UEL lands at top of its own league

September 9, 2005

How the QAA plus points outweighed the minuses

The University of East London has beaten local rivals, including the elite King's College London, to top a new league table of teaching quality - compiled by UEL itself.

The controversial table also puts the prestigious Essex University near the bottom, behind the former polytechnics London South Bank and Hertfordshire universities.

The new ranking of 11 institutions in the South East has attracted deep cynicism for two reasons. First, it was devised and compiled by UEL.

Second, it is based entirely on Quality Assurance Agency audit reports that were specifically designed to prevent them being reduced to numerical judgments and used to rank universities.

Peter Williams, chief executive of the QAA, said: "Attempts to use them in this way are likely to mislead."

But UEL insisted this week that its methodology was both simple and sound, and that its rankings could, and possibly should, be used as a new element in newspaper league tables. Current league tables tend to be based on quality assurance information gathered under the old subject reviews scrapped in 2001.

Richard Allanach, director of finance at UEL, who created the table, said:

"It would be very naive of the QAA to assume that their audit reports would not be turned into tables like this."

The QAA's six-yearly institution-wide audit reports give one of only three possible overall summative judgments: that the QAA has either "broad confidence", "limited confidence" or "no confidence" in the university's internal systems for assuring quality and standards.

To differentiate sufficiently between institutions to generate a table, UEL has aggregated the number of areas of good practice that QAA auditors have highlighted and compared them to the number of areas that require action.

UEL was specifically praised in eight areas and was only criticised in four, giving it a "surplus of good practice" of four. This put it ahead of King's College London, which was praised in six areas and criticised in four, giving it a score of two.

Essex University, with just three areas of praise compared with nine of criticism, comes tenth out of 11 institutions in the table with a score of minus six.

A spokesman for King's would say nothing more than: "This is a pretty crude use of the figures but we are extremely happy with our institutional audit report."

Greenwich said it had referred the table to the QAA as it was based on its information and said it would not comment further. Essex refused to comment.

Surplus of goodpractice over recommendations

1

East London

4

2

King's College London

2

3

Brunel

2

4

Queen Mary, London

0

5

Kent

0

6

Hertfordshire

0

7

Royal Holloway

-1

8

London South Bank

-3

9

Greenwich

-6

10

Essex

-6

11

Anglia Polytechnic

-9

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