Friday, April 13, 2018

At last. A Ranking With Cambridge at the Bottom

Cambridge usually does well in national and global rankings. The most recent ARWU from Shanghai puts it in third place and although it does less well in other rankings it always seems to be in the top twenty. It has suffered at the hands of the citations indicator in the THE world  rankings which seem to think that Anglia Ruskin University, formerly the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology, has a greater global research impact but nobody takes that seriously.

So it is a surprise to find  an article in the Guardian about a ranking from the Higher Education Policy Institute ( HEPI) in the UK that actually puts Cambridge at the bottom and the University of Hull at the top. Near the bottom are others in the Russell group, Oxford, Bristol and LSE.

At the top we find Edge Hill, Cardiff Metropolitan and, of course, Anglia Ruskin Universities.

The ranking was part of a report written for HEPI by Iain Martin, vice-chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University, that supposedly rates universities for fair access, that is having a student intake that mirrors society as a whole. It compares the percentage of participation in higher education of school leavers in local authority areas with the percentage admitted by specific universities. Universities have a high rank if they draw students from areas where relatively few school leavers go to university. The rationale is the claim that learning outcomes are improved when people of diverse backgrounds study together.

It is noticeable that there several Scottish universities clustered at the bottom even though Scotland has a free tuition policy (not  for the English of course) that was supposed to guarantee fair access.

This rankings looks like an inversion of the ranking of UK universities according to average entry tariff, ie 'A' level grades, and a similar inversion of most global rankings based on research or reputation. 

Cambridge and other Russell Group universities have been under increasing pressure to relax entry standards and indiscriminately  recruit more low income students and those from historically unrepresented groups. It seems that they are slowly giving way to the pressure and that as academic standards erode they will be gradually eclipsed by the rising universities of East Asia.


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