League tables should 'inform'

October 25, 2002

Universities should work with the media to produce league tables that inform, rather than mislead prospective higher education students, Universities UK president Roderick Floud said this week.

Professor Floud told delegates at a UUK seminar that pressure for "systematised information" for students had increased, and that universities had an interest in ensuring that what emerged was accurate. Some rankings merely reflected institutional wealth.

New course indicators would be available to guide students following the reform of teaching quality assessments, said Professor Floud. "We have to begin to work out how these information sources will be used to inform students."

However, Sir Alan Wilson, Leeds University vice-chancellor, said he expected league tables to replace teaching assessments with reputational surveys. "I suspect we'll move in the direction of peer reviews. I can't see any alternative to the American model."

Robert Morse, director of data research at US News and World Report , the publisher of the main US rankings, said two-thirds of universities responded to the magazine's surveys. But he added: "Peer assessment is the most controversial element of our rankings. You'll have a whole new series of arguments over them."

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