Students ‘swayed by league tables’

Some rather unsurprising research findings here.

The Guardian has a report on the impact of university league tables on prospective students. And in what might be the least surprising research finding of the year to date reports that league tables are influential:

rankings

Prospective students are increasingly influenced by university league tables when deciding where to study, according to research that found rises and falls within league standings provoking sharp changes in numbers of applications.

The research by economists at Royal Holloway, University of London, found that individual departments moving up a subject-level league table experienced a rise in applications of almost 5%, with the increase most pronounced among overseas applicants.

They also found that the influence of league table standings has increased since the introduction of tuition fees, suggesting that students are now more aware of the reputation and relative standings of university departments.

There is more though. Not only do league table rankings influence students and help with applications they are worth paying attention to if you want to protect your position and are going to be even more significant in future:

The authors – Xiaoxuan Jia, a researcher, and Arnaud Chevalier, senior lecturer in economics at Royal Holloway – conclude that universities should take care to guard their rankings, arguing: “Universities cannot afford to neglect their performance on league tables so long as they wish to establish and maintain a consistent reputation to attract the best of students.”

The emphasis on league table rankings is likely to increase as a result of new regulations relaxing the cap on student numbers for universities accepting students achieving AAB or higher in A-levels.

But in what is perhaps the most surprising of all the comments here, there is the proposal is made that resource allocation should be determined using ranking criteria:

The authors even suggest that university administrators “review their resource allocation based on the criteria used to construct those league tables on a regular basis, to improve and sustain their respective ranking performance”.

Just a bit of fun. I hope.

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