Inconsistencies in league tables prove them worthless

Dramatic news this summer; York is dipping in the league tables. The Times HE World University rankings saw us drop from 81st to 121st. The QS World rankings saw us drop from 88th to 96th. And the ARWU (Academic Ranking of World Universities) sees York miss the top 200 altogether.
On the home league tables, the Guardian sees ninth become 15th, the Complete University Guide (CUG) sees 10th become 12th, The Sunday Times sees 13th become 15th and The Times sees ninth become 11th. It’s consistent across the board.

So why are we slipping? Looking solely at the Guardian and the CUG, we have gone down in the following categories; graduate prospects, teaching satisfaction, student to staff ratio, spending per student.

Despite incessant promises and campaigns for employability, according to these ratings, we’re actually getting worse. And cutting a number of staff members to save money negatively affected these statistics. This could partly be due to the fact the Heslington East development is cutting out Hes West facility expenditure.

“We have more people entering post-graduate education than our peers”

Jason Rose

In reality, the Guardian sees Bath overtake us solely because of entry tariff and graduate employment level; CUG sees Bristol overtake us because of the same two categories. The QS World Rankings even sees Southampton overtake us this year (75th to our 96th), due to an Academic Peer Review (72.1 per cent to 67.4 per cent).

York has its reasons for failing to attract graduate jobs; we have more people entering postgraduate education than our peers and we have more people staying to live in York (instead of moving to seek employment) than comparable institutions.

I have never trusted these tables for a number of reasons. Ultimately, though, because of this simple fact: Manchester is not in the top 24 this year for any of the UK league tables, and yet is allegedly 38th in the world. The lack of logic behind that dumbfounds me.

Also, the ARWU appears to favour older and larger institutions. Using number of Nobel Prize winning alumni, Nobel Prize winning staff, number of highly cited individuals, number of published papers, number of papers indexed, and the total score per academic staff member, to compile their rankings.

This shows two things: firstly, that the university league tables are completely useless – and secondly, that the University expansion will indeed help improve our league table position. So it seems, the very thing that is frequently blamed for current problems may well be the thing that helps us all out in the distant future.

One comment

  1. Not completely reliable =/= completely useless.

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