Sunday Times League Table

Sunday Times League Table is now out

The 2010 Sunday Times Good University Guide. Change at the top but not really “a year of upheaval” as billed:

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

University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is on something of a winning streak. After a second successive victory over Cambridge in the boat race this year, the university has now knocked its light-blue rival off the top of The Sunday Times university league table for the first time.

This feat, after 11 years in second place, earns Oxford The Sunday Times University of the Year award. It edged narrowly ahead of its principal British rival in a year of upheaval in our league table, prompted by the first research assessments in seven years and the move to measuring teaching quality primarily by levels of student satisfaction expressed through the annual national student survey (NSS).

Not really a huge change to the table since last year apart from the diversion of a bit of a boat race going on at the top. Although new NSS scores and 2008 RAE do figure they don’t seem to have made a big difference. The numbers involved in the survey of Heads and peers, which results in one indicator, aren’t obviously identified.

10 thoughts on “Sunday Times League Table

  1. 14th is not as bad as I feared given Nottingham’s dismal performance in league tables recently, but I am still very surprised by its very low tariff score, which now places it at 16th. It used to be consistently in the top 10. In fact, Nottingham is the only Russell Group university to have seen a drop in tariff, all others have seen an average rise of about 20 points in the last 5 years. That makes Nottinghams drop of 20 points massive in comparison.

    In the University Plan for 2007-2010 it said that the University planned to increase its tariff (407 at the time) It is now 2009 and it still hasn’t gone up. What is going on at the University. It is dropping in reputation amongst students more than any other top university, and the powers that be seem oblivious/unable to do anything about it. Sort it out lads and get Nottingham back in the top 10 (or at least top 15) where it belongs. Sure as an enterprise and research university Nottingham is on the up, but without good students and rankings it will lack any modicum of eliteness

    I’d love to know what you guys at Nottingham’s registraism dept think of this

  2. The position is not straightforward and it isn’t where we want to be. The three measures in the table that account for a downward movement are student satisfaction, the proportion of 1sts and 2:1s and the Sunday Times measure of drop-out rate. The use of 2009 NSS scores has benefited Nottingham a bit but when combined with the final phasing out of any weight for the old teaching quality assessments Nottingham’s rank has dropped on this measure. The proportion of good degrees is only slightly down, but most competitors have increased their score causing a larger relative decline. And Nottingham’s drop-out rate score has slightly declined, but for some universities has improved. The weighting of this measure has been decreased slightly this year so it is not quite as volatile as it has been in the past, but a change of 1% relative to the benchmark can still make a difference of several places in the table because of the way in which the paper scores this one (eg many universities end up with negative scores).

    The use of the 2008 RAE here is, for most institutions, a straightforward GPA calculation. Had a different and, arguably, better measure been used such as research power (see ) then our position would have been much stronger on this indicator. There was also a small change to the definition of the tariff score used but actually Nottingham remained pretty much unchanged on this one.

    Thanks for the comment (and thanks to Andrew for some of the information).

  3. i agree with everything dave says
    every league table this year has been appalling for nottingham
    its the only top university that has seen this sort of drop
    top students will no longer want to go there and it will become
    an average university
    who is in charge
    what are they doing to stop this decline
    i dont know who paul is but if you belong to the university dont just say this is not where we want to be then try to justify it
    do something about it
    you owe it to the students that are studing
    there now
    they want to graduate from a university to feel proud of
    nottingham has a new vice chancellor-does he want to be the man who was responsible for a great institutions decline
    i hope not!
    any comments paul would be appreciated

  4. pauls response to dave comment was all the reasons why nottingham is not doing so well in league tables
    my question is there for if you know why this is happening

    why do you not address these issues before you start dropping out of the top twenty!!
    take for example tarrif points a few years ago nottingham demanded approx 431 now its down to 407
    instead of competing with durham st andrews warwick you seem content to drop to leicester etc level
    when a student joined in 2005 they joined a uni in the top 10 when they leave in 2009 they leave a uni struggling to keep in top 20
    this is not good enough and i very much hope that this matter is being properly addressed
    if not please inform parents on future opening days that nottingham no longer sees itself competing with the top universities and if your child has 3 A s go else where !!!!!!!

  5. It is simply not true to suggest that Nottingham is not seeking to address these issues. However, manipulating the tables in the way suggested here really is not an option. Universities like ours do face particular challenges in the UK tables because of size and breadth of activity – this also impacts in National Student Survey.

    The advice to anyone considering applying to University is to look at every aspect of the course and institution and not just at the absolute league table position.

  6. paul no one is asking you to manipulate the tables
    but i am sorry league tables are very important to a prospective students and no one wants to go to a university that would appear to be on the decline
    up until recently despite size etc nottingham was always regarded a top ten institution now it appears to be struggling to stay in top 20
    it is the only top university that has dropped in the past few years
    whilst exeter makes leaps and bounds nottingham appears to be floundering
    so sorry your answer above is simply not good enough
    no top student will want to go to nottingham despite aspect of course if the institution itself appears to be on the way down
    like it or not league table position is very important
    you have a responsibility to every student who studys there now to make sure they leave a top 10 uni they can be proud of!!!

  7. I have stumbled across this forum and I do think people are being a bit unfair on Paul here. Nonetheless, people have made interesting remarks.

    Nottingham is in trouble. This problem arises from the fact that top students, who can pick any universitity, want to go to a place conceived as ‘prestigious’. This is determined by and large by how hard it is to get into the institution. Places like Bristol, Durham, Edinburgh and Warwick have nearly 10 applicants per place and a UCAS tariff average over 450. Therefore they are prestigious.

    When I applied to Nottingham and chose it over the aforementioned institutions, it had more than 10 applicants per place and had the 7th highest A-level grades. I was well known then that Nottingham was one of the hardest to get into, with the uni always mentioning it, as well as newspapers. It also averaged the 6th highest tariff score during the whole 90’s (according to THES data). Therefore, top students picked Nottingham because it was on the same level as Bristol and Warwick and they preferred the campus or course (like me).

    The problem now is that in the space of 5 years the applicants per place ratio has halved to 4.9 from 10, and the tariff from 7th to 16th highest. In my view this is unacceptable. We all know that applicants dropped due to crime, but I find it ludicrous that the university saw it fit to increase student numbers from around 5000 to 7500 in this time frame with less applications coming in. Especially when all other universities had an increase in applications and tariff score.

    This has lead to a cycle that is impossible to get out of. Nottingham ranks poorly, harshly in my view, due to satisfaction. But tariff score, 2:1’s and student staff and spending rations have been hit because of the increase in students. Because of this poor ranking and drop in quality of student, top students won’t pick it over Bristol or Warwick. The only way is to rank better, but without these top students this won’t happen either.

    I wouldn’t mind if Nottingham was getting a lot better as an actual research university. However, the bad relative performance in the 2008 RAE, where they were 21st and beaten by Leicester and Exeter says it all. The uni may use ‘research power’, but it is only a way of damage limitation and dressing it up.

    Unfortunately Nottingham is no longer the ‘rising star’ that the Times called it in the early 90’s and as a former student this hurts. If I was picking uni today, I would no longer pick Nottingham over Warwick or Bristol, since all I get now is people asking why I didn’t go to the ‘better university’.

  8. Points taken but this really is an unnecessarily gloomy outlook. There is more to a great University than UK league table rankings (although these will improve) and Nottingham is far from in trouble and remains an excellent choice for undergraduate (and postgrad)study.

  9. Yes Paul you are right and there is far more to University than league tables, and in all honesty they are a rubbish measure of quality anyway. Nevertheless, what makes a truly great university is the quality of its staff and students, and its ability to attract the best. Unfortunately, by Nottingham now having the 16th best students and 21st best research (which will not change for a while), there are now far more potentially ‘greater’ universities than Nottingham than there was 10 years ago, and many are consistantly on the up (such as Southamption and Exeter who have greater research). In all truth, the fact that Nottingham cannot attract the best students anymore and is not producing the highest percentage of quality research, means that it is loosing its spark and loosing ground on its competitors. Just look how far away it is from Warwick now.

    You mention that Nottingham’s size negatively affects it in rankings, yet Warwick is large, as is Edinburgh, yet they still rank well, attract the very best students, and have the highest quality research. Unfortunately, Notitngham in all statistics is lagging behind. I was expecting Nottingham to have research quality firmly in the top 10 in the RAE (as in the unis plan), yet was firmly dissapointed by the results. The fact that it has the 4th highest private research income, yet the 21st best research is dissapointing. Yes it may have ‘research power’, yet this only indicates size not proportionate quality, with Manchester managing to have both.

    I do think people here are being a little over the top about rankings, however, i do think that the Nottingham staff underestimate the level of angst amongst the actual Nottingham students. Eveyone i know is fully aware of the drop in rankings and are annoyed simply because of the adverse affect on A-levels students perception of Nottingham. Just look at, the UK’s largest online student fourm. The number of “Nottingham is now dropping” threads is shocking. Surely, this concerns the univeristy.

    My concern, and others, is that Nottingham is now a business, concerned more about expansion, at the expense of quality. The consistant increase in student numbers and random courses with lower entry standards is testiment to this. If this expansion came with mega research and wealth then fine, but it seemingly has not. Therefore, i cannot see any real benefit from it.

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