The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the Higher Education Strategic Planners Association (HESPA) are jointly publishing A Guide to UK League Tables in Higher Education by Sally Turnbull.
The paper looks at what goes in to making up the three main UK university rankings, which are published by The Times and Sunday Times, the Guardian and the Complete University Guide. It considers the similarities and differences between them and urges prospective students, policymakers and higher education providers to use them with caution.
Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), said:
Universities are judged by their position in the league tables. Rankings determine reputation, prestige and student numbers. That is why university governing bodies hold their vice-chancellors to account for their league table positions.
But users of the league tables tend to know little about how the rankings are put together. In other words, they do not know, precisely, what it is they are holding people to account for.
The main league tables are not going to disappear any time soon because they provide comparative information and people find them useful. But they are easily and often misunderstood. My hope is that everyone who holds our universities to account will set themselves a new year’s resolution to look under the bonnet of the league tables before using them.
Sally Turnbull, the author of the report and Head of Planning and Insight at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), said:
Our new guide is aimed at building a deeper understanding of what the different UK league tables measure and what they ignore. It also points out that many valuable things done by institutions cannot be easily measured or incorporated into the rankings.
Having spent more time than is probably healthy […]