Who loves universities, baby? Google+ users do

Opinions on campuses worldwide are just a click away

December 11, 2014

Source: Scyther5/Shutterstock.com

These days, there is a huge array of options available for would-be students wishing to weigh up the pros and cons of the world’s universities.

Here at Times Higher Education, we would of course recommend our respected World University Rankings as a good place to start. But if you are less impressed by our rigorous methodology, and more inclined to listen to the opinions of a sample of the world’s internet users, then Google might be the place for you.

If you’ve ever used Google Maps, you may know that if you hover your cursor over restaurants or bars, music venues or shops, then you will often find they have been reviewed by the Google community on their Google+ page. What you may not have known is that this is also true of universities.

Take the University of Cambridge, which has been given an impressive mark of 4.7 out of 5 at the time of writing, based on 152 reviews. Some of the insights offered by those volunteering feedback really clarify exactly why the institution is, in its reviewers’ eyes, doing so well.

“This is to me, the world’s best college! I’m in love with the place even though I have never been inside,” writes one Cambridge fan. “I’m only 13 though.” According to another, the university is “super high quality”, but “Cambridge boy is some person is very hard gay! Why?” Why indeed.

“Please mark every O-Level Exam Paper with extreme care,” urges one reviewer, perhaps confusing the university’s academic function with its exam board affiliations. “Every script determines the destiny of a soul.”

University College Birmingham is not far behind Cambridge, with five of its seven reviewers awarding it the full five stars (the other reviews leave the university with a 4.3 average). Six choose to not comment further, with just one proclaiming the Midlands institution “Awesome”.

The University of Edinburgh is outperforming both Cambridge and University College Birmingham, scoring an impressive 4.9 out of 5 based on 40 reviews. “Great university,” says one. “Quite the academic bastion,” observes another. Another reviewer seems happy to trust the other reviewers’ positive verdicts. “It must be a wonderful university,” they reason.

With a solid 4.2 out of 5 (based on 22 reviews), Queen’s University Belfast appears to be performing well. “Attending QUB changed my life,” says one five-star reviewer. “I wish I could study there again,” says another. A one-star reviewer, however, did not give much away when explaining that decision, saying simply: “not what i expected.”

Aberystwyth University also scored an impressive 4.2, based on 26 reviews. One reviewer was so impressed that she penned a poem. “We love Aber/it’s the best/in the sea we have a dabber/but it’s cold so we wear a vest.” This coldness was presumably what led her to award “the best” university a mere three stars.

Elsewhere, one would-be Aberystwyth student struck a particularly hopeful tone. “I need scholarship plz,” he writes. Good luck with that.

Send links to topical, insightful and quirky online comment by and about academics to chris.parr@tesglobal.com

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