Website closes after Hesa withholds data

May 1, 2008

A website that branded named universities "rubbish" and "shocking" on the basis of data on staff-to-student ratios has been shut after its owners were refused access to official statistics. caused controversy when it launched last year as a site allowing prospective students to compare institutions by their staff-to-student ratios.

The ratios were calculated using data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, but many in the sector complained that the data were "skewed" and the comparisons they allowed were inaccurate.

The University of Bedfordshire even threatened legal action against the site after a course was labelled "shocking".

Now it has emerged that has been forced off-line by Hesa, which has refused to supply data to those behind the site, who claim to be two academics and an IT specialist but have never revealed their full identities.

In a statement on the site, said its mission was to "empower" prospective students. It criticised Hesa for withholding data. Describing the decision as "unacceptable", it accused the Government-run agency of acting in the interests of universities to the detriment of prospective students.

Hesa said: "A body that appeared to conceal, whether fully or partially, its identity, or the identity of those individuals behind its operations, was not considered by Hesa to be operating on a basis of good faith and was not an organisation that Hesa believed was in its best interests to enter into a contractual relationship with," it said.

"Although the dissemination of information about higher education is part of our mission, we also have a responsibility to protect the sector from potentially incompetent or irresponsible use or misuse of such information," it said.

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