This is an interesting development reported in the Telegraph, getting on for thirty years after I received the very welcome early Christmas present of an unconditional offer. I had thought the practice was gone, never to return.
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.
As for any teenagers reading, I can’t advise you which course would be best for you. But I can tell you that accountancy students drink the most, philosophers take the most drugs but, as we learned last autumn, economists have the most sex. Coincidentally, the applications submitted to Ucas in January saw a 4.8% in demand for economics. Don’t forget to explain to your parents that the course offers excellent career potential.
Thinking of applying to Oxford? You may want to look beyond the bigger, more famous colleges if you want the most satisfying student experience. I went to Regent’s Park College, which topped the poll of mixed sex colleges for student satisfaction, and at the very top was St Benet’s Hall, a Catholic Benedictine hall, which I remember as being notable for the jugs of (free) beer and cider served at their meals!
Full story at Oxford Student, here:
An update to the study … found that state school applicants continue to be significantly less likely to receive offers from Russell Group universities than comparably qualified applicants from private schools, although the disparity appears to have become smaller over time.
We pay particularly close attention to the personal statement. We are looking for signs of individual engagement with the course of study, as well as empirical evidence of a commitment to the subject that goes beyond the A-Level (or equivalent) syllabus.
Successful candidates tend to be those that demonstrate independent, critical engagement with the themes and controversies that underpin the discipline. This is not simply a case of applicants describing the issues they are interested in or listing the books they have read (though relevant reading or research beyond the A-Level syllabus is strongly encouraged). It is about addressing the ‘why’ question. What is it – specifically and explicitly – that so enthuses them about the debates they engage with, the books they read and the ideas they discuss? In most cases, there is a clear sense of the applicant’s own intellectual journey and how this has forged their interest in and passion for the subject.
In all cases a sense of the individual is crucial. A personal statement should be just that – a personal reflection on what it is that interests the applicant about the subject and why. We are not looking for a model answer. Indeed, there are countless different ways to write a successful application. For this reason using a template is STRONGLY DISCOURAGED as it will result in a generic statement that will not distinguish the candidate from the other applicants following the same model.
This is from the University of Bristol, but I think it’s pretty good advice for anyone applying to anywhere, to be honest.