SWANSEA UNIVERSITY has the best civil engineering department in Britain according to the Guardian newspaper's university league table published this week.
It comes out ahead of heavyweight university departments like Imperial College London, Warwick University and Bristol.
Swansea's success is partly due to its record of delivering good quality graduates from school leavers with relatively low A level grades.
But it also scored highest in teaching quality, achieving a score of 23 out of 24 in the recent national Teaching Quality Assessment (TQA) ratings. This compares to 21 for Imperial and Warwick and 22 for Bristol.
The Guardian's rating system favours universities with good teaching records rather than those which are stronger at producing research.
The idea is to highlight universities which give students the best education - particularly now they pay their own tuition fees.
Swansea dean of engineering Professor Bob Cryan was not surprised by Swansea's success and maintained that the university's high quality research did help increase the quality of the teaching.
'Civil engineering is a five star research rated department and this has definitely pushed the standard. We have a very highly rated teaching department and I personally believe that the two are closely linked.'
The Guardian marks universities out of 100 based on offical teaching quality assessments, spending per student, student/staff ratio, job prospects and academic reputation.
A special value added score - unique to the Guardian's analysis - rewards departments for producing upper second or first class degree graduates from students with relatively poor A levels. In the top 10, Swansea, Cardiff, Plymouth and Bath all scored well in this category.
This rating reflects the increasing numbers of students going to university. Even the best engineering departments increasingly inherit problems from the changing school system in the UK. Many are reporting below standard basic skills among school leavers.
'There are big gaps in student knowledge coming into university, ' said Colin Kerr, head of administration at Imperial College, London. 'Students may have an A level in maths but that does not necessarily mean that they have the bedrock skills in calculus and statistics.'