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How to make the most of university ratings

How to make the most of UK university ratings


A complete guide to understanding different university ratings


Is it helpful to read university ratings?

When you are making a decision which university to apply to, especially if you are a foreign student and are going into all the trouble and expense of coming over from a different country to study in the UK, you will probably want to make sure that you choose a reputable university with brilliant ratings that is well known to your future employer. The problem is, however, that the same university can have radically different ratings according to different ranking systems and different aspects of university life. So how do you decide which one is the accurate representation of what you are paying for?

To find out more about current university ratings, please have a look at our UK university ranking and London University Ranking.

University ranking categories

There is a vast variety of categories that university evaluations are based on and, to make it more confusing, different websites will use different criteria for their evaluation. Rankings will look at the place a university takes in the world, a specific country, a certain criteria, such as student satisfaction, or a particular subject and the results for the same university will vary greatly depending on this. For example, Oxford University comes at number 6 in the world in terms of overall score according to QS World University Ranking 2015-2016.

The same institution takes the first place for its employer reputation and sixty third place for the amount of citations per faculty. And this is all within the same ranking system. The difference between various evaluation systems can be even more striking.

So how do you decide what is an accurate representation of the standard that a university offers?

There are three things that you want to pay close attention to: overall score, subject score and criteria used.

If understanding the overall score and the subject score is relatively straight forward, reading numerous criteria can be a lot more confusing. You will encounter large variety of categories such as:

  • Course satisfaction
  • Teaching satisfaction
  • Good feedback
  • Student to staff ratio
  • Student to faculty ratio
  • Spend per student
  • Entry tariff
  • Career after graduation
  • Academic reputation
  • Employer reputation
  • International student ratio
  • Citations per faculty
  • Quality of research
  • Industry income

Making a shortlist of aspects that are most important for you will allow to identify what you expect to gain from your higher education and have a more focused approach to the selection process. Prioritising will also help you to decide which rating systems to pay more attention to. Since they all use different criteria to base their final scores on, you can choose the source that uses parameters that you shortlisted. For example, if professional connections are a significant part of your university experience, pay close attention to student to staff ratio. Охford University, for example, takes second place in the UK for student-faculty ratio which  means exceptional opportunities in terms of interaction with world-leading researchers.

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Which university rating systems to use?

Here are some examples of the most commonly referred to ranking systems for university ratings in the UK and worldwide.

QS World University Ranking

QS World University Ranking is created by British Quacquarelli Symonds every year in September and compares 3000 universities in the world.

The evaluation is based on the overall score, academic reputation, employer reputation, student ratio per faculty, international student ratio per faculty, international staff ratio and citations per faculty. When looking the last parameter though, you do need to take into account that not all disciplines will have equal results in terms of citations not due to their academic success but purely due to the fact that some disciplines use citations more than others. So if you do use this variant for comparing universities, use it within the same discipline.

Times Higher Education

Times higher education ranking series are produced annually by the Times Higher Education magazine. It includes World University Rankings, 150 under 50 rankings, BRICS and emerging economies rankings, world reputation rankings and Asia university rankings.

THE has 13 different indicators it looks at and they are grouped into: teaching, international outlook, research, citations and industry income.

In 2015-2016 American Caltech came first with English University of Oxford in the second place.

The complete university guide

The complete university guide a very user-friendly rating system for UK universities. It is published by Mayfield University every April. The aspects it looks at are: entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality, graduate prospects and the overall score. In 2015-2016 they named Cambridge as the top university in the UK with Oxford taking the second place.

The Guardian University League Tables

This website looks at UK universities with Cambridge taking the first place in 2015-2016. It takes into account a large number of components: satisfaction with the course, satisfaction with teaching, satisfaction with feedback, student to staff ratio, spend per student, average entry tariff, value added score, career after 6 month. The last category is what makes this rating stand out and gives it very practical focus in terms of the actual impact of your higher education on your career prospects.

Are business schools rated differently?

They are. MBA and business programmes have their own ranking systems and use such parameters as student satisfaction, research, careers, salary, employment, and value. MBA programmes can be very expensive and therefore even more results focused than most other university programmes: they have to deliver those essential results in terms of career and pay package to convince the students that they are worth their price.

You can find examples of such rating here:

Making the choice – a perfect university for you

Whilst it is understandable that most students would prefer to go to a prestigious university with a worldwide reputation and high overall score, it is also, if not more important, to look at how the university compares with other educational establishments in your particular field. Your future employer will know the field very well and will be aware which universities prepare the best specialists in their area of work. And this is what they will be interested in: an employee who is prepared well enough to hit the ground running with minimal training.

It is important to figure out what employers want, but it is just as important to be clear about what you want. Yes, we are all aiming to get a good education and a successful career but what does it mean to you?

Are you an independent person who knows exactly how to make use of good facilities or do you need more guidance? Are you interested in research and want to make good contacts with leading researchers in the field? Do you need help to create professional contacts in the business world and looking for a university that can put you in touch with the right company?  Once your priorities are clear, ratings can answer a lot of questions for you.

If you need help with choosing a perfect university, contact us today.

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