Lost in house of mirrors

April 10, 2014

Sir David Watson is right about the divisive effect of the “Russellers” (“‘Russellers’ are not all they claim, senior scholar warns”, 3 April). While there is something boorishly predictable about a group of wealthy and privileged institutions inaccurately claiming that they represent the best, what is particularly pernicious is the way that this has been enshrined within public performance measures.

Since 2012, the Department for Education has required schools and colleges to provide statistics of the proportion of their pupils gaining places at Russell Group universities. This has shifted the Russell Group from a broad synonym for research-led universities (of which very few people could accurately list all its members) to a specific measure of quality. This puts pressure on schools and colleges to push their students to attend these institutions, even though being located at a Russell Group university tells us little about the quality of the courses they will study. That this has happened with so little outcry speaks volumes for the way that the Russell Group has dominated public discourse about the quality of universities; a dominance that damagingly distorts perceptions of where an excellent undergraduate education can be found.

Paul Ashwin
Centre for Higher Education Research and Evaluation
Lancaster University

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Clerical Exam & Assessment Officer UNIVERSITY OF GREENWICH
Professor in Music and Performance UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH WALES
Professor in Design UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH WALES
Professor of Storytelling UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH WALES

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest