Inspired by the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021, we’ve compiled our very own whitepaper looking at universities across the UK that are the most influential on social media. The report explores how the rankings translate to the world of social media, and highlights the lessons educators can take from the top performers.

With social media playing a bigger role than ever when it comes to student recruitment, our study set out to explore whether there’s any correlation between an universities ‘traditional’ academic excellence and social media influence. To look into this, we analysed the top 20 universities featured in the Sunday Times league table, and re-ordered the list according to the institutions relative social media influence. Using insight and analysis tools, three factors were taken into consideration; online share of voice; social media community size and finally, social media engagement. All fields were then averaged out to produce a final ranking.

Key findings from the report include:

  • The University of Birmingham tops the social media influencer league, despite it only ranking 19th in the Sunday Times table.
  • Imperial College London comes joint second in the social influencer league, despite it ranking fifth in the Sunday Times league table.
  • The country’s best universities are not necessarily best when it comes to social influence. Topping the Sunday Times table were Cambridge (first), Oxford (second) and St Andrews (third), yet these institutions ranked joint second, fourth and 12th, in the social league respectively.
  • The universities securing the strongest social media engagement were; St Andrews; Bath; Birmingham; Glasgow and Leeds.
  • Oxford and Cambridge universities have huge share of voice and online communities, though lack strong social media engagement, which keeps them off the top spot.
  • Non-Russell Group universities fail to break into the top 10 influencer league table – though Bath and Lancaster reach the top 20.
The Prohibition university social media influence league table


We found the results of our social media influence league to be interesting and in fact, quite surprising! We already know that for higher education institutions, official rankings play a huge part in influencing student recruitment. However, all too often, universities can underestimate the role social media can play in the recruitment process, and fail to embrace the full potential these channels offer. From our report, we can clearly see democratisation of the traditional Sunday Times table; lower ranked universities are able to chart much higher, thanks in part to their innovative approach to social media and engaging content. To highlight these findings, here is the social media influence league table in full:

Ranking / University / Total score (out of 60) / Sunday Times Score

1 University of Birmingham (50) / (19)

2 Imperial College London (47) / (5)

2 University of Cambridge (47) / (1)

4 University of Oxford (46) / (2)

5 University of Glasgow (45) / (14)

6 University of Edinburgh (43) / (17)

7 London School of Economics (40) (4)

8 University College London (UCL) (35) / (8)

9 University of Leeds (34) / (15)

10 University of York (30) /(20)

11 University of Manchester (29) / (18)

12 University of St Andrews (25) / (3)

13 University of Bath (24) / (9)

14 University of Durham (23) / (6)

14 University of Southampton (23) / (15)

14 Loughborough University (23) / (7)

17 University of Warwick (20) / (10)

18 University of Lancaster (19) / (10)

19 University of Bristol (18) / (13)

20 University of Exeter (10) / (12)

To download the full whitepaper, for free, click here.

At Prohibition, we help a variety of brands to create engaging social media strategies that help to achieve their business goals. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you:

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About Abbey Gray

Junior Account Manager at Prohibition PR. First class journalism graduate, passionate writer and novice baker! Based in Leeds.