Nottingham is now only the second English city outside London with two universities inside the top 40 of a respected league table of academic and job performance.
Nottingham Trent University rose 19 places to 34th in the ranking published by the Guardian, while the University of Nottingham jumped six places to 19th in the UK.
Trent is now in its highest position ever and is 13th in the UK in terms of student satisfaction.
Coventry also has two universities performing well – both Coventry and Warwick, which is in Coventry, are inside the top 20.
The Guardian’s annual table focuses heavily on student satisfaction, teaching quality and employability.
Nottingham Trent University Vice-Chancellor Professor Edward Peck says these criteria are what the university has been focusing on and improving in recent years.
“I was expecting us to go up but to be honest I was not expecting us to go up by 19 places, the big thing is now to sustain it and improve it next year,” he said.
“It is great news for the university, four out of five of our graduates have a graduate-level job or have entered graduate-level higher education six months after leaving us, which is an astonishing figure for the sector and reflects the work we do with students to help them fulfil their career ambitions.”
The development and growth of Nottingham as a city has also played a role in the university’s rankings, he added.
“Nottingham’s economic growth and vibrancy is better than most of the cities in the UK and a major part of that is what students bring to the university and their student experience but more importantly what they bring to the city’s employers when they get their first jobs, so it is massively important that there are two great universities in the city.
“When I was interviewed to be Vice-Chancellor I told the panel Nottingham Trent should be a top 30 university, hopefully we will achieve that next year – then we can look at being in the top 20 and it is entirely in our in our gift, if we complete our strategy, that we can do that.”
Registrar of the University of Nottingham, Dr Paul Greatrix, says his university’s rise into the top 20 has been down to three key areas, including a heavy investment into the employability of students, which has seen 82.5 per cent of graduates in a job or in further higher education.
He said: “Our position comes from everyone across the board pulling together and the hard work we have done with student satisfaction, the employment of our students and better retention of high quality staff and student body.
“For us, it is not about the league table but about doing the right things for the university.”
He added: “It is a lot like the importance of having top football teams performing well in a city, it can have a huge impact on the attraction of an area, it is a virtuous circle.
“£1.5 billion in investment a year depend on this university in the region and I am sure Trent is up there too because the universities are big players in the economic and social life of the city.”
The table was topped by Cambridge, followed by Oxford University. St Andrews, in Scotland, was third.