Do League Tables Really Matter? – UEA’s rise and fall

By Tim Jones

On the 26th of April, the Complete University Guide (CUG) realised their 2017 rankings with UEA rising two places to 12th. However, do these rankings mean anything? In my opinion, no.

When I first heard that we had achieved the title of 12th best university in the UK, I felt how I imagine every other UEA student felt. Proud. Proud that the hard work of staff and students is continually being recognised. Even when I applied to university, all that seemed to matter to my friends and I was where our university of choice was in the leagues. Nonetheless, after thinking about what these rankings mean regarding the status of the university, I began to question their importance.

There is no question that scoring high in the national rankings is a great achievement, a special mention must go to the soaring levels of student satisfaction achieved at UEA, receiving one of the highest scores for a university within the top 20. However, what the rankings don’t include is a score on prestige. I can confidently say that Red Brick and Russell Group universities, such as: Leeds, Birmingham, and Newcastle (all of which were ranked overall lower than UEA) seem to be looked upon much more favourably by employers and the public than just your ‘standard university.’ The guide even has a category that highlights this belief, the ‘graduate prospects’ category.

Looking on the Complete University Guide UEA’s graduate prospective are ranked significantly low when compared to those of more prestigious universities which have a lower overall rank. Take Sheffield for example, it ranks 31st and scores below UEA in the majority of categories, so why do they score 81.2 in graduate prospects compared to our 73.9?

The answer is that there is clearly still an uppish attitude when it comes to universities. There is the obvious elitism and advantages of going to Oxbridge which don’t need to be mentioned, but I believe the prestige of going to a Russell Group university also puts an individual at a greater advantage in terms of employment prospects.

The Times Higher Education Guide published a list of 25 universities with the best graduate employment rate for 2016. What I found was that the majority of universities above us in these rankings were on the list, however so were those who scored lower; whilst UEA was completely left out. The overall score for UEA on the Complete University Guide is 853, whilst Exeter ranks 14th, scoring 850 points, just 3 points between these two universities. However, Exeter is in joint position with Warwick (ranks 8th on the CUG) for graduate employability. The reasons for UEAs exclusion are bound to be varied, perhaps its due to the fact we specialise in more arty subjects with less traditional forms of graduate employment? More likely is the less historically renowned name of our university and the stigma that seems to be instilled, when selecting your choices, that plate glass universities are not good enough for high achieving students.

Despite all the problems with the ranking system, there is no doubt that an improved ranking will generate more interest in the university, attracting more high achieving students, as well as researchers. This influx of new blood will hopefully allow UEA to take its rightful position as a highly regarded and prestigious institution.


Featured image credit: N Chadwick

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