New 2010 Independent University League Table

New Independent League Table just published for 2010

First of the season is out (Guardian and Times to follow in May) and not a huge amount to write home about. Bath, Edinburgh, Aston and Southampton all have reasons for contentment with good rises. Others will be less content about slippage.

1 Oxford (1)
2 Cambridge(2)
3 Imperial College (3)
4 London School of Economics (3)
5 Durham (6)
6 Warwick (5)
7 St Andrews (7)
8 University College London (8)
9 Bath (14)
10 York (11)
11 Edinburgh (21)
12 Lancaster (10)
13 Southampton (20)
13 Aston (23)
15 SOAS (9)
16 Bristol (16)
17 King’s College London (15)
18 Loughborough (13)
19 Nottingham (16)
20 Leicester (12)

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New internships for graduates this summer

Government launches ‘Graduate Talent Pool’ which is intended to boost opportunities for graduates.

A new dedicated website, which will match employers with suitable graduates will be launched over the summer, although interested organisations can register their interest in becoming part of the Graduate Talent Pool today online at www.dius.gov.uk/graduatetalentpool. Businesses that have already signed up to the Talent Pool include Network Rail, the Police Service, Marks and Spencer and Microsoft. During the current economic downturn the Government is looking to support graduates seeking work. The aim is for the ‘Graduate Talent Pool’ to support 5,000 internships, building on the 2,000 already achieved through HEFCE’s Economic Challenge Investment Fund and will sit alongside other additional graduate opportunities…

Meanwhile, the University of Nottingham has won a share of the Economic Challenge Investment Fund and with match funding from the University and local businesses this will:

provide £1m for the Centre for Career Development (CCD), the Institute of Enterprise and Innovation (UNIEI) and the Graduate School to deliver the ‘Talent Builder’ project. The project will offer internships to graduates, post-graduates and unemployed professionals. It will also offer a recession proofing programme to strengthen current businesses and support new start-up companies.

So, although prospects are reported as being rather gloomy for graduates, substantial efforts are being made by DIUS and universities and these internship opportunities should make a difference.

Recession beating idea: Shut a few universities

BBC report on a new think tank publication which proposes that weak universities ‘should shut’:

Struggling universities should be allowed to close or be taken over by the private sector, says a think thank.

Policy Exchange says that the government should accept the idea that universities could go out of business.closed-sign

Universities receive £8bn in public money, but they face no threat of closure if they fail, says the report. Anna Fazackerley, head of education at the think tank, says the culture of saving universities means they are “unable to learn lessons from failure”. The report, Sink or Swim? Facing up to failing universities, says that there has been a deeply-embedded assumption that universities will always be “shored up” regardless of their difficulties.

Seems to me that if an institution has been shut down there aren’t many more lessons which it can learn. And which part of our currently less than sparkling private sector is going to be best placed to take on such challenges? Especially under a PFI deal as the report suggests. This appears to me to be a simplistic and wrong-headed approach to a complex and challenging issue.

A “cheerless science”?

Not quite the dismal science that is economics but not far off it seems.

From the obituary of Sir Neil MacCormick, Regius professor of law at Edinburgh:

Not content with teaching, writing and research, he enjoyed and excelled in the cheerless science of academic administration, serving over many years as dean of faculty, provost of law and social sciences and vice-principal.

Cheerless? Really? Or has the fun associated with the activity been seriously underestimated?

How real is the concern over degree standards?

Guardian story: Take concern over degree standards seriously, universities warned

Whilst MPs will always find ways to give VCs and universities a hard time, they can rarely be accused of getting too close to the serious issues. But where is the evidence for this huge public concern about degree standards? And are the responses the right way forward in the context of what is inevitably going to be a reduction in public funding for universities?

Universities must take public concern over degree standards seriously if they want to make the case for more investment by the taxpayer, the new head of the higher education funding body warned yesterday. Speaking on his first day in the job, Sir Alan Langlands, the former chief executive of the NHS, took vice-chancellors to task when they complained about being “roasted” by MPs during an inquiry into qualifications at British universities and the quality of the student experience.

“Sometimes select committees catch the public mood. There is real public interest which needs to be addressed. If there is some scepticism we have to be able to take that head on and deal with it,” said Langlands, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce).

But is there really a big public concern about standards? There just doesn’t seem to be much evidence to support the notion that there is widespread scepticism about degrees.

Prof Rick Trainor, vice-chancellor of King’s College London and president of Universities UK, said they had been given a roasting by the committee and that universities and Hefce should act together against a “sustained campaign of scepticism” by MPs and others.

Baroness Blackstone, vice-chancellor of Greenwich, said there had been some grade inflation in numbers of firsts and 2:1 degrees due to league tables and the sooner universities moved away from this crude assessment the better.

Whilst there is a debate to be had about the replacement of degree classification (and attempts are still being made to promote the alternatives), accepting the proposition that the proportion of good degrees has risen because of league table driven grade inflation doesn’t seem to be a helpful starting point in countering the sceptics.

Prof Geoff Crossick, warden of Goldsmiths London, said the maintenance of standards was fragile because of lack of resources. “Quality will be under threat in coming years and we need to be able to resist reductions in funding,” he said.

But funding has gone up, including as a result of variable fees, and to argue that there is fragility in standards maintenance and that quality is threatened does seem somewhat disingenuous in an economic climate where there is only one direction we can expect public funding for universities to be heading. It is far from clear how this is going to be resisted by the sector given the funding gains and the pay increases in recent years.

On the prospects of future funding, Langlands warned: “I have been involved in government spending negotiations for 15 years and I have known a less propitious time for arguing for public investment.”

(This must be a misquote, surely.) Not propitious times at all. And, whilst there might not be a big public debate about degrees at the moment, linking funding demands to the maintenance of standards and quality may end up bringing one about. That really wouldn’t be terribly helpful.