Research reputation not priority for potential students

Students choose their university on the quality of its teaching and social life, not its research standing.

November 16, 2010

That is the conclusion of new research by the Institute for Employment Studies, which claims that new universities could threaten the position enjoyed by members of the Russell Group of large research-intensive institutions by becoming more attractive to students.

The findings from the study, due to be presented at the Impact of Higher Education Institutions on Regional Economies conference in Edinburgh today, show the criteria for choosing a university depends on a student’s background.

Postgraduates and ethnic minority students look for teaching quality and employment prospects, whereas others are more concerned with social aspects. The research says that only European Union students are primarily concerned with research reputation.

“New universities with interesting and varied courses could challenge the dominant position of research-led universities,” the study concludes.

The think-tank also says that university cities have above-average per capita gross value added but are more economically divided, demonstrating “a greater number of economically active graduates but poorer average performance of children at Key Stage 2 [primary school level]”.

They also have larger migrant populations, higher crime rates and a greater polarisation in labour markets.

The institute says that graduates want to live in cities that are friendly, have restaurants and clubs, affordable housing and good healthcare, and want to work in cities with low unemployment, high salaries and a choice of reputable employers.

“Retaining graduates in local employment is a key issue in the economic development of UK cities,” researchers Marc Cowling, Emma Pollard and Peter Bates conclude. “Smaller cities suffer from not being able to offer the range of employers that larger cities can.”

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