Checking out the university league tables is a common practice for parents and students, especially when they are deciding which university to attend. But, when it comes down to the best, in all aspects, how useful are university league tables, in telling you the information that you need to know?
University is a personal experience and it should be your choice and your choice alone – letting someone or something else to tell you which institution to study at won’t help you in any way. When looking at university league tables, they’re a handy tool in the process of making the decision, but they shouldn’t be the only source. University league tables can’t tell you which university is the perfect one for you, the number one ranking institution won’t guarantee that it is the place you should attend, and the same can be said for a university lower down on the list.
What league tables should you look out for?
There are many different league tables, and the most popular ones are; The Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, and the Complete University Guide. Each guide calculates their rankings using different criteria, and bear in mind that The Times and The Sunday Times require a subscription.
What do they include?
All of the league tables listed include, Student Satisfactory score, student to staff ratio, Graduate prospects and Entry grades. The student satisfactory score is a helpful indicator of what the university experience is really like from real student’s ratings. It is best to remember that not every ranking will be completely honest due to varying factors, and a lot of universities may get similar results.
The student to staff ratio is the numbers of teaching/staff at the university to every student attending, meaning if there are 4 students per teacher or 24. However, this statistic only tells you how much a university has invested in staffing, but not how much teaching or face time you are going to receive.
The numbers of Graduate prospects can give you an idea of what graduating students do after they finish their degree – what you’re most likely to be doing after your three years. The data is only collected for the six months after students have obtained their degree, which doesn’t give you a full snapshot of what life will be like as a recent graduate.
Entry grades can have an impact on subject rankings, however, it can be argued that it is more important what grades students leave university with, rather the ones they had when they entered. The UCAS tariff points that students receive are listed, not the amount of points that are needed to get onto the course, and with students usually receiving more points than needed for courses, it may look like universities are out of reach – which they’re not; remember to check the actual entry requirements for the course instead.
It can be hard to know what to look for when looking at league tables, but if you realise that not all the information are set-in-stone-statistics you can start to use them as a tool in the process of choosing a university and courses. In our next part, you can find out how to use the league tables to help make your decision.
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