League tables: a guide for staff

In the recent league tables in the Complete Universities Guide and The Guardian you will have seen that the University has fallen around 12 places in both. So this year we are placed around 73rd and 86th, respectively. Both mean the University of Bradford is placed in the 3rd quartile. We are currently at 54 in the Sunday Times Guide which puts us in the second quartile. Overall these are disappointing results. However there is much that we can do to improve this, but we all need to understand the contribution that we must make.

League tables are becoming an important benchmark for prospective students and their parents and for potential staff to judge the performance of different universities, and so it is very important that we address this downward trend especially with the changes coming in 2012-13.

To help understanding it may be useful to outline explain the key reasons for the fall and what action we need to take in individual Schools and within Corporate Services to ensure our position improves next year.

Whilst there are a range of variables in the league tables much of the data is based on the results of the National Student Survey (this is an annual survey completed by 3rd year students by subject area), annual returns to Higher Education Statistical Agency for students, staff and finance, Universities Central Admissions System data (UCAS) and the last Research Assessment Exercise i.e. RAE 2008.

The areas where we benchmark reasonably well and must at least maintain, if not improve, are:

  • Our overall student satisfaction in the NSS (currently 2nd quartile)
  • Graduate prospects (currently 2nd quartile)
  • Research quality (currently 2nd quartile)
  • Academic staff to student ratio (currently 2nd quartile)
  • The support services we offer to students (library; IT; other personal support) (currently 2nd quartile)

 

The areas where we need to focus and  improve for next year are:

 

  • Improve student satisfaction with the standard of teaching (questions 1-4 of the NSS). This is currently 3rd/4th quartile. I would urge all our teaching staff to have a look at these questions in relation to their subject areas.
  • Improve speed and standard of feedback to students (currently 3rd quartile)
  • Entry standards (currently 3rd quartile)- this is primarily measured by UCAS points on entry and, given that we recruit from a very wide background, is lower than average in some subject areas
  • Good honours (currently 3rd quartile) – this is sometimes expressed as ‘value added’ (difference between entry points and final degree classification)
  • Academic services spend and facilities spend (currently 3rd quartile)

All league tables are broken down by subject area and the National Student Survey is published in either NSS ‘department’ or ‘subject’ form. Students are generally more interested in the data for the subject areas that they are interested in studying.

It would be helpful if all members of staff familiarise themselves with the questions asked in the NSS, and there is an overview of the process, questions and results at http://www.bradford.ac.uk/admin/planning/data/nss/nss2010.php . If you wish to look at the league tables in more detail links to the web pages can be found at the ‘External Data and Information’ section here:  http://www.brad.ac.uk/admin/planning/data/

Schools and Directorates are currently putting in place action plans that should lead to a more positive outcome next year but we need everybody to understand the part they can  play in improving our performance.

Monday, June 13th, 2011 in News