Queen Mary University of London has been beaten only by Oxford and Cambridge while other Russell Group universities have tumbled in the latest guide to the best places to study law in the UK. 

The East London-based university came third in the this year’s Guardian University Guide 2018.

London South Bank University, Ulster and Edinburgh Napier enter the top 20 having missed out last year, while Russell Group members Birmingham and Warwick, traditionally thought to be in the elite club of UK universities, have dropped out.

The biggest climber was London South Bank University, which rose from 58th to 13th. The Elephant & Castle based university placed higher than Russell Group members Nottingham, Warwick, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Newcastle and Sheffield.

But the group hit back today, claiming that applicants should 'look beyond' league tables. Head of policy Sarah Stevens said: 'League tables are a useful tool for applicants and it is no surprise to see Russell Group institutions scoring well here. But it is hard for any university ranking to capture the full student experience that an institution provides. Applicants should look beyond league tables to pick the course that is right for them.

'The quality of research that academics at Russell Group universities undertake is not measured in this ranking but has real benefits for students, who have the chance to learn from world-leading experts in their fields.'

Queen Mary Uni

Queen Mary University of London

Professor Valsamis Mitsilegas, head of the Department of Law at QMUL, said he was 'delighted' with its performance.

'It confirms our position as a leading UK law school, and we’re thrilled to be number one in London. This comes in a year when we improved our position in the QS rankings, in which Law at QMUL is now placed in the top 40 globally.

'While rankings aren’t everything, this news is a welcome boost and underlines the fact that we’re heading in the right direction for our students. We put our students at the heart of our efforts – this means this means combining an academically rigorous degree with a focus on skills and employability.’

Despite the good news for QMUL, this year’s list was less favourable for London’s traditional top institutions.

London School of Economics retained its place in the top five but University College London and King's College London have both dropped places. UCL slips from fifth to tenth while King's is placed eleventh, down from fourth.

The annual list ranks universities, and the various subject departments, on criteria including teaching, feedback and the career progression of former students.

A rival list published earlier this year, the QS World University Rankings, placed Oxford first in the UK, Cambridge second, LSE third and UCL fourth.

The Guardian list of the top 20 universities compared with their 2017 position is below.

1 Cambridge 1
2 Oxford 2
3 QMUL 5
4 Durham 7
5 London School of Economics 3
6 Dundee 8
7 UEA 10
8 Leeds 22
9 York 18
10 UCL 5
11 King's College London 4
12 Edinburgh Napier 24
13 London South Bank 58
13 Queen’s Belfast 11
15 Kent 15
15 Nottingham 17
17 Aberdeen 13
18 Robert Gordon 9
19 Edinburgh 12
20 Ulster 39