Choosers and losers

June 6, 1997

It is a healthy development to have an independent body comparing universities to help A-level and mature students choose where to study.

In view of this I was saddened by your listings and comments (THES, May 23). In very small print you did add that some institutions have not been assessed in some subject areas but this did not really do justice to the fact that some subjects (for example, electrical engineering, physics, philosophy) have not been assessed at all in England.

In future years the list would be much improved if the letters s, w, e were included with each subject to denote that the assessment had been carried out in Scotland, Wales and England.

My other point concerns the interpretations of the teaching quality assessment (TQA) marks. Each institution is asked to make a mission statement and is judged on how far it meets its own statement.

Clearly the mission statement of an institution with a low average A-level entry score is likely to be very different from one with a high entry score. Hence an A-level student would be best advised to look first at which courses are aimed at students of roughly their own ability and background and only then look at TQA scores to see which ones are doing it well.

Your remarks comparing Thames Valley with University College London and Oxford Brookes with Oxford, which ignored the above, could mislead future applicants.

Gillian Gehring, Head of department, Department of physics, University of Sheffield

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