University League Tables Statement

University College Birmingham’s unique dual role as a successful higher education and further education institution means its performance is often unfairly represented by the traditional “one-size-fits-all” university league tables.

It is for this reason, and no other, that UCB has declined to take part in league tables, which do a disservice to student achievements and the University’s internationally recognised standards of teaching, both of which are lauded in independent measures of student satisfaction.

The majority of graduate and postgraduate courses are accredited by the University of Birmingham, underlining the rigorous nature of academic teaching and assessment.

Here are a few examples of the ways in which league tables have misinterpreted UCB data:

  • Many guides use the average UCAS tariff score of students on entry to an institution. The assumption is that this reflects the ability of the student and how selective (better) the university is. However, many students apply to UCB from vocational courses that do not carry UCAS tariff points. This means the UCB average tariff points on entry are lower than institutions that recruit mainly A-level students.
  • The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) calculates a full-time equivalent (FTE) student on a course basis. A higher education student usually takes one course per year and the FTE number is therefore accurate. However, most further education students take two or three courses per year and, as a result, the FTE number is incorrectly inflated.
  • HESA cannot split numbers between those who teach on higher education and those who teach on further education. A number of staff teach on both. Hence, any rating that relies on student or staff numbers will be incorrect.
  • These two sets of data are used by guide compilers to calculate student/staff ratios and the data used makes it appear there are far more students per member of staff than is the case.
  • Also, the inflated UCB student number is used by some guides to calculate the amount of money spent directly on students. This means UCB appears to spend less on each student than many other institutions, which is incorrect.
  • UCB’s mission as a vocationally-based, teaching-focused institution rather than a research intensive establishment means we do not apply for government-funded research grants and, therefore, we are disadvantaged in this respect in the scoring of a number of the guides.

Professor Ray Linforth, University Vice-Chancellor and Principal, said: “We believe the league tables offer an unfairly distorted picture of UCB and the rigorous academic standards we require from our students.

“The quality of UCB teaching is underlined by the fact that the majority of our degree and postgraduate qualifications are accredited by the University of Birmingham, named University of the Year 2014 by The Sunday Times Good University Guide.”

In the absence of league tables, there are a number of ways that UCB’s existing and prospective students can judge the quality of teaching and the student experience. Here are just a few of the many compelling reasons to study at UCB:

  • UCB scores consistently highly in the National Student Survey (NSS), reflecting its vocational mission and commitment to widening participation in higher education.
  • UCB is in the top quartile of universities for the “personal development” of students, according to the NSS. Personal development measures factors such as confidence, communication skills and problem-solving and reflects UCB’s commitment to industry-based education and training.
  • UCB has a first-class reputation with industry for its vocational degree and postgraduate degree courses and is widely regarded as equipping its students to excel in the global jobs market.
  • The Quality Assurance Agency – the body responsible for assessing the quality of teaching and learning in higher education – has consistently awarded UCB its highest level of assurance.
  • Our own internal student surveys show the vast majority of students declare themselves “Very Satisfied” or “Satisfied” with their course.

UCB continues to make significant capital investments to enhance the learning environment for its students. McIntyre House, a new £26 million teaching and learning centre incorporating the latest energy saving technology, opened in September 2014. The 7,500 square-metre building in the city’s historic Jewellery Quarter includes teaching rooms, lecture theatres and a 200-seat cafe. The work has been funded entirely from UCB reserves and is used by more than 2,500 postgraduate and undergraduate students.

The second phase of UCB’s redevelopment in the Jewellery Quarter is being planned.

Professor Linforth said: “It is for these reasons, and many others, that thousands of students choose to study at UCB each year. Instead of relying on league tables that often give a distorted view, I would warmly invite prospective students to come along and judge UCB for themselves. Meet our students and ask them about the quality of teaching, the experience of our staff and see our first-class industry-standard facilities.”