The battle of Birmingham's universities has intensified after Aston claimed it was now the city's leading higher education establishment.
It came after Aston overtook Birmingham University – the city’s oldest established seat of learning – for the first time in a prestigious university league table.
Birmingham, the first "redbrick" university when it was founded in 1906, fell ten places to 33 in the Good University Guide 2007.
Aston, which became a university in 1966 after years as the Birmingham Municipal Technical School, rose 13 places to 13th after strong increases in spending and degree results.
James Seymour, Head of Schools and Colleges Liaison at Aston, said he was "delighted" they were now "the top university in Birmingham".
But a University of Birmingham spokeswoman defended its record, saying the guide was not an accurate reflection of the centre's performance and it had improved in two other international tables.
Aston's performance was attributed to improved job prospects for graduates, a better ratio of staff to students and higher spending on libraries, IT and other facilities.
The guide said it had remained "resolutely specialist in science and technology, business and languages", and highlighted its funding links with industry and commerce.
Aston spent an average of #1,277 per student on facilities like books, computers, sports and healthcare in the last academic year, compared with #921 for Birmingham.
More than 76 per cent of students leaving Aston had graduate jobs within a year of leaving, compared with 68.1 per cent of Birmingham's graduates.
Birmingham University, described by the guide as enjoying particularly high prestige in the region and with a highly regarded medical school, improved slightly in most of the categories but was overtaken by improvements at other establishments.
Both universities charge undergraduate students about #3,000 a year in tuition fees but in January the Russell Group of elite universities – of which Birmingham is a member – said they hoped they would be allowed to put fees up to as high as #6,000 per year.
The city's other university, UCE, rose 15 places to be ranked 63rd out of the 109 institutions across the UK.
Mr Seymour said: "It's good for the city that there are three different universities, offering different things. But we are definitely competitors, in terms of the students we are trying to recruit."
He said the fact Aston offered more vocational "sandwich" courses, where students spend a year of their degree working in industry, was probably a factor in their higher levels of employed graduates.
The spokeswoman for the University of Birmingham said its overall league table performance remained positive.
"Since 2003, the quality of Birmingham's undergraduate intake in terms of A-level point scores has improved year-on-year," she said.
"Birmingham has also improved its position in two well-respected international league tables, The Times Higher World Rankings and the Jiao Tong Academic World Ranking."
The highest placed Midland institution in The Times Good University Guide 2007 is Warwick, which remained unchanged at eighth position. Staffordshire improved six places on last year to 74th spot while Wolverhampton fell five to 99th.
Birmingham University has angered student union leaders by spending nearly #1 million on direction signs. The 222 signs directing students around the Edgbaston and Selly Oak campuses cost #4,500 each. Most students asked said they thought the signs were very helpful.
But the university's Guild of Students is less happy – the Guild building has been left off the signs completely.
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