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Rankings, data, tables and spin

Nothing brings out the creative instincts of universities like a new set of research assessments. After 24 hours of rankings, tables and spin, John O’Leary looks at the new data from HESA which allows us to measure intensity and reflect on the true state of the research rankings.

REF 2014 Sector Results 2 – Intensity

Here we published the first all-important measure of research ‘intensity’ across the sector which is calculated by measuring the percentage of eligible staff entered in to the REF. This is drawn from the HESA data released after the REF results which showed the total full-time equivalents (FTE) of staff identified as eligible to be submitted to the REF 2014 by HE provider and REF Unit of Assessment.

REF 2014 Sector Results 1

Wonkhe has crunched the numbers and here is a ranking of UK higher education institutions based on their grade point average from the 2014 REF.

Introducing data

In the 21st century, data makes the world go round. It powers enterprise and connectivity, as oil and steam did in the last two centuries. It comes in many varieties and flavours – ‘raw’ data, ‘processed’ data, ‘big’ data, ‘meta’ data, ‘personal’ data, ‘open’ data, ‘unstructured’ data, to name only a handful that are currently significant… | As the sector begins to get its collective head around data, Graeme Wise sets the scene and introduces Wonkhe’s new data blog – a new initiative dedicated to higher education and its relationship with data.

Interesting trends in latest UCAS data

UCAS have now published their data for applications to the 15 January deadline. By this stage, almost all school-leavers who are going to apply have applied, and a significant proportion of the overseas and older applicants have also applied. This provides us with a reasonably firm basis for taking stock of this years’ recruitment position.

UCAS Data: 2013 Cycle

UCAS have now published their mid-December data on the 2013 cycle, and the press coverage has been mainly downbeat, perhaps because UCAS has not tried the faintly ludicrous ‘late surge’ spin that they put on the equivalent data last year. But there are several reasons why we need to be cautious about drawing hasty conclusions from the data released so far.

Unlocking the Key Information Set

Today the new Unistats site goes live and Key Information Sets are soon to finally emerge; blinking into the sunlight, as endlessly cycling widgets designed to add a certain effervescence to course websites. Most of the attention has been focused on their role in the march of the market and the rise of the consumer. However, I want to make a separate point about the relationship between the KIS and quality which I do not believe has been explored in as much depth as it could have been.

Employability: Congratulations to the best and ‘worst’ performers…

HESA have recently released the latest DLHE figures showing the destinations of graduates six months after obtaining their degrees. They have sparked headlines about unemployed graduates as well as underemployed graduates – those that can’t find work and those having to take non graduate jobs. Stories on the BBC and in broadsheets from the Guardian to the Telegraph have highlighted up to 1 in 5 graduates unemployed at six months and around 1 in 4 of those in work in jobs that might not require degree level qualifications. These findings come at a time when fees are rising to £9k a year and many commentators can’t resist seeing the data as proof that too many people go to university and that there aren’t the jobs to accommodate them all. Andy Westwood takes a closer look at the data and argues that this is a lazy and potentially damaging view.

Do Vice Chancellors love Cox? The ‘celebrity academic’ – a statistical analysis

You cannot have watched television on a Sunday night in the UK over the past few weeks without witnessing the wonders of Professor Brian Cox, the be-gortexed globetrotting human lens flare that has defined popular physics in 2011. With his rock&roll background, his boyish enthusiasm and charm, and his habit of wearing t-shirts that display a startling level of nipple definition, many hearts have been set a-flutter and the phrase “stellar superfluid” has taken on a whole new layer of meaning.