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All new Dumbest University Rankings 2018

A possibly fruitless ranking of the worst rankings of universities to be found anywhere.
This article is more than 5 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

As might be evident from even the most casual perusal of Registrarism blogs over the years I have something of a love/hate relationship with university league tables. They generally fall into three categories: bad, really bad and spectacularly awful.

(Of course, this very recent ranking of universities and their car parks is in a class of its own).

I’ve posted before on some of the most dreadful examples and my list of those I dislike the most. But since then there have been a whole lot of newly minted and quite questionable rankings.

The definitive 2018 Dumbest University Ranking of Rankings

It’s an all-time high for this new entry at ten – a dopey drugs league table from the Tab. Based on a wholly reliable survey of 11,000 students self-declaring their use of controlled substances this ranking identifies the City of Bristol as the overall drugs capital and sees the number one cannabis using institution (Sussex) apparently having an 86% use rate by its students and therefore earning the prestigious stoner university of the year title.

In at nine and rising up the rankings this year is The Alternative UK University City League Table 2018. This table claims to have looked into what really matters to the students of today and ranked each city on crime rate, average graduate salary, sustainability, the price of a pint and LGBTQ friendliness. A nice idea but limited in all sorts of ways.

New in the number eight slot is The Student Room which has produced a stimulating ranking for students wondering “where can you get the most amazing Americano? The most luscious latte? The most fantastic flat white?” Perhaps they thought it would be fun to see which universities had the best coffee shops near campus, so made up a crude methodology and came up with the top 10 universities for coffee lovers. Better go decaf.

Charging up the table to seven we have the very serious sounding 2018 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, which claims to identify the university-based scholars in the US “who are doing the most to shape educational practice and policy.” They offer points for books, highest Amazon ranking, newspaper mentions and education press mentions. More than a little iffy.

And then at six, we have a banker ranking. It’s not particularly new but certainly has some novel findings. The NatWest Student Living Index asked 3407 students across 35 UK universities to find out their spending habits and how they divide their time between studying and socialising. “Cardiff topped the charts as being the most affordable student city. This was calculated by comparing student’s costs and monthly living expenditure compared to their income.” According to this index, Brighton and Sussex students ranked 5th for most time spent socialising and spend the 3rd most on fashion compared to other universities which just goes to show how valuable the whole thing is.

At five is this Higher Education R.O.I: Which are the Best Value Universities in the Country? ranking which cross-referenced “cost and expense data such as tuition fees, accommodation costs and even the price of a local pint, with the income and opportunities that students will enjoy after graduating from every university in the UK.” Some opaque weighting then resulted in a ranking of which universities “give students the best return on their investment.” Priceless.

A new entry at four is the marvellously daft ranking, the Wetherspoons Uni League which doesn’t rate research quality or qualifications but “how easily we can get bevved at our favourite, cheap-as-chips pub chain”. The “research” involved counting all the ‘Spoons in each university city and how far students need to travel from campus to reach your nearest pub. “For those who value a Somersby in the sun, we have also calculated the percentage of Spoons’ with a licensed pub garden.” A marvel of ranking creativity for which Cardiff University must be inordinately proud of coming out on top.

Rising rapidly up the rankings to number three is this most brazen of league tables based on “research” conducted by lingerie brand Ann Summers which looked at which students were spending the most on sex toys, bondage and lingerie. Top of the table, with students spending a massive £11,266 on sex toys [not each I assume] in 2017, is the University of Oxford. They spent more on sex toys than any other university – “Yes, it appears students attending the countries’ best university, also have voracious sexual appetites.” Coming in at close second is the University of Cambridge, with students spending £9,410. Nothing remotely dodgy about that league table.

A new entry in at two is the seriously seedy ‘sugar daddy’ list. This appears to be an utterly fictional ranking published irregularly for the sole purpose of promoting this deeply unpleasant dating business. Every time the press release appears for this, there is an appallingly prurient response from parts of the media who unquestioningly repeat the statistics about the improbably high proportion of students who are said to be signed up to the site and quote pseudonymous female students who claimed to be making large sums from sugar daddy arrangements. The ranking of new sign-ups by institution deserves a special methodological prize. Yuk.

Still at number one for the second year running is, of course, the incomparably silly Spiked free speech ranking. Space does not permit an analysis of this utterly dim offering (but see here), but it remains perhaps the most surprisingly quotable table despite having the biggest gap of all the rankings between its crude methodology and its high profile.

Bubbling under

Sitting just outside the top ten are some not quite so dumb tables such as the 50 under 50 degrees north ranking at number 12, 20 over 500 at 15 and the famous 30 under six ranking at number 17.

Similarly, this wholly fictional ranking of made up institutions was also just not quite dumb enough to make it past number 18, and it has come in for some competition from John Rentoul’s fictional universities top 10 recently published in the Independent but still sitting just outside the top 20.

A brand new entry at 23 is the latest in a set of niche rankings from THE – it’s the Best Universities in New Europe. Following the young university ranking (for institutions under 50 years old) and the golden years ranking (for universities disappointed about being just over 50 years old) we now have the best universities in a very particular group of countries which have most recently joined the EU. Refreshingly specific or a bit daft? Time will tell.

We are expecting a new entry soon from the cheatiest cheating essay mill league table and the ranking of the news outlets which have most frequently used THAT picture of the three graduates with purple hooded gowns.

So, to recap, here’s your latest Dumbest of the Dumb ranking of rankings for 2018

  1. Spiked “Free Speech” silliness
  2. The super seedy Sugar Daddy table
  3. The very naughty Ann Summers ranking
  4. The ‘Spoons Uni League
  5. The HE ROI ranking
  6. The NatWest Student Living Index
  7. RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings
  8. The Coffee ranking
  9. The Alternative UK University City League Table 2018
  10. The Who Does the Most Drugs ranking

Are there any other #DumbRankings recently released which might be breaking into the top 10 in future?

4 responses to “All new Dumbest University Rankings 2018

  1. So, Cardiff tops the Student Living Index for affordability and the Wetherspoons Uni League… I think there’s a possible study in correlation/causation there.

  2. Not clear here whether object or methodology is being satirised; but I hardly think that Spiked are that bothered about methodology. It’s getting their point across, and clearly they are successful in doing this.

  3. I don’t think we should knock the car parking one, the staff need to park somewhere, no staff and nothing happens, no fancy proper uni league table rankings.

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