How the groups are shifting

May 14, 1999

Finding new ways to measure success

Oxford Brookes, Northumbria and West of England universities are the new universities now becoming most like the older "redbrick" universities, according to an analysis by economist Paul Ormerod of Volterra Consultancy, chairman of Post-Orthodox Economics.

Manchester University and the School of Oriental and African Studies while in the "elite" group of institutions are the most like the larger "redbrick" group, his research shows.

Using cluster analysis, a widely used standard method for classifying objects into groups, Mr Ormerod concluded that Oxford Brookes, Northumbria and UWE are closest to a move from the "new" to the "redbrick" group. He stressed, however, that the gap between them and the "redbricks" is still fairly wide.

Mr Ormerod, a founding director of the Henley Centre for Forecasting, based his analysis on the university rankings in The THES on April 23. He used three key sets of data: entry standards of students, teaching assessment grades and research assessment grades.

Among the older universities, Salford, hugely expanded through merger, along with Lampeter, now have the characteristics of the "new" group of institutions, and Bradford University is closest in the "redbrick" group to the "new" group. The study suggests that the universities of Leeds, Bath and Essex are all becoming more like the elite group.

Manchester and SOAS are very similar institutions to many "redbrick" universities, he said. He concluded that there is no evidence of a "super-elite" group of universities: "The elite group itself is not separated out. Attempts to do so using clustering analysis merely introduces more distinction 'lower down' as it were." This is in contrast to Peter Knight's analysis (left), which clearly distinguishes an elite group of universities.

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