University league tables: serious stuff

Counting what is measured or measuring what counts? League tables and their impact on higher education institutions in England

A report on League tables commissioned by Hefce has recently been published. This is a serious piece of work and a helpful overview of five league tables, national and international, together with some details on the impact of each of the indicators used.

A helpful piece of reading for anyone with an interest in University league tables it explains

– flaky stats – some of the measures used are pretty poor proxies for quality

– current league tables don’t give anything like a full picture of the sector

– institutions all seem to think that other universities are cleverly manipulating results in ways that they are not

– institutions really do take the league tables seriously and feel they have a serious impact on students and staff.

One of the conclusions though is that the compilers’ methodologies for the tables should be more transparent. Whilst this would be nice I do really think it is quite unlikely – then we’d all be able to do it, and to point out even more errors than we do now.

Well worth reading though.

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2009 Guardian University League Table

It’s that time of year again, when everyone is producing their league tables. So, now the Guardian one is out. And there are some pretty extraordinary results in here with, for example, Bournemouth and Nottingham Trent both appearing above Liverpool and Newcastle. The top 20 features less than half of the Russell Group. Not entirely clear what the reasons for these results are.

The top 45 are listed below:

University ranking
Tariff band Guardian score/100
1 Oxford 100.0
2 Cambridge 92.9
3 London School of Economics 84.3
4 Warwick 81.5
5 St Andrews 78.3
6 Imperial College 78.0
7 UCL 76.6
8 SOAS 74.2
9 Edinburgh 73.4
10 Loughborough 72.7
11 York 72.5
12 Lancaster 71.7
13 University of the Arts, London 71.2
14 Bath 71.0
15 Exeter 70.8
15 Leicester 70.8
17 Durham 69.1
18 Dundee 67.8
19 Aston 67.1
19 Nottingham 67.1
21 Glasgow 67.0
22 King’s College London 66.4
23 Surrey 66.3
24 Aberdeen 66.1
25 Manchester 65.9
26 Southampton 65.7
27 City 64.9
27 Leeds 64.9
29 Kent 64.7
30 Strathclyde 64.2
31 Birmingham 64.0
32 Bristol 63.7
33 Stirling 62.9
34 Cardiff 62.6
35 Sussex 62.3
36 Essex 62.0
36 Royal Holloway 62.0
38 Sheffield 61.8
39 Bournemouth 61.5
40 Reading 61.3
40 UEA 61.3
42 Nottingham Trent 60.8
43 Goldsmiths 60.6
44 Newcastle 60.3
45 Liverpool 60.1