League tables of British universities

League tables of British universities

League tables of British universities which rank the performances of universities in the United Kingdom on a number of criteria, have been published every year by "The Times" newspaper and several other newspapers since the early 1990s. The factors used to assess universities include quality of teaching and research (which are assessed by external inspectors), entry standards and dropout rates. These league tables have become increasingly popular over the last few years and other papers such as "The Guardian" now publish their own tables annually. These tables are often used by students when deciding to which universities to apply. Some league tables are more specific, ranking universities on their strength in individual subjects, and not just overall teaching and research across a range of subjects.

Although the various tables differ slightly in how they assess universities, the same names tend to dominate the top positions. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge have typically headed the lists. Cambridge has generally fared better, claiming first place in most of the newspapers' tables, with Oxford normally in second position. Oxford has recently been top of some lists though. However, "The Sunday Times", which compiles its own tables using slightly modified criteria has placed Cambridge top for nine years running up to 2006. The only times since the inception of the tables that another university broke this trend were in 1999 and 2000, when Imperial College London overtook Oxford for second place in the "Sunday Times" Good University Guide [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/good_university_guide/article880306.ece] .

Third place is taken by a variety of contenders (usually Imperial College, though the London School of Economics has placed third a few times). It is difficult to form a list of other high-achieving universities due to the different methodology used between league tables.

utton Trust

The Sutton Trust, an educational charity has produced a list of 13 universities identified as those with the highest average rankings in surveys published by "The Times", "Daily Telegraph", "Sunday Times" and "Financial Times" in 2000.www.suttontrust.com/reports/entryToLeadingUnis.pdf] The Sutton Trust believe that these top universities should do more to widen access and increase their state school intake.

*University of Birmingham
*University of Bristol
*University of Cambridge
*University of Durham
*University of Edinburgh
*Imperial College London
*London School of Economics
*University of Nottingham
*University of Oxford
*University of St Andrews
*University College London
*University of Warwick
*University of York

On top of this, the THES - QS World University Rankings list of the 'World's top 200 Universities' in 2006, placed Glasgow, Manchester and King's College London, among, and in some cases higher than, the names mentioned above [ [http://www.thes.co.uk/worldrankings/ Times Higher Education - Education news, resources and university jobs for the academic world ] ] [ [http://www.topuniversities.com/worlduniversityrankings/ QS Top Universities: THES - QS World University Rankings - top university rankings from around the world ] ] .

It should be noted that inclusion in the overall top ten does not indicate excellence in any particular field, and some universities with a very good reputation for specific subjects (especially vocational subjects) never enter the overall top ten.

League Tables, which usually focus on the "full-time" undergraduate student experience, commonly omit reference to Birkbeck, University of London and the Open University, both of which specialise in teaching part-time students at the undergraduate level. These universities, however, often make a strong showing in specialist league tables looking at research, teaching quality, and student satisfaction (Birkbeck, for example, was ranked 13th in the last Research Assessment Exercise - 2001 - by The Guardian [ [http://education.guardian.co.uk/researchratings/table/0,11229,-4319756,00.html?start=10 RESEARCH~Subject~Subjects~Xinst/All~Xinst/All~~~2 | Interactive guides | EducationGuardian.co.uk ] ] , and the Open University was ranked first, and Birkbeck fifth in the 2006 Student Satisfaction survey according to the BBC [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/5277938.stm BBC NEWS | Education | Student satisfaction survey results ] ] ).

Traditionally the post-1992 universities have done less well in the University rankings. However, in recent years some of the new universities have steadily moved up the league tables and can now sometimes be found in the top half of all universities. "The Guardian" 2004 tables were especially favourable to some post-1992 universities, Middlesex was ranked 19th overall, and Oxford Brookes was ranked 26th. In the most recent tables, published in 2007, the following Universities were ranked in the top fifty by one or another table: the University of Plymouth,Robert Gordon University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Bournemouth University, Oxford Brookes University.

The Times's methodology (2007)

"The Times" University rankings take into account eight factors. [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/good_university_guide/article671847.ece University league table 2007 | Good University Guide - Times Online ] ] Student satisfaction and a universities research output were weighted by 1.5 and each factor score was multiplied by 10 in order to give each university a score out of 1000 for each university.

*Student Satisfaction – Measured by the National Student Survey 2005, This is a measure of student’s opinions of their university and so does not necessarily measure the quality of an institution, especially as there is usually no basis for relative comparison.
*Research – Data was taken from the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise which measured British universities' research output.
*Entry Standards- The universities average UCAS tariff score. Data was taken from the Higher Education Statistics Agency
*The student-staff ratio- Data was taken from the Higher Education Statistics Agency
*Library and Computing spending- Average expenditure per student Data was taken from the Higher Education Statistics Agency
*Facilities spending- Average expenditure per student on sports, careers services, health and counselling
*Good Honours – The percentage of students graduating with a good degree.'Good' being defined as a first or 2.1
*Graduate prospects – The percentage of UK graduates in graduate employment or further study. This data is taken from HESA's survey of Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE).
*Completion – The percentage of students who manage to complete their degree

The Guardian's methodology (2008)

"The Guardian"’s league tables use six different criteria. "The Guardian" does not provide the raw data for any of these criteria but instead assigns a mark out of 10. The weighting given to each criteria is given in brackets. "The Guardian" gives no weight to the research output of a university. [ [http://education.guardian.co.uk/universityguide2008/story/0,,2068805,00.html What the tables mean | University guide | EducationGuardian.co.uk ] ] . The Guardian Online provides the facility to sort the table by any of the criteria. The Guardian also provides ranks for individual subjects.

*Teaching quality - as rated by graduates of the course (10%) – This data was taken from the National Student Survey.
*Feedback - as rated by graduates of the course (5%)
*Spending per student (17%)
*Staff/student ratio (17%)
*Job prospects (17%) - from DLHE
*Value added - comparing students' degree results with their entry qualifications (17%)
*Entry score (17%)

The Web Ranking of UK universities (2008)

As the Web is already the main scholarly communication tool and it collects results of all the activities and missions of universities (teaching, research, third mission), the [http://www.webometrics.info/rank_by_country.asp?country=uk Webometrics Ranking of UK universities] is not only showing the electronic publication performance of these institutions but also an overall glimpse of their quality. The Web ranking takes into account web activity (pages, documents and papers) and visibility (external inlinks) and it is very sensitive to bad practices in URL naming such as duplicate web domains (Imperial and Cardiff are specially affected). The January 2008 edition ranked the Top UK universities as follows:

Complete University Guide 2009, in association with The Independent

The Complete University Guide is another series of rankings. It is published on line only at www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk and allows users to adjust the main ranking to meet their individual requirements. This is achieved by varying the weightings attached to the criteria used to create the main table. It also publishes league tables of Universities in 59 subject areas, as well as a wealth of information on bursaries and scholarships, crime rates, sports facilities, advice on how to decide what to study, where to study and how to apply, student accommodation and International students.The tables are complied by Mayfield University Consultants, who until 2007 compiled the rankings for The Times. It rated Cambridge above Oxford in its first tables, published on July 30, 2007.In April 2008 the tables were published in association with The Independent.

"The Times Higher Education Supplement" has published league tables of universities on an international scale. Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, LSE, UCL, Edinburgh, Manchester, King's College London, Bristol, Warwick, SOAS, Glasgow, Birmingham, Nottingham and Queen Mary all appear within the top 100. [ [http://www.paked.net/higher_education/rankings/times_rankings.htm Paked.net: THES World University Rankings 2007 - The World's Top 200 Universities ] ] .

Daily Telegraph 'table of tables'

The "Daily Telegraph" created a 'table of tables' bringing together the results 6 different league tables. [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/graphics/2003/06/27/unibigpic.jpg;jsessionid=TGNWKTF3UJNBNQFIQMGCFFOAVCBQUIV0] The league tables it used were from "The Daily Telegraph" itself, "The Financial Times", "The Guardian", "The Times", "The Sunday Times" and an employability score taken the opinions of more than 200 firms that regularly recruit graduates. However, even this, has its flaws. Some tables place York as high as second place, such as "The Guardian", although employers rank it as low as twenty-ninth. Therefore, finding an aggregate to judge all tables by is difficult. [Nick Higgins and Cliff Pettifor "From Learning to Earning 2004", Trotman 2003, ISBN 0856608491]

ex-ratio and other tables

The "Daily Mail", "The Sun" and other media outlets have republished statistical data on the ratio of female to male undergraduates that is researched by Push.co.uk. Push also publishes a wide range of tables and data about UK universities [http://www.push.co.uk/files/file/vital.pdf] . The statistics show that the Royal Veterinary College has the highest ratio of females to males (80:20) [ [http://www.push.co.uk/document.aspx?id=09818c0f-b86e-4008-bcf1-493665112223 Sex ratio | Push University Guide | University top tens ] ] and Imperial College London has the highest ratio of males to females (63:37) [ [http://www.push.co.uk/document.aspx?id=80b8eb52-ae37-4808-a50f-e69651ceaea0 Sex ratio | Push University Guide | University top ten ] ] .


University league tables have been subject to varying degrees of criticism.There has been criticism of attempts to combine different rankings on for example research quality, quality of teaching, drop out rates and student satisfaction. Sir Alan Wilson, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Leeds argues that the final average has little significance and is like trying to ‘combine apples and oranges.’ [http://reporter.leeds.ac.uk/485/s7.htm Reporter 485 | 28 October 2002 | University league tables ] ] Other criticisms he made included the varying weights given to different factors, the need for universities to 'chase' the rankings, the often fluctuating nature of a university's ranking, and the catch-22 that the governments desire to increase access can have negative effects on league table rankings.

"The Guardian", World's Best-designed Newspaper 2006, suggests that league tables may affect the nature of undergraduate admissions in an attempt to improve a university's league table position. [ [http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/news/story/0,,2061015,00.html Funding council to investigate university league tables | higher news | EducationGuardian.co.uk ] ]

Roger Brown, the former Vice Chancellor of Southampton Solent University argues the limitations of comparative data when comparing Universities. [ [http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/comment/story/0,,2053187,00.html Tables can turn | comment | EducationGuardian.co.uk ] ]

"The Guardian" league table has a peculiar feature of ranking quite highly courses given by departments that have recently closed down. For example mathematics at Bangor [ [http://www.informatics.bangor.ac.uk/public/mathematics/news/manews.html Mathematics News ] ] which closed in 2006 was rated fifth in the UK in the "2008" league table, Hull also did reasonably well considering it too no longer had a mathematics department or degree [University scraps maths degree, Guardian Friday, 11 February, 2005, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4256981.stm] ] . "The Guardian" later published a correction [http://education.guardian.co.uk/universityguide2008/story/0,,2093444,00.html (accessed 11/7/2007)] .

Use of data from the National Student Survey has been another area of controversy as the survey has been boycotted by some universities.

Professor Geoffrey Alderman writing in the Guardian makes the point that by including the percentage of 'good honours' this can encourage grade inflation so that league table position can be maintained. [ [http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/comment/story/0,,2063699,00.html League tables rule - and standards inevitably fall | comment | EducationGuardian.co.uk ] ]

ee also

* College and university rankings
* The Good University Guide


External links

* [http://www.planning.ed.ac.uk/Management_Information/LeagueTables.htm University of Edinburgh guide to league tables and methodologies]
* [http://education.guardian.co.uk/universityguide2008/ Guardian University Guide 2008]
* [http://extras.timesonline.co.uk/gug/gooduniversityguide.php Times Good University Guide 2008]
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/section/0,,8403,00.html Sunday Times University Guide 2006] (different from The Times University Guide)
* [http://education.guardian.co.uk/researchratings/table/0,11229,-4319756,00.html/ 2001 RAE Institution Ranking (Guardian)]
* [http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/ The Complete University Guide 2009 in association with The Independent]
* [http://www.paked.net/higher_education/rankings/times_rankings.htm THES Rankings 2006 ]
* [http://www.webometrics.info Webometrics Ranking of World Universities]
* [http://www.topuniversities.com/worlduniversityrankings/ Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) - official website]
* [http://www.thes.co.uk/ TIMES Higher Education (THES) - official website]
* [http://www.paked.net/higher_education/rankings/shanghai.htm Shanghai Jiao Tong University Ranking 2006]
* [http://ed.sjtu.edu.cn/ranking.htm Shanghai Jiao Tong University Ranking - official website]

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