QS World subject ranking – UK universities

New QS world rankings by subject

The Guardian has a summary of UK universities’ performance in the latest QS subject rankings and it looks like Oxford comes out top

Institution name
Highest rank
University of Oxford 1 Geography
University of Cambridge 1 English Language and Literature
London Business School 3 Accountancy and Finance
London School of Economics 3 Politics and International Studies
Imperial College London 6 Pharmacy and Pharmacology
University of Edinburgh 7 Linguistics
University of Manchester 11 Geography
Durham University 12 Geography
University College London 12 Psychology
King’s College London 16 Pharmacy and Pharmacology
University of St Andrews 16 Philosophy
Institute of Education 17 Education
University of Nottingham 21= Pharmacy and Pharmacology
University of Warwick 21 English Language and Literature
University of Bristol 22 Geography
Lancaster University 24= Environmental Science
University of York 27 English Language and Literature

On the face of it this looks like a fairly creditable performance in a limited range of subjects. The full subject ranks are available here.

Blots on the information landscape

Exciting new report on redesigning the higher education data and information landscape

A previous post commented on regulatory issues and the work being undertaken on the “information landscape”. A report on part of this work, the imaginatively entitled “Project B” has recently been agreed by the Interim Regulatory Partnership Group. The report sets out a new way forward for the governance of HE data:

The project report was presented to the Interim Regulatory Partnership Group (IRPG) at its meeting on 15 June. The report envisages a new, collective approach to the governance of the data and information landscape in HE, which could be achieved in the medium term.

IRPG accepted the recommendations of the report and agreed that this work should be scoped as a part of the broader programme of activities being taken forward by the Group.

Part of the evidence considered by the Group was a survey which aimed to establish the totality of external reporting undertaken by HEIs in the UK. The survey identified 550 (550!) separate external reporting requirements and grouped them into seven main categories as follows:

The main recommendation contained in the report is that the key players should get together and agree what data and information is required:

To achieve this IRPG should task some of the key stakeholders in information flows (e.g. HESA, QAA, SLC, UCAS, AoC, Guild HE and UUK) to develop and propose the structure, resourcing and operation of a governance model for the data and information landscape.

This would enable a programme of work, using shared expertise, to create a more coherent set of arrangements for the collection, sharing and dissemination of data. These arrangements would include the identification, development and adoption of data and information standards and the review and scrutiny of data requests.

In order to fulfil this role there would need to be a series of enabling projects, including:

  • Develop a calendar and inventory of data collections across the year as a first step towards streamlining collections and improving the timeliness of information
  • Develop a data model, lexicon and thesaurus for the sector – this would be a purely administrative/reporting model that does not seek to impinge on academic practice or to impact the way business processes are carried out. It may be that this would be a series of linked models using a consistent approach and a common data language.The establishment of this collective oversight of the information landscape would require each of the organisations involved to make a real commitment to work collaboratively and openly on issues involving data and information.

Whilst these steps will be important they do seem relatively modest aims in the light of the sheer scale of the regulatory burden identified by the group. It remains to be seen how much benefit will result from the establishment of a “coherent set of arrangements” in the medium term. Let’s hope it leads to some real reductions in the data information demands placed on universities.

Offshoring opportunities – a real alternative?

Minister proposes overseas campuses as alternative to international student recruitment

Times Higher Education reports that David Willetts seems to be pushing overseas campus expansion – with private finance support – to compensate for reduced international student recruitment resulting from government immigration policies. The idea features, not for the first time, in a speech on international higher education he delivered at the Goldman Sachs-Stanford University Global Education Conference on 20 June:

His call for universities to seek alternative financing for expansion overseas comes amid a drive for every government department to identify sources of economic growth.

The minister is also seeking ways for UK universities to maximise the number of overseas students they teach abroad. The government’s tougher immigration controls threaten to cut the number of students able to enter the UK for study at universities.

Mr Willetts said: “Our universities are internationally recognised: they are a great British brand. We can do more to take advantage of our position. Our universities are well financed for what they do but underfinanced for big expansion. I want to see investors from Britain and abroad helping our universities access these big overseas markets. I know that companies like Goldman Sachs who have organised this conference…are keen to investigate this possibility.”

The minister hopes that Goldman Sachs will be able to identify private investors willing to finance developments such as overseas branch campuses and distance-learning operations.

A previous post reported on an earlier speech by Mr Willetts on the issue of internationalisation. He is undoubtedly serious about the proposition. And he is right to point to the success of the University of Nottingham and others in establishing campuses overseas. However, there are several fundamental problems with this notion:

  1. The income generated by overseas campuses will do very little to offset losses from underrecruitment of international students in the UK. Even where it may be possible and appropriate to repatriate surpluses, the sums involved will not get anywhere near the level of international student income currently received by UK universities.
  2. The de-diversification of UK campuses resulting from the decline in international students will harm the learning experience for all.
  3. Building, growing and sustaining an overseas campus is a long game. Even if every UK university had one it would take a very long time to get to a point where they were capable of providing the scale of export benefit the UK currently enjoys.
  4. If the primary aim of building an overseas campus is to make money then it is unlikely to provide a good basis for a productive relationship with a host country.

So, even with the backing of Goldman Sachs it is not clear that the overseas campus option is going to come close to compensating for the anticipated impact of immigration policies on international student numbers in the UK. The other angle discussed by the Minister, distance learning, may offer possibilities but again is unlikely to deliver on the scale required. Better perhaps to review those immigration policies instead.

The Imperfect University: Governance challenges at the University of Virginia

University of Virginia: considerable turbulance at the top

A rather topical post for the latest in the Imperfect University series. There have been some extraordinary goings on at the University of Virginia. To the surprise of just about everyone the University’s Board of Visitors (its governing body) decided two weeks ago to remove the President, Teresa Sullivan, after only two years at the helm.  Full details of all official statements are available on the University’s website together with links to some of the major news reports on this. It’s a really messy business and must be hugely destabilising for the University.

So why has the Board decided to take this extreme step? According to the statement by the Rector on June 10:

the Board feels strongly and overwhelmingly that we need bold and proactive leadership on tackling the difficult issues that we face. The pace of change in higher education and in health care has accelerated greatly in the last two years.  We have calls internally for resolution of tough financial issues that require hard decisions on resource allocation. The compensation of our valued faculty and staff has continued to decline in real terms, and we acknowledge the tremendous task ahead of making star hires to fill the many spots that will be vacated over the next few years as our eminent faculty members retire in great numbers. These challenges are truly an existential threat to the greatness of UVA.

We see no bright lights on the financial horizon as we face limits on tuition increases, an environment of declining federal support, state support that will be flat at best, and pressures on health care payors.  This means that as an institution, we have to be able to prioritize and reallocate the resources we do have, and that our best avenue for increasing resources will be through passionate articulation of a vision and effective development efforts to support it. We also believe that higher education is on the brink of a transformation now that online delivery has been legitimized by some of the elite institutions.

We want UVA to remain in that top echelon of universities well into the 21st century and beyond. We want this to be a place that lives up to Mr. Jefferson’s founding vision of excellence. We want it to be a place that attracts the best and the brightest in scholarship, teaching, patient care, and community service.

To achieve these aspirations, the Board feels the need for a bold leader who can help develop, articulate, and implement a concrete and achievable strategic plan to re-elevate the University to its highest potential.  We need a leader with a great willingness to adapt the way we deliver our teaching, research, and patient care to the realities of the external environment.  We need a leader who is able to passionately convey a vision to our community, and effectively obtain gifts and buy-in towards our collective goals.

The Board believes this environment calls for a much faster pace of change in administrative structure, in governance, in financial resource development and in resource prioritization and allocation. We do not believe we can even maintain our current standard under a model of incremental, marginal change.  The world is simply moving too fast.

This would suggest that the Board’s fundamental concern is that change in the University is insufficient both in scale and pace in order to meet the challenges it faces. And that the President therefore has to be replaced with a bolder leader in order to ensure such change happens. It really is a quite remarkable statement. Whilst such events are not rare in other sectors it does seem like extreme step in a higher education context.

Meanwhile, back to the action – The Washington Post reported on a demonstration in support of the ousted President:

Sullivan was forced out after a closed-door meeting of the board. The June 10 announcement that she would resign blindsided Sullivan and ignited a furor at Virginia’s flagship university, founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819. More than 2,000 people gathered outside the Rotunda on Monday to show their support for Sullivan, who gained wide popularity since taking the job in 2010.

U.Va.’s Faculty Senate and other groups had called for Kington and Rector Helen Dragas to step down as they severely criticized the board’s handling of Sullivan’s removal. Dragas and Kington joined in the behind-the-scenes effort to call for her resignation, and no board members have publicly discussed specific reasons behind the decision.

There is still a long way for this story to go and the New York Times has reported on some other changes on the Board:

In the continuing turmoil after the abrupt ouster of University of Virginia’s president, Teresa Sullivan, on June 10, the university’s vice rector, Mark Kington, and a prominent computer science professor have resigned — and some faculty members say there may soon be enough turnover on the 16-member Board of Visitors that Dr. Sullivan could be reinstated.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, who appoints the board, could fill as many as six seats on the university’s governing body on July 1. In addition to Mr. Kington’s replacement, he has the ability to replace the rector, Helen E. Dragas, whose term is ending. Another member is up for reappointment, two will rotate off the board and an appointment is needed to fill a seat created this year.

On Tuesday, when the board voted 12 to 1 to name Carl P. Zeithaml as interim president, there were two abstentions and one absence, so a shift of six would put the outcome of future votes in question. Furthermore, one member who voted for Mr. Zeithaml’s appointment has said he hopes to undo Dr. Sullivan’s resignation.

There does seem to be a view, at least among Dr Sullivan’s supporters, that these imminent changes to the Board membership could somehow lead to her reinstatement. These appointments though appear to be in the hands of the State Governor and it is not at all clear what he will choose to do nor what effect it will have. But the bigger question the Board will ultimately have to answer is how this radical change can be shown to be in the long term interests of the University. HE institutions are fundamentally concerned with delivering change in the long run and effective stewardship and a concern for real sustainability has to be at the heart of any governing body’s actions. It is simply not clear at this stage how this dramatic step will help UVa deliver its ultimate ambitions.

In considering the fall out from this affair Chronicle also carries an extensive piece and follows up on the specfic issue of appointing a leader who will deliver the kind of “strategic dynamism” which the UVa Board seems to think is lacking:

So what is “strategic dynamism,” and who are its practitioners? Quite the opposite of the methodical, long-term visions found in most universities’ strategic plans, strategic dynamism implies a near-constant “stirring of the pot” within an organization, explains Donald C. Hambrick, a professor of management at Pennsylvania State University’s main campus.

That could mean wild changes in asset allocation within a company’s investment portfolio or a radical alteration of a business’s marketing approach. Proponents of strategic dynamism value the potential rewards of substantial, fast-paced change more than the stability of a gradual strategic evolution, Mr. Hambrick says.

There’s another thing about executives who embrace strategic dynamism: They’re totally in love with themselves, Mr. Hambrick says. In 2007, Mr. Hambrick co-authored a study that found a strong correlation between a chief executive’s level of narcissism and his or her penchant for making frequent changes consistent with strategic dynamism.

The study used five indicators to measure a chief executive’s narcissism, including the prominence of the executive’s photographs in a company’s annual report, the frequency of the executive’s name in company news releases, the disparity between the chief executive’s compensation and that of the company’s second in command, and the frequency with which the chief executive uses first-person-singular pronouns in interviews.

“Having a narcissist for your CEO and engaging in strategic dynamism carries risk,” he continues. “It’s almost axiomatic that if you engage in strategic dynamism and take a big risk, you’re going to have extreme outcomes.”

There is no shortage of criticism that higher education moves too slowly, and there are plenty of trustees and pundits who would say a dose of strategic dynamism is just the kick in the pants the industry needs.

A previous post discussed the issue of who should lead universities and the UVa case gives us a different angle on this. Dr Sullivan is, by all accounts, an outstanding academic with significant experience including four years as provost at the University of Michigan and as executive vice chancellor of the University of Texas system. It seems though that the UVa Board has determined that it needs someone other than an academic. Or perhaps just a different kind of academic.

Will Dr Sullivan be reinstated? Will the University Board appoint a narcissist to replace her? Who knows. However, the turmoil this change has caused will continue to impact on the University for some time to come. It is difficult to predict what the long term consequences will be but in the short term at the very least it is a huge distraction for staff and things aren’t going to get any easier until this matter is resolved.

One footnote to all of this. US press reports on this issue commonly refer to the “ouster” of the President. I find this usage bizarre and for some days thought there was a specific individual being identified as the person who did the ousting rather than the ouster being the event itself.

True Crime on Campus §21: the naked truth

More true crime on campus

Strange things can happen on campus. Some of them involving people who seem reluctant to keep their clothes on. Fortunately, our indefatigable Security staff are more than capable of responding to all kinds of events:

23:05 Security attended a report of a male in Portland Building, carrying a rucksack and emptying cash machines. On investigation the male was a staff member of G4S and was repairing the machine.

1730 Report that a Student had been seen in the early hours exposing himself and then running around Ancaster Hall with a handful of paper on fire. Security are following up.

04:40 Security received a report from a concerned mother regarding her daughter; a student resident in Cavendish Hall who was suffering from chest pains. Security had to wait for the student to return as she was in Tesco buying mints. On arrival the Security contacted the NHS Direct line and handed the phone over to the student to describe the symptoms. Security advised the student to call back if the symptoms got worse.

00:10 Security attended a report of a student who had seen a bat at Ancaster Hall. On arrival Security could not identify a bat.

22:15 Security received a report of a group of female students running around with knives in Sherwood Hall. On arrival the building attendant identified the six female students. It was established that one of the female students had used a butter knife to remove several room numbers from inside the Hall. The Deputy Hall Warden was present and informed the group of students that disciplinary action would follow. Hall Warden informed.

22:35 The Hall Warden at Lenton and Wortley Hall informed Security that three students were running around in their underwear. Security made them aware that this was unacceptable. Security to follow up.

2100 Security Officers were requested to a disturbance in the Sir Clive Granger Building. On arrival two Student Societies were having a disagreement about a room booking. The Security Officers report has been forwarded to the Director of Student Operations and Support.

18:50 Security received a report of three nude males running through the lodges and down Beeston Lane towards West Entrance. A further report was received of three females in their underwear walking up Jubilee Avenue. On arrival Security stopped the three females and transported them back to Willoughby Hall, where the remaining three males were spotted at the back of the Hall. The porter identified all of the students and Security warned them of the stupidity of their actions. Details to Hall Warden. Security to follow up.

0415 Patrol Security Officers observed a torch being used in Woodland adjacent to Highfield Lake. Officers entered the wooded area and two males were seen to run from the area. Officers discovered that the males had been attempting to light a fire in the wood.

1358 Report that a male was filming cheerleaders who were on the Sports Centre Field getting ready to take photographs for a calendar. The cheerleaders were changing from one outfit to another and exposing themselves in the process. The male was in a vehicle in the Sports Centre car park with a hand held camcorder in one hand… Security attended and the male was detained. Police were called and arrested the male. The cheerleaders have been told that they should use the changing rooms if they wish to change. Security will be following up on this arrest with the Police.

Making money from MOOCs

There aren’t any MOOC business models which stack up. Yet

An earlier Imperfect University post on MOOCs questioned their ultimate impact on traditional university provision. Inside Higher Ed carries an interesting piece on possible business models for MOOC providers which notes that with over 1.5 million people having registered for MOOCs through Coursera, Udacity and edX, the level of demand is significant:

But while demand appears to be high, none of these three organizations — two of which are for-profit companies that will be expected to generate money for investors and the other of which is a nonprofit that will be expected to stand on its own feet eventually — currently has a business plan.

They can afford it, for now. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University together have committed $60 million to edX, Coursera has raised $16 million in venture funding, and Udacity is sitting on an undisclosed infusion from Charles River Ventures. They have cash to burn, and each has focused on establishing partnerships with reputable institutions and professors and harnessing available technologies in its platform.

The MOOC providers are nonetheless in strange territory. They have staked their future on a vision that makes higher education more free than ever before. And yet their task, eventually, will be to figure out how to make money. By declining to charge for content, instruction and assessment, these providers will have to find new ways to cover their overheads and pay back investors.

A huge issue for MOOCs is the absence of accredited certification. One solution might therefore be to forget credentialling altogether and make the link directly between student and employers, charging the the former for promoting them and the latter for access. Alternatively, or additionally, they could offer additional premium paid for content and services which bring them closer to current fee charging online higher education such as tutoring, online assessment support, library resources etc. And if the worst comes to the worst the MOOC providers could always sell advertising space.

It’s still early days though and it will be fascinating to see which way MOOC business plans develop.

How small can a university be?

Size isn’t everything but does it matter for a university?

I picked up an interesting blog post from Andy Westwood, CEO of GuildHE, in which he argues that the reduction in the required number of students for the award of university title is a good decision by government and will deliver another “level playing field” (see earlier Imperfect University post on that topic) in higher education:

In last June’s Higher Education white paper (yes it really was that long ago), BIS declared their intention to reduce the qualifying threshold for university title from 4,000 to 1,000 students. All the other qualifying criteria – notably the need to hold degree awarding powers – would remain intact. Those institutions that might benefit from such a change made headlines when the precise proposals and criteria were published in the subsequent technical consultation in August 2011.

They include the Royal Agricultural College and Harper Adams – university colleges in the land based sector, Falmouth, Norwich and Bournemouth University College of the Arts and also Newman, Bishop Grosseteste, St Mary’s and Marjon university colleges in Birmingham, Lincoln, Twickenham and Plymouth. In all of these places and in the specific sectors they serve, these are familiar institutions that are both well-known and highly valued. Collectively they have been around for over 1,000 years – with most founded during the 19th century. ‘New’ universities they might become but ‘new’ institutions they most certainly are not.

Westwood suggests there are already some universities with fewer than 4,000 students, including Buckingham, but I’m not sure there are others with such modest enrolments. He goes on to argue that the new universities in the 1960s all started with small numbers and took some time to grow to have more than 4,000 students. But they were brand new and expansion was slow and steady in era of elite rather than mass participation so this is hardly a surprise and really not a compelling argument for changing university criteria nearly half a century on.

So as in many other arguments this is about a level playing field. Quality, reputation and brand are increasingly vital to institutions and to the UK as a whole and it’s in no one’s interest to let any slip. But to continue to do so we should recognise and value excellence and enable diversity and specialism to flourish. That is precisely what ministers are considering and it’s in everyone’s interest.

Of course size isn’t everything but there is something about a university which does carry a sense of range of subjects and a critical mass of students and staff. Any minimum number of students is bound to be arbitary but 4,000 seems a more realistic baseline. The logical conclusion of the level playing field argument here is that there should be no minimum number and any body which has taught degree awarding powers and is

…able to demonstrate that it has regard to the principles of good governance as are relevant to its sector

(which is the other criterion) can be awarded the university title. I’m not certain that this is a good thing. This is not to say that that these institutions aren’t good in their own way. But not every college can be a university – if every institution has the title then it inevitably becomes less meaningful. And that’s not good for anyone.

The Times: 2013 University League Table

2013 University Rankings published by The Times

The new Times league table is out and has been published here. There is though very little to get excited about in the Top 20 with hardly any movement and only one new entry (Glasgow) and one drop out (Sheffield). University of Nottingham drops four places to where it was in 2011 but remains in the Top 20 (just).

Last year’s position in brackets:

1 Oxford (1)
2 Cambridge (2)
3 LSE  (3)
4 Imperial (4)
5 Durham (6)
6 St Andrews (6)
7 UCL (5)
8 Warwick (8)
9 Bath (12)
10 Exeter (10)
11 Bristol (13)
12 Lancaster (9)
13 York (11)
14 Edinburgh (15)
15 Glasgow (-)
16 Loughborough (20)
17 Leicester (17)
18 Sussex (14)
18 Southampton (19)
20 Nottingham (16)

The full table can be found in The Times Good University Guide or you can buy the book.  Also on the website you can find the subject tables.

A suggestion for Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrison’s, Tesco…

Sainsbury’s Local – an opportunity for rebranding

Sainsbury’s recently opened a Sainsbury’s Local store on Derby Road in the Lenton area of Nottingham at the heart of one of the most popular student districts in the city. It seems to be doing extremely good business and whenever I visit (it’s rather handy sometimes on the way home) it’s always pretty busy. This kind of development is really important as it is one way of ensuring that decent services are sustained year round in areas of high density student occupation (where there can be a tendency for some outlets to open only in term time). It is also symbolic of the value of student spend to the local economy.

Having said all that, this store has a number of key features which distinguish it from some of the other Sainsbury’s Local stores (and other supermarkets’ “express” offerings) in Nottingham:

  • The clientele is almost entirely made up of students, many of whom are wearing pyjamas, regardless of the time of day
  • There is a rather limited fresh fruit and vegetables section
  • There is a lot of convenience food and plenty of ready meals
  • No-one seems to use cash
  • There is a very large and comprehensive alcoholic drinks section
  • Cleaning products are at a premium
  • There are a lot more self-service checkouts than staffed tills.

Anyway, my simple suggestion is that they just cut to the chase and rebrand it as “Sainsbury’s Student”. This would also work with Tesco, Asda, Morrison’s and the Co-op I reckon. At least then we will all know where we stand and what product range we can expect.

(Next up in this sub-Mary Portas series – why Lidl always seem to have cycling shoes in stock.)

NB §1 I inadvertantly omitted to credit Rachel, Hester and Connie Greatrix for their contribution to this idea and to point out that they spend more time in Sainsbury’s Student (or Student Sainsbury’s as they call it) than I do. Apologies for that.

§2 All credit to Sainsbury’s PR for their rapid response to this on Twitter.

Is this the future for UK university sport?

Some US universities spend a LOT on sport

A recent Bloomberg report on US universities expenditure on sport highlights the huge amounts spent by Rutgers, which tops the list of spending:

Like most of Rutgers University’s almost 30,000 undergraduates, Matt Cordeiro has never put on shoulder pads and played football on a Saturday before a sea of scarlet-clad fans.

Yet Rutgers athletic teams cost him almost $1,000 this year, the most among schools competing in the top category of college football. The total includes mandatory student fees and university funding of the money-losing sports program, both of which rose more than 40 percent in five years. That’s enough to buy meals for more than a month, or books for a semester, or student health insurance for almost a year.

Rutgers funneled $28.5 million from the university budget and student fees into sports, the most among 54 U.S. public universities in the biggest football conferences, based on data compiled by Bloomberg for the fiscal year ended last June. It was at least the second straight year at the top of the list for the state university of New Jersey, despite cost-cutting after lawmakers and faculty protested that academics were losing out.

These really are frighteningly large figures. Indeed the scale of sport in general in US universities is just so much grander than in the UK it really is difficult to comprehend. How long though before we see this kind of calculation and league table appearing in the UK?

The Imperfect University: the story so far

Because universities are difficult, but worth it

I’ve managed six posts to date in the Imperfect University series to date. Covering leadership, regulation, governance in Scotland, not so revolutionary online provision and more regulation I hope I’ve managed to offer something a bit more substantial here. Anyway, I’d be grateful for any feedback on the series and in the meantime thought it would be helpful to provide links to all six pieces here for your convenience:

The Imperfect University

An introduction to the series

Who should lead universities?

What kind of people do universities need as leaders – is appointing a top academic enough?

More and more regulation

Despite the rhetoric we always seem to end up with additional rather than reduced regulation in higher education.

Reviewing higher education in Scotland

Comments on a recent review of university governance in Scotland. Not pretty.

Do we need a level playing field?

Some discussion on this frequently used argument.

Massive Open Online Confusion?

On why Massive Open Online Courses aren’t perhaps as revolutionary as is claimed by some.

Plenty more in the pipeline.

Exciting new league table: 30 under six!

The 30 Universities making their names count

Following the outstanding success of the ‘100 under 50’ ranking in the Times Higher Education (a ranking which acknowledged that some universities didn’t enjoy all the advantages that hanging around for a couple of centuries or more bestowed in terms of league table performance) it seemed that it was about time there was recognition for those institutions which have done jolly well despite having really short names. So, a new ranking has been developed for those universities with very few letters to their name.

Using the core criteria from THE World Rankings mixed in with some unique UK indicators we get a fabulous result for British universities with no fewer than one third of the universities in the top 30 being from this country. Let’s have a look at those who are top in the short name stakes:

  1. Ulm
  2. Yale
  3. Duke
  4. Rice
  5. Lund
  6. Utah
  7. York
  8. Iowa
  9. Oslo
  10. Bath
  11. City
  12. Kent
  13. Hull
  14. Tokyo
  15. Brown
  16. Kyoto
  17. Emory
  18. Tufts
  19. Ghent
  20. Basel
  21. Osaka
  22. Leeds
  23. Seoul
  24. Essex
  25. Fudan
  26. Milan
  27. Padua
  28. Aston
  29. Keele
  30. Derby

The number one slot then is, perhaps unsuprisingly, taken by Ulm University. Located in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, Ulm University was founded in 1966. It chose its name wisely. Terrific results too for Hull, City, Bath, Essex, Aston, Keele and Derby Universities all of which have done well with four or five letter monikers.

Note that whilst complaints have been received about the methodology for this league table, from those who argued that it should be syllables rather than letter counts which matter to those who battled passionately for their acronyms to be regarded as their names (especially MIT, UCL, NUS, NYU, ANU and UEA) and also the legal team at Sciences Po, these have been set aside in order to maintain the essential arbitrariness of the core criteria.

I’m sure we can look forward to some more creative rankings.