High-fliers keep a close count as bird flu lurks in the wings

March 3, 2006

Just in case universities felt there were too few league tables in higher education, there is another method of ranking institutions - based on ducks.

The website Duck Density ranks universities by duck populations - the greater the concentration of ducks on campus, the higher the ranking. Many UK universities have lakes and waterways on or near their campuses that support many ducks and other wildfowl, a fact that inspired Duck Density's creators.

The idea came from Tim Clarke, a York University computing graduate, and his former fellow students Tom Saddington and Kirsteen Goodlass as they idled by Nottingham University's park campus lake during a conference.

"We noticed that it was a large expanse of water, but not too many ducks compared with York, so we decided that duck density could be a new light-hearted way for people to decide where to study," Mr Clarke said.

York University tops the league table, leading Roehampton, Huddersfield, Warwick and Cambridge. Visitors to the website, which gets up to 250 page views a day, are invited to log the number of ducks at their institution.

With avian flu now threatening to spread to wildfowl in the UK, a high concentration of ducks could be seen as bad news.

"It has been suggested that a high duck density is not a good thing because of bird flu," Mr Clarke said. "But we have decided that if ducks are grouped closely together, there will be more distance between the groups, so the disease will be less likely to spread. Admittedly, there is no scientific basis to this theory."


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