Information on colleges, courses and men

August 18, 2000

For the first time, last autumn the Higher Education Funding Council for England produced performance indicators for all 175 publicly funded higher education institutions in the United Kingdom.

The indicators were specifically designed so that no simple league table could be drawn from them and allowed institutions to measure themselves against comparable institutions rather than a single set standard.

The indicators provided information on what proportion of entrants at different universities came from under-represented groups, dropout rates, completion rates and research output.

Hefce was planning to produce another set of indicators last month, but it has delayed them until September so that it can better assimilate the results of its consultation exercise on the indicators. A further indicator on employability of graduates is planned for March 2001.

The Quality Assurance Agency publishes information on the quality of teaching in universities in England and Northern Ireland. It assesses teaching in individual departments, publishing subject reports, which give marks out of 24. It also publishes subject overview reports and institutional reports that look at quality control in individual universities.

A new system is planned for 2000-01, when a UK-wide system will gradually come into effect. In Wales, the Welsh Higher Education Funding Council had been responsible for quality assurance and has graded teaching as either excellent, satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

In Scotland, it has been done by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, which has graded departments according to whether they were excellent, highly satisfactory, satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency publishes what it calls three "core volumes" of statistical information a year, covering students, resources and first destinations of students.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service publishes a directory of courses annually and its UCAS: The Big Guide. For the first time, this year at clearing it will also publish all vacancies on the web, with the listing updated twice a day.

ECCTIS 2000produces a database of courseson CD-Rom, called UK Course Discover. For the first time it will also put course vacancies on the web.

The Times first produced The Times Good University Guide in 1993. Last year it sold out on a print-run of 11,000. As well as producing a league table of all universities, it provides rankings of individual universities by subject where teaching quality assessments are available.

The Times Higher Education Supplement publishes the tables that form the background to The Times's league table. These cover areas such as average A-level score, student to staff ratios, mean scores for teaching, average scores for research and facilities spending. For the first time, this year The THES incorporated information from the performance indicators into the tables. The THES does not produce a single league table.

The Financial Times has produced a league table for the past three years.

This year,for the first time, it produced a new category on employment.

The Sunday Times produces a university guide in the autumn. It includes a league table as well as information on individual universities. Sir Colin Campbell, vice-chancellor of the University of Nottingham, which has come eighthin the table for the past two years, endorses the guide on its cover.

The Guardianproduced subject tables in October 1999 for the first time, profiling the top university for each subject.It plans to repeatthe exercise, and hopes to include colleges of higher education next time, but it does not plan to produce a league table of all universities. It just uses indicators of teaching excellence in its rankings - not research ratings - so that new universities have a chance of shining. The paper version includes RAE ratings in a separate column for information.

The Telegraph published a league table last week. It was its fourth university league table and was based on the proportion of departments awarded more than 21 points in their teaching quality assessments. It divides universities into a premier league, followed by a first division, down to a fourth division.

The Independent does not publish a league table, but has done a weekly A-Z guide to universities. It also publishes course vacancies during clearing.

The PUSH Guide to Which University began in 1992 for '93 entry and boasts that its researchers visit every university campus. It prides itself on offering the student perspective on student life, but contains little information from the funding councils or the QAA. It plans to make an online version available, which will include more information on the academic side. Its last print-run was 8,000.

The Virgin Alternative Guide to British Universities uses information from Hefce and the QAA, as well as surveying students and visiting institutions. It used the Hefce performance indicator on dropout rates in its 2001 guide published earlier this year. It also included a value-added indicator for the first time, showing which universities took students with middle to low A-level grades and achieved high scores for teaching.

Red Mole website, sponsored by REED graduates, encourages students to vote on their university. It produces an overall table from ones that rank anything from the quality of teaching to the attractiveness of males.

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