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The 2019 Guardian University top ranking: strictly roots

The latest iteration of the Guardian league table is out, and all eyes - including those of Paul Greatrix - are on Nottingham.
This article is more than 6 years old

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

Half term fun at the top – the most exciting and unpredictable university ranking of the season is out and to the surprise of absolutely no-one, Cambridge is up town top ranking yet again with Oxford and St Andrews in 2nd and 3rd, again.

Leeds has jumped a massive four places to enter the top 10, displacing Surrey (21) and UCL (11). There is little change among the other top 10 universities.

Top 20 of the full list (which can be found here) is as follows:

20192018InstitutionGuardian score/100
33St Andrews97.2
76Imperial College83.3
1515London School of Economics76.8
1634Nottingham Trent76.6

High noon in Nottingham

The commentary on the table covers the big movers up and down the table but there is one story the Guardian is focusing on here – the big Nottingham standoff which has seen NTU overtake the University of Nottingham in the table:

Nottingham Trent University has soared 18 places to overtake its better-known competitor, the University of Nottingham, a member of the elite Russell Group, in the 2019 edition of the Guardian University Guide.
The former polytechnic has had a meteoric rise up the table over the past five years. From languishing in the bottom half, Nottingham Trent moved to 53rd place in the 2017 edition, 34th in the 2018 edition; it is now 16th. This year it has overtaken its competitor for the first time by one place in the rankings.
The university has improved across every measure, including substantial advances in graduate career prospects and National Student Survey (NSS) results, as well as attaining higher entry standards among its students and a better student to staff ratio.
Nottingham Trent is not the only example of a newer university outpacing an elite Russell Group institution in the same city. This year, Liverpool John Moores (49), another former polytechnic, has risen 31 places – the biggest leap of any university in the table – to outrank the University of Liverpool (57). Last year, Liverpool Hope and Edge Hill, also in the Liverpool district, pipped the University of Liverpool for the first time.

As you would expect, no comment from me on that one other than to say let’s have a look at the methodology then shall we where the Guardian says the table focuses on the “university activities that matter most to young people”, namely quality of teaching, student satisfaction and employability.

The guide, produced by the independent company Intelligent Metrix, ranks universities according to: spending per student; the student/staff ratio; graduate career prospects; what grades applicants need to get a place; a value-added score that compares students’ entry qualifications with their final degree results; and how satisfied final-year students are with their courses, based on results from the annual NSS.
This year, for the first time, the guide includes a new continuation measure, to reflect students’ chances of finishing their degrees. To accommodate this, spending per student has had its weighting decreased.

So it pans out like this yielding a score of 100 which is “a rating of excellence based on a combination of all the other factors”:

  • Course satisfaction: the rating for the overall quality of the course, given by final-year students in the latest National Student Survey (NSS)
  • Teaching quality: the rating for the quality of teaching on the course, given by final-year students in the NSS
  • Feedback: the rating for the quality of feedback and assessment, given by final-year students in the NSS
  • Staff-student ratio: the number of students per member of teaching staff
  • Spend per student: money spent on each student, excluding academic staff costs, given as a rating out of 10
  • Average entry tariff: typical Ucas scores of young entrants (under 21) to the department
  • Value-added score: this compares students’ degree results with their entry qualifications, to show how effectively they are taught. It is given as a rating out of 10
  • Career after six months: percentage of graduates who find graduate-level jobs, or are in further study at professional or HE level, within six months of graduation. It reflects how good the university is at employability
  • Continuation rate: the percentage of first-year students continuing to second year

It doesn’t really get more exciting than this and certainly I will be poring over those numbers for a while to come.

4 responses to “The 2019 Guardian University top ranking: strictly roots

  1. Very confused here – in Computer Science and Informatics Oxford is ranked third but has no data for four out of the eight variables. Surely that’s not enough data??

  2. These ratings are nonsense. When they change the methodology as much as they have and produce ridiculous swings (such as Kingston, which has become something of a dumpster fire, moving way up and City, which is a solid university, moving to near the bottom), it’s something that calls the whole works into question. There’s also some evidence that the fellow behind the Guardian’s system is not disinterested and has heavy ties to Kingston—which perhaps explains their inexplicable, meteroric rise.

  3. Universities (or at least proper ones) are primarily research focused institutions and hence this table is a nonsense.

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