York slips in University league tables once again

York has slipped seven places in the recent Guardian University Guide league tables, in the wake of claims that budget cuts are affecting teaching quality at the University.

The tables, which claim to “concentrate on teaching”, take into account spending per student, staff-to-student ratio and graduate career prospects, as well as the rankings of the recent National Student Survey, a nationwide poll of student satisfaction.

The Guardian now places York 15th in the country, down from its eighth place position in 2005.
The Times’ Good University Guide last year also saw York sustain a similar slip from seventh to 15th place. Earlier in the year Nouse reported that a proposed reworking of the Quality Assurance Agency university rankings would see York fall from first place to 57th.

Students and academics have expressed concerns that the recent spate of severe budget cuts to academic departments and the library would affect teaching standards.

Amy Foxton, YUSU Academic and Welfare Officer, said YUSU “realise the University must spend its money responsibly, but are opposed to the University cutting its spending on students.”

When interviewed, the University’s Press Officer David Garner denied any links between the league table drops and the dramatic budget cuts that academic departments and the library have suffered in recent years, saying the cuts were “what any big organisation does from time to time.” Garner also said the cuts were “not directly linked to the Heslington East development.”

Last autumn, Nouse quoted a senior academic from the English department who said “at this point the financial crisis… seems to be having a supremely negative effect on both teaching and research.”

A senior departmental administrator said that the University administration had become “complacent… spending far too much time, money and effort on Heslington East and forgetting the importance of our students.”

When asked for a response, Garner said “It is inevitable with something of this scale that there will need to be careful planning.” Garner was unwilling to comment on where money from these departmental budget cuts was going, saying only that he did not want to “give incorrect information.”

Garner linked the league table drops to the Guardian and The Times’ stopping use of the Teaching Quality Assessments and Subject Reviews, an independent assessment of teaching quality in which York has always done very well, in compiling their tables. The Guardian tables now use the National Student Survey, in which York do not rank as highly.

However, a lecturer in History, who wished to remain nameless, said that “the overall staff workload has gone up dramatically over the past five years.

This creates obvious tensions as students put pressure on the department for more teaching whereas they should really be putting pressure on the administration who make the spending decisions.”

He concluded that “If nothing is done, bright students and high quality staff will decide they don’t want to work in York. It won’t happen overnight, but gradually the University will decline.” Brian Cantor, Vice-Chancellor of the University of York, who is responsible for the University’s financial security, was unavailable for comment.

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