The Times: 2011 University League Table

2011 University Rankings published by The Times

Not huge changes here with the exception of the remarkable jump by Lancaster, up from outside the top 20 to a top 10 slot. Not entirely clear from the data why this should be.

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

Make up of the top 20 though is pretty similar to last week’s table in The Independent with one notable exception: there is no place in The Times for the University of Buckingham.

In the subject tables, Oxbridge is, as usual, dominant but there is more to say here:

But excellence in specific subjects is not confined to these old universities. Campus universities created in the 1960s are well represented. Indeed, Warwick and Loughborough lead more tables (three each) than any university outside Oxbridge. Loughborough is ahead of the field in its speciality of sports science, as well as in building and librarianship.Warwick is top for American studies, communication and media studies and drama, dance and cinematics. Nottingham is the only other university to top more than one table, sharing the lead in agriculture with Reading and also heading the ranking for pharmacy.

Full details and subject league tables are available via The Times Good University Guide. Unfortunately, in order to get to them you have to sign up to the new Times website.

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Bristol University launches volunteering award

Volunteering award at Bristol University

According to the Guardian, Bristol has launched a volunteering award:

Organised volunteering and work experience has long been a vital companion to university degree courses. Usually it is left to employers to deduce the potential from a list of extracurricular adventures on a graduate’s CV, but now the University of Bristol has launched an award to formalise the achievements of students who devote time to activities outside their courses. Bristol PLuS aims to boost students in an increasingly competitive jobs market by helping them acquire work and life skills alongside academic qualifications.


This is, of course, a good thing. However, lots of other universities have been doing this kind of thing for some time. The University of Nottingham, for example, established the Nottingham Advantage Award in 2008 and the York Award at the University of York has been running for many years. Nevertheless, this kind of programme is a valuable offering for undergraduates and is just the kind of thing universities should be offering to undergraduates.

2010 Independent League Table

Latest Independent league table

First of the new season’s UK tables has just been published by the Independent.

Full details of the institutional and subject rankings are provided by the Complete University Guide which can be found here. There isn’t much change at the top but the most striking thing is the inclusion for the first time in a UK league table (I think) of the University of Buckingham, the UK’s first private university.

Rankings (2009 rank in brackets)

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

Also, the Complete University Guide people let you play with the weightings for each of the criteria, so it is possible to bump Oxbridge from the top slots if you really try.

Latest Asian University Rankings

Latest Asian University Rankings

QS have just published their latest rankings of universities in Asia. No huge surprises in the top 20 but a few ups and downs. Hong Kong, South Korean and Japanese institutions dominant but NUS seems to have had an impressive leap. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the full QS world rankings.

Ranking 2010 (2009 ranking in brackets)

1 (1) University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

2 (4) The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong

3 (10) National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore

4 (2) The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

5 (3) The University of Tokyo, Japan

6 (8) Seoul National University, Korea, South

7 (6) Osaka University, Japan

8 (5) Kyoto University, Japan

9 (13) Tohoku University, Japan

10 (12) Nagoya University, Japan

11 (9) Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan

12 (10) Peking University, China

13 (7) KAIST – Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea

14 (17) Pohang University of Science And Technology (POSTECH), South Korea

15 (18) City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

16 (15) Tsinghua University, China

17 (15) Kyushu University, Japan

18 (14) Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore

19 (25) Yonsei University, South Korea

20 (19) University of Tsukuba, Japan

Full Asian university rankings available here.

Rankings influence rankings

Academics, too, can be led astray by rankings

According to a new study reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education, it’s not only prospective students who are swayed by league tables. It seems that academics’ opinions can be distorted by rankings, even when judging a university’s quality in their own subject.

The fault appears to lie with a psychological phenomenon known as the “anchoring effect.” When people are asked to make judgments in ambiguous circumstances—by, for example, putting a dollar value on a home or a used car—most will start with whatever information is made available to them and work from there. Show people a jar of pennies, and ask one group if it contains more or less than 400, and another group if it contains more or less than 800, and the first group will subsequently tend to offer much lower guesses of the actual number of pennies in the jar than the second. Show potential home buyers a house with a relatively high list price, and they will be more focused on its positive features than they would have been if the list price were lower.

And it seems this applies to rankings too. The study examined the Times Higher Education international league table in its first and subsequent years:

In their analysis, Mr. Bastedo and Mr. Bowman found that results of the reputational survey conducted in the second year much more closely matched the overall published rankings than did the results of the first year’s survey. In other words, institutions that ranked high in the first year fared significantly better on the reputational survey in the second, suggesting that the widely publicized rankings had helped a consensus form around the perceived superiority of certain institutions.

And the same applied to subjects too with universities with a modest result in a specific field scoring much better in the same subject in the following year if the overall institutional ranking was strong.

So, it seems that rankings influence rankings. Who’d have thought it.

Universities accused of pressuring students on NSS

“Pressuring” students on NSS

According to the Telegraph some institutions have been trying to persuade students to give them decent scores in the NSS:

Eight British universities were reported to the higher education funding body recently over allegations that they had encouraged students to respond positively to the annual National Student Survey. Documents released under freedom of information laws showed that the institutions had tried to persuade students to give their universities high scores in the 22-question “student satisfaction survey”.

Included in the complaints were accusations by students that lecturers and heads of department had told them to give high scores when answering the questions in order to improve the value of their degree. One lecturer was even accused of telling students that they would not get a good job if they gave their university and course a low mark.

Should we be surprised? Given the significance of NSS scores in UK league tables it would be pretty extraordinary if institutions weren’t looking for ways to improve their scores. However, the fact that there seem to have been only a handful of formal complaints suggests that most universities are seeking to improve their ratings through more appropriate means. Like actually responding to what students tell them. Maybe.

On the QS World University Rankings Methodology

QS defends its ranking methodology

Following the split from THE, and recent critique by that publication of its approach, QS has been setting out a robust defence of its methodology:

Following the end in 2009 of a six-year collaboration between the two organisations, Times Higher Education has launched a campaign of criticism of the QS World University Rankings. QS owns all the intellectual property of the World University Rankings results and methodology. It seems that THE believes the only way to legitimise producing its own new rankings is to pretend dissatisfaction with QS. Martin Ince was Rankings Editor at THE for six years, overseeing work with QS, and was previously deputy editor of THE. He says “I can honestly say that the rankings produced by QS, were regarded as an outstanding piece of work….accurate, insightful and absolutely fit for purpose.”

And they also find a number of supporters:

Professor Alan M. Kantrow, Former Editor of McKinsey Quarterly, adds “Global competition in higher education necessitates some basis for quality comparison across borders…..QS’s Academic Peer and Employer Reviews rightly place the basis for comparison in the hands of experts – academics and employers around the world.”

There is plenty of other interesting information on the QS methodology here too. Although, as with all league tables, there remain very good grounds for scepticism about elements of the approach, there is a decent degree of honesty here about the limitations of the methodology. Worth a look.