Playing to hype

October 8, 2015

Reading Michelle Morgan’s letter made me think about those naive shopper-undergraduates and the role of guides and ranking tables as they make their otherwise uninformed choice (“Marketing failures”, Letters, 1 October).

I am not a shopper, but I read the Good University Guide and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings to see what is happening to places where I previously worked, including the University of Stirling. I had to laugh when I saw that most of Stirling’s marketing in the Guide concerned its campus, located in a park around an artificial lake. Great stuff, but more TripAdvisor than serious: looking at the figures, it sits towards 400 in the World University Rankings, about 45th in the UK listings and sixth to eighth in Scotland depending on the ranking scheme. Not the worst performing of the small provincial universities, and nowhere near what I thought it could achieve when, against some ageing resistance, I adopted the motto “Innovation and Excellence” – which is still in use – for its 25th anniversary in 1992: the optimism of (relative) youth.

I cannot believe that any aspiring student or parent can be so naive as to be swayed these days by a few birds, trees and the odd boat. No doubt readers can find other examples of hype, but for me Stirling takes first prize.

Dennis Farrington
Deputy secretary (1986-2004)
University of Stirling


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