League Tables – a help or hindrance?

Each year prospective students, academics, employers and university alumni alike all flock to view university league tables.

These tables and guides aim to provide a helpful insight into universities and how they are doing in comparison to one another. There are many versions including; The Times Good University Guide, The Guardian University Table, Hot Prospects and The Complete University Guide . Whilst they all aim to give an accurate portrayal of overall performance they often conflict with one another.

They are a constant bone of contention between universities and ranking rivalry is commonplace. This undoubtedly appeals to some primeval will to win but, is it really helpful?

The regular contradictions, the controversial criteria used and the mass of assumptions that are made when  compiling these tables leads us to question, Do they really tell us anything and do they really help students make a sound, fair and reliable choice?

Career Prospects

The career prospect rankings are a good case in point.  Certainly, assessing the career prospects you gain when choosing a university is an important consideration for prospective students but, do the league tables really tell us anything?

For example, this chart highlights that amongst the top 50 universities in the UK there is very little difference between them in terms of job prospects. Therefore should we be looking elsewhere when making decisions on which university to choose?

For example, this chart highlights that amongst the top 50 universities in the UK there is very little difference between them in terms of job prospects. Therefore should we be looking elsewhere when making decisions on which university to choose?

Informed Decisions

Sam Harris, a University Careers Adviser, says, “League tables are  good as a rough guide but really people should base their decision on other things. For example, open days are a great way to decide on a university. Students need to make an informed decision and taking everything into consideration, not just where the institution ranks that year.”

Ranking – One Year to the Next

Sam’s point on the position an institute ranks that year is significant. It seems that there can be so much movement. So, what maybe a good choice one year may not seem like such a good idea the next.

Katie Smith, a graduate from the University of Manchester demonstrates this, “When I was applying to University in 2005 Manchester was around 12th in league tables. Now in 2012 it is ranking in the 40’s in the UK tables.”

“The reputation is still excellent and I can’t imagine the teaching standard has dropped but because it is such a big university and the tables take things into consideration like staff ratio and facilities per student it is giving a false impression. The fact that it ranks around 40 in the world university rankings which obviously have to take in so many more places shows the UK tables aren’t really that representative.”

2012 Rank 2011 2010 2009 Institution
1 2 2 2 Cambridge
2 1 1 1 Oxford
3 4 3 5 St Andrews
4 8 5 3 London School of Economics
5 5 6 7 UCL
6 3 4 4 Warwick
7 6 16 12 Lancaster
8 17 14 16 Durham
9 9 10 10 Loughborough
10 7 8 6 Imperial College
11 14 13 14 Exeter
11 15 18 33 Sussex
13 11 12 8 SOAS
14 13 9 13 Bath
15 9 11 11 York
16 15 7 9 Edinburgh
17 12 15 14 Leicester
18 19 35 40 UEA
19 21 26 19 Nottingham
19 20 27 22 Surrey
21 23 17 20 Glasgow
22 24 21 26 City
23 27 45 28 Kent
24 30 24 30 Birmingham
25 33 29 31 Bristol
26 22 19 17 Dundee
27 32 22 52 Heriot-Watt
28 18 22 25 Southampton
29 25 38 29 Strathclyde
30 25 24 21 King’s College London
31 37 40 43 Newcastle
32 45 41 39 Reading
33 31 30 36 Sheffield
34 36 19 18 Aston
35 41 31 34 Royal Holloway
36 46 57 47 Queen Mary
37 35 28 27 Leeds
38 27 36 50 Robert Gordon
39 46 44 32 Cardiff
39 43 48 35 Essex
41 51 32 24 Manchester
42 38 32 37 Bournemouth
42 48 56 57 Oxford Brookes
44 27 36 37 Stirling
45 33 34 23 Aberdeen
46 40 61 - UC Falmouth
47 49 51 48 Plymouth
48 52 62 72 Sunderland
49 39 47 44 Liverpool
50 56 49 46 Queen’s, Belfast
50 49 71 69 Aberystwyth

An Overview

Of course league tables do have there uses. They are a very quick and easy way to get an overview of universities and a bit of healthy competition and rivalry doesn’t hurt. Just remember they do change year to year and there are many other factors to consider.

Top Tips

Just in case you were unsure what to look for Sam Harris gives us top tips for choosing where to study.

  • Look at league tables (They are a good place to start)
  • Go to as many open days as possible
  • Read around – find out as much as you can about the universities your interested in
  • Speak to tutors – particularly if you get an offer. If they want you they will want to here from you
  • Student satisfaction surveys are helpful. They are really useful as this is what people there now are saying
  • Contact student support to find out what extra help they give to student parents
  • Check out the facilities.

Katie

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1 Comment

  1. Jo

     /  May 7, 2012

    I hate league tables! They really don’t give you the full picture.

    Reply

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