Leeds is also the highest ranked among the Russell Group of research-intensive universities and scores particularly highly for its campus environment, facilities and extra-curricular activities.
Professor Tom Ward, Deputy-Vice-Chancellor: Student Education said: “This position is a wonderful tribute to the staff and students that make Leeds what it is: a University that excels in the quality of its teaching, its research, its international offer and – as this result testifies – in the way it nurtures its students by creating a supportive and friendly environment.
“I’ve been talking to and hearing about staff and students all over the University who consistently go the extra mile to get the most out of their time here and to help others to do the same. I am thrilled for them that Leeds has got this recognition.
“The key is working together. We might have one of the largest campuses in the UK but we foster a small community feel. I think it’s something that we do very well indeed, and it’s great to receive this endorsement from our students.”
Here are some success stories showing how the University earned its top three spot.
Second year History student Harry Brown is a sports scholar who has been mentored by Head of Football, Steve Grimes.
The pair’s paths first crossed eight years ago, when Steve coached Harry at Manchester City Academy. Harry went on to sign for York City, but when his playing career didn’t progress, Steve was there to support him once more, this time encouraging him to apply to study at Leeds.
Harry now coaches several of the senior teams and works with a junior academy to pass on his knowledge to children aged four to 14.
Steve says: “I’ve seen him grow from a young player into a young man. He has been a great success here and I’m very proud to see him progress the way he has.”
Harry is equally full of praise for the support he has received from Steve. He adds: “Coaching has given my confidence a massive boost, and having someone like Steve as a mentor has been a big part of this. I can go to him for advice on anything and my leadership skills have really grown.
“The great thing about being a sports scholar is I’m not just sat in a library scrolling through books all the time. It’s not just about getting a good degree – you get a much more rounded education at Leeds.”
Teaching and learning are key aspects of the student experience, and as well as success in the Times Higher survey, the University achieved a Gold rating in the first Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) – the highest award possible.
The assessment said “students from all backgrounds achieve consistently outstanding outcomes” and that independent learning is supported by “outstanding physical and digital resources.”
Among the many achievements during her time at Leeds, final year Textiles student Lucy Guy has recently won a major competition run through the UK Fashion and Textiles Association and sponsored by Marks & Spencer.
She is quick to credit School of Design studio technician Ian Rees with the support he has given her in using the sort of high-tech knitting machinery used in industry.
“Ian is a lifesaver,” she says. “We’re lucky at Leeds because we have fantastic technology and people like Ian who work with us to understand it. At other universities students aren’t allowed near this sort of equipment.”
“Students here can programme their own piece of fabric and get an understanding of the machinery,” says Ian. “This is hugely valuable as it puts them ahead of the game when they apply for jobs. It’s quite unusual in the sector.”
The independent TEF panel judged that the University delivers “consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students, of the highest quality found in the UK”.
Holly Smith’s dream of becoming a police officer has moved several steps closer since meeting University police officer PC Becky Hurrell.
The second year Law student decided to do a degree to give herself options, and chose Leeds because she could specialise in policing in the third year.
She also wanted to go to a Russell Group university close to where she grew up in West Yorkshire. “Leeds is perfect for me,” she says.
PC Hurrell works with student volunteers such as Holly in the local community.
“Working with Becky has built up my confidence so much, and now I’m applying to be a Special Constable, which will be a great step on the path to becoming a police officer.”
“Mentoring Holly is easy because she’s clever!” says Becky.
Italian Laura Manzi is in her second year of a BA in English and Comparative Literature. “Student life is about so much more than studying,” she says, “it’s about the whole experience.”
MSc Chemical Engineering student Ahmed Othman, from Yemen, agrees. “As international students, we wanted to study at Leeds because of its great reputation.”
Ahmed and Laura work as International Activities Assistants with Leeds University Union and the University’s International Student Office to help all students enjoy and benefit from cross-cultural experiences.
Volunteering is a key part of this, as Saudi Arabian Khalid Alnahdi found when he arrived to study English and got involved in sports-related activities.
Ahmed says: “Volunteering is a great way for students to make friends and there are such a wide range of activities, including working with children and older people in the wider community and sports.”
The International Student Office also helped first year Sustainability and Environmental Management student Felisha Chong to get involved with University life. She signed up to a food demonstration run by the Office and Great Food At Leeds to celebrate Lunar New Year.
“I want to understand more about the University and to meet new people. Student support at Leeds is really good. Taking part in events like food demonstrations is fun and a good way to feel a part of what is happening at Leeds,” she says.
Earlier this month, Leeds was also recognised as one of the most international universities in a new ranking – also published by Times Higher Education – which places the institution among the top 50 in the world. Leeds has risen more than 100 places this year to be ranked at 47th place.
Liberty Anstead credits volunteering as a key part of her student life. She helps out at Rooted – Leeds University Union's community food project – which supports local biodiversity, improves employability skills for students and creates strong links between them, the University and the wider community.
Speaking in a roof garden greenhouse, Kate Kirkpatrick, a part-time project assistant with Rooted, says: “There is an incredible sense of calm and wellbeing here, which students find really attractive.
“It can be daunting moving away from home to University. You can get stuck in the bubble of student life, but this is the perfect escape from all the academic pressures you can face.”
Liberty, a second year English and Music student, says: “I come here because it’s so relaxing and meditative. I love working with Kate and the rest of the team. Everyone is so friendly and supportive.”
This year’s overall score is comprised of scores from the past three years, which has seen Leeds rise from sixth place in 2016, fourth in 2017 and now enters the top three for the first time.
Ioannis Delis, Physiological Society (Jul 2018), £10,000
Scott Bowen, Physiological Society (Jul 2018), £10,000
Steve Clapcote, Jamie Johnston, The Dunhill Medical Trust (Jun 2018), £254,874
Adrian Goldman, MRC (Jun 2018), £98,627
Darren Tomlinson, Michelle Peckham, Megan Wright, BBSRC (Jun 2018), £150,443
Simon Walker, Royal Society (Jun 2018), £337,601
Tom Thirkell, N8 Agrifood (Jun 2018), £14,870
Stephen Muench with Glaxo SmithKline & UCB Celltech, BBSRC Industrial Partnership Award (Apr 2018), £480,225
Steve Clapcote, BBSRC (Apr 2018), £443,072
Helen Miller, Innovate UK (Apr 2018), £999,960
Elisabetta Groppelli, David Rowlands & Stanley Lemon (University of North Carolina), Medical Research Foundation Fellowship (Apr 2018), £293,494
Nikesh Patel, Medical Research Foundation fellowship (Apr 2018), £290,976
Graham Askew with colleagues in Hull and Liverpool, BBSRC (Apr 2018), £150,498
Andrew Macdonald, Neil Ranson & Richard Foster, Kidney Research UK (Apr 2018), £82,821
Jessica Kwok & Ralf Richter, Leverhulme Trust (Apr 2018), £298,273
Julie Aspden, Royal Society (Apr 2018), £20,000
Liz Duncan, Royal Society (Mar 2018), £14,602
Alex O'Neill & Ryan Seipke, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £45,489
Jim Deuchars, Royal Society (Feb 2018), £16,300
Stefan Kepinski & Netta Cohen, Leverhulme Trust (Feb 2018), £320,387
Lisa Collins, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £49,950
Alison Baker, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £30,000
Nikita Gamper, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £30,000
Lars Jeuken, BBSRC (Feb 2018), £30,000
Scott Bowen, Leducq Foundation Grant (Feb 2018), £28,470
Jessica Kwok and Ronaldo Ichiyama, International Spinal Research Trust (Feb 2018), £94,450
Alex O'Neill, Oxford Drug Design (Jan 2018), £86,098
Dave Lewis and Colleagues in South Africa, HEFCE Global Challenge Research (Jan 2018), £48,000
Sarah Calaghan, Ed White, John Colyer, Isuru Jayasinghe, BHF (Jan 2018), £128,308
Christine Foyer and Alison Baker, HEFCE GCRF Grant (Jan 2018), £71,158
Alison Baker, Yun Yung Gong and Lindsay Stringer and ICRISAT India, HEFCE GCRF Grant (Jan 2018), £27,000
Graham Askew, Simon Walker, BBSRC (Jan 2018), £699,781
Jennifer Tomlinson, Royal Society (Jan 2018), £512,801
Alison Dunn, NERC (Dec 2017), £18,000
Jennifer Tomlinson, Royal Society-Research Fellows Enhancement Award (Dec 2017), £94,681
Helen Miller, AB AGri Grant (Dec 2017), £73,600
Simon Walker, Royal Society Enhancement Award (Dec 2017), £10,000
Carrie Ferguson, Bryan Taylor, Harry Rossiter, The Physiological Society (Dec 2017), £7,392
Ralf Richter, Royal Society (Dec 2017), £6,000
Christine Foyer, British Council Newton Fund (Dec 2017), £49,840
Adrian Whitehouse and colleagues in School of Chemistry and University of Liverpool, MRC (Nov 2017), £622,319
Michelle Peckham, Neil Ransom, MRC (Nov 2017), £495,159
Dave Lewis, British Council India (Nov 2017), £22,540
Elton Zeqiraj, Royal Society (Nov 2017), £15,000
Hannah Dugdale, Royal Society (Nov 2017), £15,000
Shaunna Burke, Cancer Research UK Innovation Grant (Nov 2017), £20,000
Alex O'Neill and colleagues in Chemistry, BBSRC (Nov 2017), £431,865
Jessica Kwok, Wings for Life (Nov 2017), £87,365
Tom Bennett, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £523,679
Neil Ranson, Darren Tomlinson, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £494,318
Nikita Gamper, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £490,426
Amanda Bretman and colleagues from UEA, NERC (Oct 2017), £430,886
Juan Fontana, Rosetrees Trust consumables grant (Oct 2017), £22,500
Helen Miller, DSM Nutritional Products AG (Sep 2017), £69,988
Neil Ranson, Juan Fontana, Mark Harris, Michelle Peckham, Ralf Richter, Peter Stockley, Patricija Van Oosten-Hawle and colleagues in Engineering, FMH and MAPS, Wellcome Trust Equipment Call (Sep 2017), £418,000
Jamie Johnston, Physiological Society (Sep 2017), £10,000
Frank Sobott, Adrian Goldman, Mark Harris, Andrew Macdonald, Stephen Muench, Sheena Radford and colleagues in FMH and MAPS, Wellcome Trust Equipment Call (Aug 2017), £415,000