University league tables are the source of much anxiety for university applicants each year. However, for a truly rounded view on whether a university is the right one for you, you need to make your judgements on more than just league tables. The general advice in making this life changing decision (no pressure) is to visit universities and take into consideration factors that are important to you, for example how close to home you will be or how course content aligns with your interests. These are things no league table can measure. There are also plenty of resources out there to help you make more personalised choices, www.ukuniversitysearch.com for example; or perhaps if you are wondering if student life is for you at all, www.loudmag.co.uk .
Nonetheless, league tables can be helpful in making your choice to see how well a university is doing. It is important to keep in mind when looking at them, though, that they all measure universities differently, putting weight on different factors, and none are unbiased, the fact that they’re printed in newspapers should tell you that much. We have looked at how the main ones collect their data so you can use league tables wisely when choosing your university.
The Guardian prides itself on providing a student-focused league table. Where other league tables put weight on things like research output by a university The Guardian does not because they do not view it as relevant to the student. Their data therefore is heavily reliant on student opinion, feedback and experience which, despite being a good thing, can be influenced by all kinds of external issues and by personal feelings.
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The Complete University Guide
The Complete University Guide gets most of its data from the public domain. It uses surveys like the National Student Survey and statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency to make its measurements. This means it strikes a good balance between student opinion and facts and figures when ranking universities. However even annual surveys and statistics won’t always mirror the most recent changes at a university: because of publication dates, the information could just be fresh rather than brand-new.
The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide
Like the Complete University Guide the Times/ Sunday Times also gets most of its data from the public domain. It also uses statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency to compile its measurements on things like entry rates, completion rates and graduate prospects and the National Student Survey for student satisfaction. It puts a heavier weight on student satisfaction and research quality than other indicators to make its final rankings. To view The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide online however you do need a subscription.