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 University College Birmingham 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 University College Birmingham 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 our university from vocational courses that do not carry UCAS tariff points. This means the average University College Birmingham 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 University College Birmingham student number is used by some guides to calculate the amount of money spent directly on students. This means we appear to spend less on each student than many other institutions, which is incorrect.
  • Our 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.

Michael Harkin, University Vice-Chancellor and Principal, said: “We believe the league tables offer an unfairly distorted picture of University College Birmingham and the rigorous academic standards we require from our students.

“The quality of our teaching is underlined by the fact that the majority of our degree and postgraduate qualifications are accredited by the University of Birmingham, the third most targeted university by top employers in 2018-19 and ranked 5th by the Complete University Guide for Graduate Prospects.

In the absence of league tables, there are a number of ways that our 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 University College Birmingham:

  • We score consistently highly in the National Student Survey (NSS), reflecting our vocational mission and commitment to widening participation in higher education.
  • We are 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 our commitment to industry-based education and training.
  • We have a first-class reputation with industry for our vocational degree and postgraduate degree courses and are widely regarded as equipping our 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 University College Birmingham for 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.

We continue to provide the best facilities for all students and have invested £130 million in our campuses to enhance the student experience and ensure students have the very best, practical environments for their training. These include Moss House, which opened in early 2020 and represents an investment of £44 million in cutting-edge facilities for everything from nursing and social work to physiotherapy and sport and fitness. 

Michael Harkin said: “It is for these reasons, and many others, that thousands of students choose to study at University College Birmingham 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 the University 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.” 

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