Another university league table variation

A league table of universties’ social media ‘visibility’

Econsultancy have published a league table of Russell Group universities’ social media profiles or their ‘visibility’:

The visibility score we use here is based on the total number of links a web domain has scored on the six social sites, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Delicious and StumbleUpon, while accounting for different weightings we give to links on individual social sites.

The content linked to includes

news page stories about new research studies and initiatives are quite common. While heavily shared links included software simulations, web cam images, jokes and podcasts.



The league table is as follows:

Social visibility of Russell Group universities

University of Cambridge. Visibility score: 462,823

University of Oxford: 442,758

London School of Economics: 286,859

Newcastle University: 186,184

University College London: 176,202

University of Warwick: 169,462

University of Manchester: 143,186

University of Edinburgh: 131,053

Queens University Belfast: 118,137

University of Glasgow: 72,211

University of Bristol: 70,656

University of Nottingham: 64,381

University of Leeds: 63,802

Imperial College London: 47,321

Cardiff University: 46,053

University of Southampton: 44,106

King’s College London: 31,762

University of Liverpool: 20,444

University of Birmingham: 15,873

University of Sheffield: 9,912

It’s a bit crude but nevertheless fascinating. And it is quite striking how big the gap is between Oxbridge and the lower half of the table. Many of us have a lot to do to catch up.

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Code of practice needed to “halt degree course mis-selling”

Should universities stop using NSS data to promote courses?

An interesting article by John Holmwood on the questionable validity and reliability of the National Student Survey – he argues that universities and others should not therefore use the outcomes of the NSS in league tables or promotional material. Furthermore, he argues that a code of practice is needed to stop what he says is degree course mis-selling:

It is a clear public interest that there be proper standards in the presentation of information to prospective students. The changes to higher education funding are of such far-reaching importance that the presentation of information should be subject to scrutiny by the UK Statistics Authority. A first step might be for Universities UK —and the separate University Mission Groups, such as Russell Group, 1994 Group, and Million+ to agree a Code of Practice among its members not to use statements of rank order position in their claims about their own institution and courses. It is a matter of shame for universities that this is necessary in the presentation of evidence, appropriate standards for which are intrinsic to their raison-d’être.

It’s a well-argued case. But in an environment where every institution will be competing even more fiercely for applicants, where they will be required to publish a particular set of information by government, where there is a plethora of league tables which draw on NSS data it would be surprising if any university or mission group would sign up for such a code. Of course the National Student Survey and league tables have flaws and there aren’t any league tables which stand up to serious academic scrutiny. But they aren’t going to go away and universities aren’t going to stop using the outputs where they believe it is in their interest to do so. And as for involving the UK Statistics Authority, do we really want even more regulation and intervention in universities’ business than we already have?

Ranking of Colleges’ Twitter Influence

Ranking universities and social media

Some entertaining nonsense in the past couple of weeks on ranking university use of twitter etc. Chris Sexton beat me to this with her posting on this topic which covers more than I will.

The fact that people are producing league tables of this stuff shows it already matters but it remains difficult to take it too seriously. Will universities start chasing better ‘Klout scores’? According to the Chronicle Stanford tops the list:

Stanford University’s Twitter feed is the most influential among college and university accounts on that microblogging service, according to a new ranking.

The list was published this week by Klout, an online company that tracks the popularity and impact of Tweets and gives every Twitter account a numerical score for influence. Factors reflected in the score include the number of followers a user has, how often a user is retweeted, and how a user’s tweets are being used in the conversation on Twitter

Stanford earned a Klout score of 70, with Syracuse University, Harvard University, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison all following with a score of 64.

The top 10 is rounded out by University of California at Berkley, Butler University, Tufts University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas at Austin, and Marquette University.

Compare this with a brief summary (which you could turn into a ranking if you really wanted to) on the use of twitter by Russell Group universities. It does suggest that UK universities are still a bit behind the curve on this.

And lest anyone think that the ranking of universities on their social media is getting too serious we have this rather entertaining Dutch analysis.

So, serious rankings of social media useage will emerge no doubt but it is all probably a little premature.

Proposals for reform of student immigration

Not very welcoming

Following the fun and games with the Tier 1 and 2 changes which may yet serve to keep the best academics out of the UK, the government has now turned its attention to Tier 4, students. According to the UK Border Agency , which is launching a brief consultation on proposed changes:

The government intends to reduce annual net migration to the UK to sustainable levels, in the tens of thousands a year. It has made clear that it expects the student route to make its contribution towards reducing net migration to the UK.

Students now represent the largest proportion of non-EU net migration. We need to ensure that the number of international students coming to the UK is broadly in balance with the number leaving.

The government’s policy aim is to ensure that only genuine students who are committed to their academic study come to the UK, with a presumption that upon completion they will leave promptly. This consultation sets out our proposals for achieving this aim.

You can respond online to this consultation here. (It is not entirely reassuring that UKBA is using survey monkey for this rather important consultation. At least it’s cheap I suppose.)

Commenting on the launch of the consultation, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“It is crucial that the UK continues to attract the very best academics and students from around the world if we are to maintain our global standing in higher education. There is a fierce global market for the best academic talent, and our track record in attracting international staff and students has made a very important contribution to the considerable success of UK higher education to date.

“Changes which make the visa regime stricter can severely diminish the international attractiveness of a nation’s universities. It is crucial that the immigration system continues to support the efforts of our leading universities to attract talented people who have a legitimate interest in studying, teaching, or carrying out research here.

Universities are a big export business, bringing in £5.3 billion a year to the UK economy each year (according to UUK). The consequences of this change could be disastrous. Surely we should be seeking to sustain this rather than seeking to turn off the tap?

Research universities should consider merging

Research universities should “consider merging”

According to a report of a speech by Nigel Thrift, vice-chancellor of Warwick:

The top 30 could merge, either with each other or with big American universities, and contemplate bringing in more private providers or collaborate together more formally. Foreign merger or takeover might solve chronic university underfunding, he said, and produce “interesting scientific synergies” if UK and US universities joined.

Although it looks a bit bald here there are, I think, some interesting thoughts underlying this about the way in which universities can collaborate successfully for mutual benefit. Although this is not just about mergers, the idea that currently highly successful institutions would merge for longer term sustainability (rather than as a result of some form of crisis) is a novel one.

Additionally:

The alternative could be the slow decline of institutions unable to produce enough research papers, clusters of top academics or scientific facilities to keep up with the world leaders. He also raised the possibility of private ownership of a few, which would increase diversity and relieve stretched higher education funding. Universities already face squeezed public and private funding and caps on student numbers because of the recession and Thrift argued that international competition would “intensify markedly” for the estimated 150 million students worldwide in 2010. Research-intensive institutions would be hit most severely by increased competition from other countries as they recovered from the recession, he said.

So, the situation is grim and this is one way out. But will Russell and 94 Group universities see things this way?

Closing Oxbridge?

Not quite.

But in a recent entertaining debate in the US, it was proposed that three members of the Ivy league – Harvard, Yale and Princeton – be shut down altogether. A fanciful notion but it clearly gave rise to lots of deep-seated prejudice – largely from those who weren’t admitted in the past it would seem.

U of Ox

A similar proposition here in relation to Oxford and Cambridge (with all of their resources being distributed across the Russell Group, presumably) would attract even more enthusiastic (if misguided) support would be my guess.