Menu Close

The Universities That Make The Most Pro Sports Stars

students in gym scaled

New research from PureGym has revealed which universities are most likely to turn students into pro sports stars. 

With a new university year just around the corner, the national gym chain wanted to find out which universities sports enthusiasts should head to if they want to improve their chances of going pro.  

Researchers reviewed the origins of over 10,000 notable sporting alumni from universities in both the UK and the United States, and found that in the United Kingdom, it’s Durham University that leads the way. 

Topping the league table with an impressive 141 students who have turned pro in their respective sports following their time at the university, Durham has long been a celebrated sporting institution. 

Its sporting alumni include international rhythmic gymnast (and now TV pro) Gabby Logan, Olympic champion Jonathan Edwards and Holly Colvin, the youngest ever cricketer to play for England. Durham has also been named as Britain’s top Team Sports university, adding to its strong sporting credentials. 

Oxford and Cambridge complete the podium, with Oxford narrowly beating its rival, having played home to thirteen more sporting pros, including the likes of William Webb Ellis, the originator of the sport of rugby and Steph Cook MBE, the Sydney 2000 gold medal-winning pentathlete.  

The UK Universities That Produce The Most Professional Sports Stars 

Rank University # of Pro Sports Stars 
1 Durham University 141 
2 University of Oxford 86 
3 University of Cambridge 73 
4 Loughborough University 38 
5 University of Edinburgh 31 
6 University of Birmingham 30 
7 University of Bath 28 
8 Cardiff Metropolitan University 25 
9 Brunel University London 20 
10 Northumbria University 19 

In America, sport is an even bigger aspect of college life, with college teams garnering as much or even more support than the professional leagues. Plus, with such an array of popular sports in the states, it’s no surprise so many more pro athletes are created at university level. 

Winning the title of the college that creates the most pros, the University of Florida has helped some 750 professional sports stars on their way since the university was founded in 1905. These include famous quarterback Tim Tebow and 12-time Olympic medallist Dara Torres.  

The rest of the top ten is littered with recognisable names, such as the University of Michigan, home to seven-time Superbowl champ Tom Brady and Olympic icon Michael Phelps, and the University of Southern California which is the court of choice for world-renowned tennis pro Stan Smith, and Stanford University, which counts John McEnroe among its most famous sporting alumni.  

The US Universities That Produce The Most Professional Sports Stars 

Rank University # of Pro Sports Stars 
University of Florida 750 
University of Michigan 633 
University of Southern California 545 
University of Wisconsin-Madison 511 
University of Notre Dame 489 
Florida State University 347 
Georgia Institute of Technology 332 
Vanderbilt University 326 
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 259 
10 Stanford University 246 

Commenting on the research Stephen Rowe, Chief Marketing Officer at PureGym said: “Choosing the right university is a big choice in any student’s life, and if sport is a large part of what you do, that is undoubtedly going to play a part in the decision-making process too.  

If your dream is to go pro, choosing a university that consistently produces the most athletes may help to give you a leg up, especially if they’re known for having world-class sports facilities or scholarships.  

Whether you’re interested in a career in sports or not, keeping fit and healthy is an important part of student life. We’re proud to have 320+ low-cost gyms across the UK to help students stay active around their studies.” 

PureGym offer discounted memberships of up to 30% for students across the UK. To find out more on the study, visit: 

For more information on student discounts, visit: