A new guide has put Durham University at the top of the region's league, while Sunderland's trails at the bottom in fifth place.
The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 is published this weekend, with its rankings putting Durham in first place, retaining its top title.
While Sunderland is fifth out out the five across the region, it says it, alongside Teesside has made "strides in the national rankings."
Northumbria has been rated top out of all five for its student experience, while it has found Newcastle offers the best job prospects.
Nationally, Durham is ranked seventh, down from fifth last year, Newcastle 21st, up from 26th in 2018's guide, Northumbria is 61st, a move up from 66th, Teesside is joint 65th, compared to 92nd, and Sunderland is 93rd, up three places from 96th.
A spokesman for the guide said: "Durham University retains its title as the top university in the North East by The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019, despite a small fall in its national ranking overall.
"It continues its perfect record for heading the North East rankings throughout the entire 26-year history of The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide.
"Durham is ranked in the top four nationally for high completion rates and the proportion of students achieving firsts and 2:1s."
The free 96-page free supplement will be published this weekend in The Sunday Times.
It provides the definitive rankings for UK universities and the most comprehensive overview of higher education in Britain.
It includes profiles on 132 universities and the most authoritative UK university league table, making use of the latest data published in the past two months.
A fully searchable website with university profiles and 67 subject tables will be published at thesundaytimes.co.uk/gooduniversityguide on Sunday for subscribers to The Times and The Sunday Times.
The guide says the University of Sunderland has also made a big improvement in student satisfaction this year with students rating the quality of teaching in the top 40 nationally.
Entry standards are also up, in a year when most institutions with a similar profile have seen declines.
To add to its achievements, the university has been awarded one of the five new medical schools, joining a handful of former polytechnics to have received this accolade.
The school will take its first 50 students in 2019 and have an intake of 100 in later years.
Another coup was the recruitment of Sir David Bell from the University of Reading as the university’s new vice-chancellor.
One of the oldest universities in the UK, Durham continues to excel in all aspects of education and was the highest ranked of six universities upgraded to a gold award in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) this year.
Durham’s courses for geography and environmental science and music are ranked top in the UK in the new Good University Guide subject tables.
It is among the top 20 UK universities for graduate prospects - although second in the North East to Newcastle - with just under 85% of students advancing to professional jobs or graduate-level further study.
As one of the UK’s few collegiate universities, Durham is investing £1 billion into bolstering its digital and physical resources over the next 10 years.
Additionally, the university will continue to enhance its staffing levels by making high-quality appointments as it seeks to grow from 15,000 students to 21,500 by 2027.
In September next year Durham’s Centre for Teaching and Learning is due to open which will offer a range of learning environments and technologies that will allow students to share courses in real time with others from peer institutions around the world.
Fellow North East universities Sunderland and Teesside are among the four Northeast universities to make gains in the national rankings this year.
Teesside moved up seven places in the league table and is now in the top 30 for student satisfaction with the quality of teaching and the top 40 for graduate prospects.
The university continues to reshape its portfolio of courses. Having launched about 40 new programmes in 2017, the university is adding 50 more this month – most of them foundation years leading onto existing degrees.
The university is also set to add to its degree apprenticeships on offer and double the number of apprentices in the next year to 400.
This year Newcastle University has embarked on a new round of construction as part of its £350m urban regeneration project.
The development on the Newcastle Helix site, previously known as Science Central, opened last year when the school of computing moved in.
In 2019 a new sports centre is also due to come on stream, as part of a £30 million investment in sports provision.
The university’s students enjoy the best employment prospects of any university in the North East, with more than 85% of them moving straight into professional employment or further study within six months of graduating.
Out of the Russell Group’s 24 research-led universities, Newcastle has one of the highest proportion of students recruited from the most deprived areas of the United Kingdom.
Improving on last year’s rankings, Northumbria University has moved up five places to rank 61, partly due to increased spending on facilities, moving it to top in the region for student experience.
Standing as the biggest university in North Eas England, it is making its presence known overseas partnering with the Maltese government to run a nursing degree.
In addition, there is a new agreement with Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, where a programme in international business will be open to all undergraduates to enrich their degree.
The university continues to lead the way in degree apprenticeships and plans a significant expansion in 2019.
It is also among the leading universities for graduate start-ups.
The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 provides students and their parents with an invaluable first reference point on the path to finding a university place. It contains full profiles of all universities.
The league table is made up of nine indicators including student satisfaction with teaching quality and their wider student experience, research quality, graduate prospects, entrance qualifications held by new students, degree results achieved, student/staff ratios, service and facilities spend, and degree completion rates.
The Times will complement coverage in The Sunday Times with two further supplements to be published on Monday and Tuesday, September 24 and 25.
These will focus on the best universities for teaching quality and student experience and the universities that come top in different subject areas.
Professor Michael Young Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic said: "We’re pleased to see our University make further gains in the Times and the Sunday Times Good University Guide rankings. Students are at the heart of everything we do, so it’s particularly gratifying to note the high percentage of student satisfaction.
"We have made some significant announcements over the last year, including the opening of our new School of Medicine in 2019, and we are on track to deliver the ambitions set out in our Strategic Plan. Our new Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell joins the University on Monday 24 September."