✨ Making Sense Of University Rankings ✨
Deciding which university to apply for is really tough. There are so many universities to choose from and you really know so little about them. The idea that there is one simple ranking that you can use to help make your decision is quite a comfort... except there isn't just one.
In fact, Wikipedia lists 23 separate rankings of worldwide universities. What's more, there are also national rankings in many countries that are completely separate from those global rankings.
In the UK there are 3 main ones: The Times Good University Guide, The Guardian University Guide, and The Complete University Guide. So now you not only have to evaluate which uni is best, but which rankings are best to evaluate them by - that's crazy!
Don't despair. We're going to talk you through it, so you'll know how to use rankings in a way that helps you make an informed decision. While you shouldn't take rankings too seriously, there is useful information you can extract. You just need to know what you're looking for...
THE (Times Higher Education), QS and ARWU are the "big 3" world rankings. The calculation methodology for all of them focuses on size, research and reputation. There's not a big difference between them, so you can choose any one of them for this purpose.
Some employers prefer graduates from higher ranking universities on one of these lists, and some countries even use one of these rankings as part of their points-based work visa schemes. They are often criticised for their poor methodologies, but their popularity sort of makes them self-defining.
These rankings have little to do with the quality of teaching you can expect, but some people may value your qualification more if it comes from a university ranked highly on one of these lists.
2. Quality of Course/Teaching/Employment Prospects
This is likely to be the most important thing for most students, but many rankings do not accurately assess them, and don't weight them highly in the rankings calculation.
Unfortunately, there isn't really a very good ranking comparing these aspects internationally.
The QS Graduate Employability Rankings and HRLR rankings focus on graduate/alumni prospects; but they can't be separated by subject, and their methodology is a bit unclear. The THE rankings can be sorted by teaching quality, and filtered by subject; but teaching quality is based on academic surveys, which is not a very good measure.
It's best to look at individual country rankings to compare quality of course/teaching/employment prospects.
The Guardian's rankings are our favourite for UK universities. Don't pay much attention to the overall rankings. Pick the subject (or even the individual course) you're interested in and see how the unis compare for that particular faculty. Many unis can be great at teaching some courses, but poor for others. Try sorting by the following fields:
- Satisfied with course/teaching/feedback: How happy past students were with the course/teaching/feedback
- Spend per student: How much money is being spent per student on that particular course
- Value added score: How much students' grades improve while on the course.
- Career after 6 months: % of graduates who got a graduate-level job or went on to study further within 6 months of graduating.
3. Student Experience
A big part of university for many is the social aspect: joining clubs, making friends and "going out". Unfortunately these things aren't considered at all within the main university rankings. THE's Student Experience Survey though ranks UK universities based on a survey of their students. A quick glance suggests most of the fun is to be had outside of London.
We hope this has helped you figure out which uni is best for you. If you want personalised advice, get your self a free consultation from us above.
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