Last year I wrote a post about interpreting university league tables. In an increasingly market-driven, competitive culture, league tables are more important than ever in the role they play in affecting students’ decisions about where to apply, but just how useful are they?
Recent research from Royal Holloway, University of London, has studied the role that league tables play in applicants’ decision making, and has identified the Guardian league table as the most influential. But does that mean it is the best? Naturally, the Guardian itself has been trumpeting the value and influence of its tables, but I would suggest you read not only their article, but, perhaps more importantly, the comments below it (they get quite heated in places).
The overall message I would give is to make sure that you refer to several tables, make sure you understand how they are compiled, and make sure they are only one part of a decision making process that takes in a range of information and data. Certainly don’t be swayed by differences of a small number of places in a table. As you can see if you spend any time at all looking at the detail, tiny differences in the weighting of individual pieces of data that are less than wholly reliable in the first place can send a university or subject department soaring up or plummeting down the tables.