Another month and another set of stats to look at, it seems that every week around this time of year someone else is throwing their hats in to the ring demanding that their university league table should be regarded as the definitive version. Lo, today is no different as The Guardian publishes their version of the comprehensive university guide for 2018 – ( https://www.theguardian.com/education/ng-interactive/2017/may/16/university-league-tables-2018)
No big surprises per se but it does continue the trend that many of the Russell Group universities, the ones that schools get so excited about and parents gush over are losing ground to these impudent youngsters like Loughborough and Surrey, indeed of the Top 10, 5 are considered non prestige destinations.
Now, this is all subjective to a degree, how one feels about a place cannot be tabulated and so easily and reductively defined which brings me to my point… don’t listen to perceived wisdom. Every university and city has a distinct and unique character and when thinking about your choices make sure you choose those that most effectively speak to you and your personality. University is of course about learning and giving you a firm educational bedrock from which to spring into your chosen career, but it’s also about fun, living your life on your terms for a while, establishing who you are and what you think. It’s about learning in the most holistic sense of the word. So if you’re a Johnny Town Mouse who enjoys the hustle and bustle of city life, choosing a campus based university in a remote backwater town is unlikely to speak to your specific needs but equally if you’re a bumpkinish Timmy Willie then throwing yourself into London life may be a little overwhelming. You should choose a setting that will speak to what makes you happy and comfortable and give you an environment in which you can thrive not one that will make you anxious and unhappy. Which is why when it comes to university choice you should begin with being honest about who you are and what environment may suit you best. Not, note, crucially not, which of the Russell Group are best for me. Don’t shoe horn yourself into an place that doesn’t speak to who you are or what your aims are simply to satisfy a parental or scholastic pressure to do so. Yes, it’s true they enjoy a level of prestige that far surpasses their upstart cousins but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
If we examine further down the top 20 we can see it plays host to an abundance, nay, a proliferation of universities that in oak-panelled smoking rooms may be considered lesser. It’s true that the education you will receive in the vast majority of these unis will likely be first class, but there are less subjective stats that need to be addressed regarding career prospects after 6 months and so on. If you are all about the appearance of excellence by all means plump for a Russell Group with its network and connections, which may well work in your favour, but for the truly ambitious don’t be put off by the lack of inclusion in this hallowed group and go for the best possible choice that makes sense for you.
That’s it really, don’t buy into the bullshit, yes it’s true we are playing with very fine margins but it’s worth considering the relative value of being perceived as having gone to a good university versus going to better one with less cache. A good example of this is Liverpool, which puts in an appearance at 67th in this year’s table behind Bangor, Derby and even Liverpool Hope (ostensibly the poor cousin of the ‘proper’ university) – makes you think…