Universities: in a league of their own

It’s the time of year, autumn leaves are falling, freshers are beginning new lives at university, and the 2019 university league tables have been released. I can imagine that many applicants will be frantically worrying about these performances, just like I did. Is the university too good for me? Is it too low in the table? Does its position in the league table even matter?

Well, if you’re looking in terms of employability then perhaps not. While Imperial College London makes the 9th position on the Times Higher Education league tables for this year, they did not make the top 20 in the QS Graduate Employability Rankings. How could a university, marked as one of the best in the world, not even make it into the top rankings for employability? Is this a sign that name and reputation of institutions now mean more than the degrees themselves?

If we look at national league tables for the UK, we see this may indeed be true, as The Guardian placed Aberystwyth within the top five universities for teaching, but only considered it as 45th overall. Moreover, while Cambridge is one of the most prestigious universities in the country (and the world) and first in the league tables, it was surpassed by UEA for student satisfaction, with UEA rolling in at 8th while Cambridge lagged at 16th.

To muddy the murky waters even more, alongside multiple confusing and conflicting league tables, there’s also the prestigious title of being a Russell Group university which is held by 22 “research-intensive, world-class” universities across the country. While they may be considered the best, many have begun to question if they live up to their prestigious label, as many of the Russell Group universities fail to appear in the top 15 let alone the top 30. UEA, which is 14th in the league, has publicly rejected the supposed-superiority of the Russell Group label, stating that “we  should  be  reconsidering how we judge universities based on  this element of their  reputation.” Choosing which university to attend is a huge decision and the contradictory and arbitrary nature of the league tables makes a hard decision even harder. My second-choice university was a Russell Group university, and for a long time, I was unsure if I should put reputation over my love of the course. However, UEA offers a course that works best for me and I could not be happier with it. Yes, university ranking can be important, especially if looking at individual aspects like employability or student satisfaction, but they don’t tell us which courses are best-suited to us as individuals. Sure, take them into consideration, but don’t let them rule your decisions.

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May 2022
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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