The BridgeU guide to…University League Tables

University league tables can be a great help when advising students during long as you know how to use them.

October is a busy time for university guidance, and students are getting closer to making the crucial decisions on where they want to apply, and what they’d like to study there. Giving students good information and advice is critical to well-being, development, and can influence a life-changing decision, which is why it’s important for counsellors and teachers to understand the resources that can help them advise students. Using the latest league table results can help advisers in providing sound and honest guidance, and help to narrow down the myriad of choices available.

Applying to university is a journey in itself. Schools that use BridgeU can help their students to narrow down their choices through completing their holistic academic and personal profile, which matches students with destinations based on their answers and academic performance. University league tables can then help in student research and deciding on a final list of destinations.

It’s important to remember that there will be some bias shown by publications on a geographical basis, and it’s also worth keeping in mind that the aggregation of available data leans towards research facilities. But bias, aside, it’s interesting to see which universities have improved in recent years, which have declined, and the reasons why.

How league tables can help your students 

As well as looking at the academic performance of universities, the league tables also give you insight into other important questions. Which institutions have the highest student satisfaction? How do they rank for graduate prospects? What’s the student to staff ratio like? (For more on this, check out our post explaining how to understand “the golden ratio”, as it’s often known). How does a university perform on research quality, and is that important to your students if they’re planning a long career in higher education?

In The Guardian’s recent accounting of UK universities, first, second and third places held little surprise, going to Cambridge, Oxford and St Andrews. They also ranked top in the student satisfaction category, a very important category, and one which gives a good sense of what a student’s experience will be like, beyond considerations of prestige and academic life.

A bit further down the list are Imperial College (6th) and the London School of Economics(15th). Choosing a location is an important factor for students, and is often bound by finances. The capital is an expensive place to live, so advisors should remind students that they’ll need to budget for accommodation, general living expenses, and of course downtime too. It’s no good being accepted at the university of choice if spending four or more years there is a financial impossibility. On the other hand, Bangor, 63rd in the rankings, on the coast of north Wales, is a superb choice for sports enthusiasts, is in an idyllic location with views of Snowdonia, comes in high on student satisfaction, and the living is easy – it’s a cheap area to rent, and for socialising. Not just home-grown students either. International Student Satisfaction is always worth looking at for a student travelling from overseas. Cardiff, Exeter and Nottingham Universities are particularly noted for their Outstanding International Student Satisfaction.

What league tables can tell you about a university’s quality of life 

League tables can also provide you with all sorts of detailed information. If you’re working with students with physical restrictions, advising them to look at the dedicated entries for each institution will help them consider accessibility, which can drastically affect quality of life at university. Look into campus accommodation too, for ramps, lifts, doors and so forth.

Most universities will have an equality manager who will be pleased to answer any direct questions or give clarification. University should present challenges, but a disability shouldn’t be one of them. The University of Nottingham (19th) is “committed to providing disabled students with access to its residential and teaching buildings and other facilities”.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England – HEFCE – continues to put the spotlight on the subjects of disability and inequality, and consistently continue to research, fund and support institutions in this regard. Ongoing development that drives change is used to benefit the individual student, and society as a whole.

Helping out a prospective student to choose a university is not the end of the story, rather just the beginning. Using the league tables simply makes it easier to understand exactly what’s on offer, and where best to find it. Of course, the league tables themselves will not tell all of the story – often a lower ranking university will be the perfect choice for a particular student, based on an exemplary course in a specific subject, or how flexible they might be.

Encouraging a good spread of range of choice, rather than a fixation of a particular university that perhaps a parent or older sibling is keener on. Offer choice, and open their eyes to different possibilities. This is also key to helping a student find their dream place, and their next step in life.

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