergraduate numbers in 2012/13 according to their analysis.

“It is that fall in some institutions and programme areas, coupled with the opportunity taken by some institutions, of which the University for the Creative Arts and the Arts University Bournemouth are good examples, to reclassify technical staff as academic staff, thus improving the student: staff ratio,” he said.

The biggest climbers in this year's table were the University for the Creative Arts which has moved up 24 places to 62nd, Abertay in Dundee which has risen 20 places to joint 91st, the Arts University, Bournemouth, up 18 to 57th, Derby, up 16 to joint 87th and Manchester Metropolitan, up 15 places to joint 73rd.

Cardiff University rose 12 places to number 23, in joint position with Leeds University, which went up nine places.

But Imperial College dropped from fourth to sixth place and University College London fell from seventh to ninth place.

Glasgow and Huddersfield both drooped seven places to 30 and 70 respectively.

And ten universities fell at least 10 places. These were: Royal Agricultural University, down 32 places, Aberystwyth, down 17, Birmingham City, down 16, St George's, University of London, down 12, Hull, Northampton, Buckinghamshire New University and Anglia Ruskin, all down 11 places and Bedfordshire and Ulster, down 10.

Principal author Dr Bernard Kingston said: "Many of the changes this year are attributable to changes in definitions and weighting.

"There was an official and fundamental review of the staff record data between the two years, while the old distinction between graduate and non-graduate employment has been replaced by one between professional and non-professional employment."

He added that the rankings give would-be students ”an accurate and independent guide to the UK university system“.

Additional reporting by Press Association