A vice-chancellor has written to his staff urging them to respond "pretty smartly" to a newspaper league table that placed their university at the bottom.
In an e-mail message sent out following the publication of The Sunday Times University Guide , Mike Thorne, the vice-chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University, described the university's fall to 123rd place as a "body blow".
He called on staff to make students aware of the impact the results of the National Student Survey can have on league table positions and, in turn, on "the perceived value of their degrees".
Professor Thorne said Anglia Ruskin's ranking will "without doubt" harm the university's reputation and called for staff to work together to get the university "back to where we deserve to be".
"I know that everyone who read this at the weekend was deeply shocked to find us at the bottom of the table. We all know just how specious university league tables are, but no one ever wants to be at the bottom of such tables, especially in a newspaper with such a wide circulation," he wrote.
"Without doubt this will harm our reputation, and we need to respond to it pretty smartly, both externally and internally."
Professor Thorne said he had tasked a group with addressing the university's "worsening" student retention figures. Also to be examined are the reasons why entry grades "seemingly took a tumble" in 2005-06, including the possibility that the university is under-reporting students' qualifications.
In the NSS - the results of which are a key measure of success in many newspaper tables - Anglia Ruskin fared "comparatively badly" mainly due to poor ratings for teaching organisation and management, Professor Thorne said.
Pointing out that the next NSS will be conducted at the turn of the year, he wrote: "It does occur to me that we need to ensure that students are aware of the relation between the grades that they give and, thanks to the league tables, the perceived value of their degrees."
But he praised staff for their sense of ambition and pride, and said the university deserved to boast about its achievements and encourage its "hugely supportive" students to "tell the outside world about us as often as we can".
"It will take a lot more than The Sunday Times to dent my confidence in what a great place Anglia Ruskin University is and what an even greater place it can be if we all pull together," the message concluded.