The varsity match traditionally conjures up images of Oxbridge students doing battle on the rugby field or the cricket pitch. But a new university league table published by The Independent reveals that the true clash of the university titans would be between Loughborough and Bath.
In a comprehensive analysis of inter-university sporting competitions over the past year, the table reveals they have been the most consistently successful. The research, published today for the first time, ranks Loughborough in first place with Bath second. Oxford comes eighth– and Cambridge twelfth.
In recent years Loughborough has built up a reputation for sporting prowess. Currently there are 250 international athletes studying for university degrees there and it has also become the home for the England and Wales Cricket Board's National Academy.
"We give every student who comes here a positive experience of sport – whether it's an Olympic hopeful or someone who wants to kick a football about," said Chris Earle, the university's sports director. "We have 53 different sports clubs you can join and in each of those you can go for gold or just have fun."
Loughborough alumni include the former athletes Sebastian Coe and Steve Backley, Ben Kay, a member of the England World Cup-winning rugby team, and the Nottinghamshire wicket-keeper Chris Read.
Bath University has some of the best sporting facilities of any UK university – with an indoor and outdoor athletics track, 25 metre and 50 metre swimming pools and a fitness studio with four squash courts. Its old boys include the county cricketers Mark Hardinges (Gloucestershire) and Gary Rees (Glamorgan), the England rugby union player Steve Borthwick and the netball player Richard Dunn.
The league table, part of The Complete University Guide published by The Independent, is compiled from the results of inter-university competitions run by the British Universities Sports Association (Busa). Universities are also ranked according to the number of sports clubs they run, the state of their facilities – such as swimming pools and cricket pitches – and the number of teams they have in Busa leagues.
Oxford fell down the rankings because of the relatively small number of teams the university had in Premier Leagues in different sports. It had 11 compared with Loughborough's 21. Its sports facilities – including its world-renowned cricket pitches – also got a lower ranking. Cambridge had nine teams in premier leagues and 22 in all university leagues, compared with Loughborough's 77.
The impact of the league table is likely to be keenly felt among British universities which, with a few exceptions, are beginning to put a lot more emphasis on sports and leisure provision to help justify the cost of a university education.
Best for sport
*7 UWIC, Cardiff
Ranking based on how teams did in inter-university competitions
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