2008 Sunday Times UK University Rankings

Sunday Times League Table published

The final UK league table of the season is now out, courtesy of the Sunday Times. Not too many surprises here:

1. Cambridge
2. Oxford
3. Imperial
4. LSE
5. St Andrews
6. UCL
7. Warwick
8. Durham
9. York
10. Bath
11. Loughborough
12. Southampton
13. Nottingham
14. Exeter
15. Edinburgh
16. Bristol
17. King’s College London
18. Leicester
19. Sheffield
20. Lancaster

One of the distinctive features of this table is the surveys undertaken involving small numbers of head teachers and, this year, academic staff:

More than 2,000 heads of department and admissions tutors across 30 subject areas were contacted for our peer assessment exercise. They were asked to grade from one (poor) to five (excellent) undergraduate provision in their specialist area in fellow institutions. In all, 219 responded.

Not a great response rate and perhaps not too surprising then that:

The final results show a remarkable correlation with our main league table. The top five institutions for peer review all feature within the top six of our overall league table.

Meanwhile in the paper’s other survey:

In our parallel survey of head teachers, questionnaires were sent to the state and independent senior schools that feature in our Parent Power guide of the top academic schools. They were asked to cite universities they felt provided high-quality undergraduate provision. These 1,000-plus schools are putting large numbers of students into the university system every year and we asked their heads to base their judgments on direct experience and feedback from former pupils. More than 1,000 opinions were expressed across 29 subject areas.

Still looks like a pretty limited response given that each head could express, we assume, up to 30 opinions. Again, it would be expected that these results are similar to the main table. We don’t get the details but do know that Oxford is top of both surveys.

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Students “more satisfied than ever before”

According to the Times Higher Education analysis of the latest NSS data, students are more satisfied than they’ve ever been.

For universities in England, students’ overall satisfaction rate rose slightly from 81 per cent last year to 82 per cent, while satisfaction scores in six specific areas, including teaching, assessment and academic support, also all increased. Students are most satisfied with the teaching they receive, with 83 per cent reporting general satisfaction. But satisfaction with “assessment and feedback” remained lower than in other areas, at 64 per cent. Minister for Students Delyth Morgan said: “The continued high level of satisfaction is a welcome testament to the quality of the teaching and learning experience in this country.”

But is this really telling us very much about the real quality of the student experience? Especially when you note the following:

The top UK satisfaction score of 96 per cent went to the University of Buckingham, a private institution. Vice-chancellor Terence Kealey said: “This is the third year that we’ve come top because we are the only university in Britain that focuses on the student rather than on government or regulatory targets. Every other university should copy us and become independent.”

I’m sure students at Buckingham have a distinctive experience but the reasons for this result are perhaps a bit more complicated than suggested here. Still, the NSS does at least provide much-needed fodder (or core data on the quality of the student experience) for the league table compilers.

The full data is available from Hefce. The THE rankings are as follows:

Most-satisfied students
Institution 2005 2006 2007 2008
University of Buckingham 94 93 96
Royal Academy of Music 95 81 90 94
The Open University 95 95 95 94
University of St Andrews 92 94 93
Courtauld Institute of Art 100 81 74 93
University of Cambridge 93
University of Oxford 92 92
University of East Anglia 88 89 89 92
Birkbeck, University of London 90 91 92 92
Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln 88 89 87 92
University of Leicester 89 89 90 92
University of Exeter 86 85 91 91
University of Aberdeen 88 91
Loughborough University 88 88 89 91
Harper Adams University College 90 86 91 90
Aberystwyth University 87 90 90 90
St George’s Hospital Medical School 86 80 87 90
Institute of Education 83 80 90
University of Kent 86 86 88 90
University of Sheffield 86 84 87 89
The table shows the percentage of students, full and part time, who “definitely” or “mostly” agreed with the statement: “Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of my course.”

Hello Freshers: welcoming new students to university

Welcoming new students…

Universities seems to have got an awful lot better at induction in recent years. Judging though by the Cornell University New Students site, UK institutions have quite a long way yet to go.

Although the volume of support material does look a bit overwhelming, it is well organised and accessible. From a UK perspective, the sheer scale of the student support infrastructure is awesome. There is much here we can learn from.

Who wants to be a millionaire? Or is a university degree worth the effort?

Clearly not worth bothering according to the Independent

Are degrees worth the paper they’re printed on? Once, a university education was a passport to a brighter future, a better-paid career, a life of privilege. But after a decade and a half of massive expansion in our higher education system, the ‘gold standard’ qualification is losing its lustre. Is it time for a rethink?

But what exactly is the rethink/alternative proposed here? What we have is a set of observations about the fact that studying at university is not free, that not all graduates enjoy above average earnings within a year of graduating, that parents feel they should support their offspring, that many students work for extra money during their courses and that there is a general view that the degree classification system is not terribly helpful for differentiating performance. And that’s not all:

High-street banks have stopped offering students juicy incentives to sign up for new accounts; last year, banks were offering iPods to new customers, but now offers are more modest, such as free travel insurance or a national railcard.

But iPods are already ubiquitous. A railcard is likely to be worth more to many students than a second iPod. This is hardly revolutionary stuff. But hang on. The big question here is who needs a degree anyway? When we look at the list of successful people named here – Philip Green, Richard Branson, Katie Price, Barclay brothers, Ann Gloag – all of whom are fabulously wealthy – it seems there is a clear message from the Indy: don’t waste your time studying for a degree and you are just certain to be a billionaire. Easy.

Follow-up: Guardian UK University League Table 2009

Follow up to earlier post on the 2009 Guardian League Table.

There have been a couple of revisions to the overall Guardian League Table, which now looks as set out below. The most significant change is the drop of the University of the Arts, London from the dizzy heights of 13th place – perhaps the most surprising feature of the original table – to 45th. Other changes have no doubt been made to the subject tables which can be found here.

Ranking, institution and overall scores are as follows:

1 Oxford 100.0
2 Cambridge 92.9
3 London School of Economics 84.4
4 Warwick 81.6
5 St Andrews 78.4
6 Imperial College 78.1
7 UCL 76.6
8 SOAS 74.3
9 Edinburgh 73.4
10 Loughborough 72.9
11 York 72.5
12 Lancaster 71.8
13 Bath 71.1
14 Exeter 70.9
14 Leicester 70.9
16 Durham 69.2
17 Dundee 67.8
18 Aston 67.3
19 Nottingham 67.2
20 Glasgow 67.0
21 King’s College London 66.5
22 Surrey 66.4
23 Aberdeen 66.1
24 Manchester 66.0
25 Southampton 65.8
26 City 65.4
27 Leeds 65.1
28 Kent 64.8
29 Strathclyde 64.2
30 Birmingham 64.1
31 Bristol 63.7
32 Stirling 62.9
33 Cardiff 62.7
34 Sussex 62.4
35 Royal Holloway 62.2
36 Essex 62.1
37 Sheffield 62.0
38 Bournemouth 61.8
39 Reading 61.4
40 UEA 61.3
41 Nottingham Trent 60.9
42 Goldsmiths 60.7
43 Newcastle 60.4
44 Liverpool 60.1
45 University of the Arts, London 60.0
46 Queen’s, Belfast 59.8
47 Queen Mary 59.7
48 Plymouth 59.3
49 Napier 59.1
50 Robert Gordon 58.6