Aberystwyth v-c uses blog to defend record

April McMahon blames ‘years of underinvestment’ for tumbling league table positions

October 14, 2014

The vice-chancellor of Aberystwyth University has taken to a blog to defend her institution after it tumbled down league tables, blaming poor performance on “many years of under-investment”.

April McMahon has faced increasing pressure during 2014 over falling student numbers and Aberystwyth’s league table positions but, in a piece on the university’s website co-written with Lucy Hodson, the director of planning, Professor McMahon says that action being taken to arrest the situation would take time to make an impact.

“Let’s be honest about it. League table performance over the past several years reflects many years of under-investment at Aberystwyth University,” the blog says.

“This is something that our current investment programme is putting right; but we’re playing catch-up and our competitors are not going to stand back and wait for us.”

Aberystwyth has fallen 17 places to 87th in the 2015 Complete University Guide, while sliding 18 spots to 106th out of 116 in The Guardian’s university guide. It also dropped 11 to come 93rd in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.

This is in sharp contrast to Aberystwyth’s aim of being one of the top 30 universities in the UK by 2017 and follows alarming drops in standings over previous years.

An online petition calling for Professor McMahon to resign now has more than 1,100 signatures.

But Professor McMahon, who joined Aberystwyth in 2011, uses the blog to highlight a £100 million programme of investment which she says will deliver some of the UK’s best teaching facilities and student accommodation.

“Aberystwyth students are engaged, vocal and care about their university, which is why they don’t hold back in telling us what we need to do to make it better. And we listen, and act. But it takes a while to work through to the league tables,” the blog states.

“League tables use data from several years so it is to be expected that after putting all the appropriate mechanisms in place to address issues, it will still take some time for the indicators to catch up. Nobody is twiddling their thumbs and hoping that will just happen.

“We’re investing, improving, enhancing; we’re confronting long-standing problems; we’re upping our game. People talk about ‘green shoots’ of recovery – and there are a lot of them about here.”

The blog adds that, while it would be “easy to disparage or argue against league tables”, they were important to prospective students and parents.

“You can’t blame them for using comparative data whenever it’s available, though we’d argue for taking them with a decent pinch of salt.”


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