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Tuesday, 3 June 2014

UK UNIVERSITY RANKINGS


There are various league tables used to rank the major universities of the world. Below is an example of one taken from today's edition of the British newspaper, the Guardian. It ranks 116 UK universities from first to last. You may be interested to know that in last place is London Metropolitan University, which as a result of recent bad publicity, comes as no great surprise.

All such tables need to be studied carefully. The criteria used to rank the different institutions are often subjective and open to a variety of interpretations. For example, the Guardian system measures, among other things, student satisfaction and the percentage of students who obtain employment within six months of graduation. These are important criteria, of course, although how you accurately measure the first of them empirically, is a bit of a mystery.

I have chosen to share with you the top 50 for various reasons. To start with, a single blog post doesn't have enough room for them all. Secondly, one of the most important factors affecting a university's success is not taken into account here: the ratio between teaching and research. This needs a few words of explanation.

The best universities in the world are highly regarded because of the quality of the research that they undertake. It's no accident that Oxford and Cambridge in the UK or Harvard, MIT, Yale and Princeton in the US attract world-class scholars, many of whom are Nobel prize winners or have written extremely influential books. Lesser, or newer universities cannot afford such stars on their staff, or cannot free up their lecturers to do much in the way of original research. In most cases, they must be regarded solely as teaching universities with far fewer research capabilities. Consequently, this means that the likelihood of cutting edge technology or state of the art learning is reduced.

Most of the 50 universities shown below have an enviable record of research and development. They are likely to offer a wider range of courses because they attract more funding, both from government and private industry. They will also have earned a reputation for specific subject disciplines. For example, Imperial is world famous for Engineering, while the Business School at Warwick always ranks highly in world league tables. For students contemplating which universities suit their needs best, this is an important consideration: investigate the actual course you want to study, rather than the university generally. 

For sponsored students at KYUEM, the choice is more limited. Sponsors have already decided which universities they accept, and their list may well be quite restricted. Nonetheless, research on the part of students (and parents, too, if they so wish) can often be very helpful beforehand.

Finally, you need to be cautious about the value of league tables generally. As well as this one from the Guardian, there are several others, such as the table produced by the Times Educational Supplement. Don't be surprised if two tables rate the same universities very differently; there is no general agreement about measurable criteria. It's fair to assume that Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and LSE all make the top ten of any UK list. They are equally likely to make the top 50 of any international list, too.

Anyway, bearing all this in mind, here is the list of the UK top 50, as produced by the Guardian on June 3, 2014:

1
Cambridge
26
Cardiff
2
Oxford
27
Coventry
3
St Andrews
28
Leeds
4
Bath
29
Newcastle
5
Imperial, London
30
Reading
6
Surrey
31
University of the Arts, London
7
London School of Economics
32
Queen Mary, London
8
Durham
33
Manchester
9
Warwick
34
Bristol
10
Lancaster
35
City University, London
11
University College, London
36
Royal Holloway, London
12
Exeter
37
Sheffield
13
Heriot-Watt
38
Strathclyde
14
University of East Anglia
39
Oxford Brookes
15
Loughborough
40
Kings College, London
16
York
41
Aberdeen
17
Birmingham
42
Keele
18
Edinburgh
43
Sussex
19
Southampton
44
Northampton
20
Kent
45
Liverpool
21
Leicester
46
Queen’s Belfast
22
Aston
47
Dundee
23
Nottingham
48
Goldsmith’s, London
24
SOAS*
49
University of the West of England
25
Glasgow

*School of Oriental & African Studies
50
Derby

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