The most underrated UK universities, chosen by students

Students name more than 60 universities in the UK that they feel deserve more recognition for high quality courses, teaching, workplace preparation and other factors.
January 11 2016

university_of_bath_campus.jpg

University of Bath campus
The University of Bath

Students in an online chat forum have named more than 60 UK universities they feel are “underrated”, with many agreeing that the University of East Anglia and the University of Bath deserve more recognition.

The topic on The Student Room generated more than 200 replies by 11 January 2016; among these, 16 individuals suggested the University of East Anglia (UEA) was underrated, particularly for medicine and law.

One student admitted that they had not heard of UEA until they began to apply for universities, while another said: “It does really well on the league tables, does a lot of research, but it's not a Russell Group, so often gets forgotten.”

Thirteen students agreed that the University of Bath should be better known, and, like the UEA, suffered for not being in the Russell Group, despite its advantages of being in a “lovely city” and providing excellent courses.

The disparity between student experience, general public opinion, and positions in university rankings was a running theme in the discussion.

However, of the 64 universities mentioned, nearly half feature in the top 200 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-2016. Only 11 “underrated” universities are not included in the World University Rankings at all.

This may well be a consequence of the particular demographic on The Student Room, where applicants often discuss Oxbridge interviews and applications to other prestigious Russell Group or redbrick universities.

Five students explicitly mentioned Oxbridge in their explanations for suggesting underrated universities, either as a positive comparison or a reason why the university had been overlooked.

One said: “[the University of Nottingham] is just underrated because of lower entrance grades compared with Oxbridge. Everyone sees it as 'Higher Entrance Grades=Higher Quality Uni/Course'.”

An economics student at the University of Kent said: “I've made friends [who] missed their Oxbridge offers but now enjoy the course. The lectures are really good as well and you get enough support from your lecturers. The surroundings are lovely too.”

Since the discussion occurred organically, the results cannot be said to be representative of student opinions more generally, as they would be from a designed survey. Many students simply named their own institution, referencing beautiful campuses, lively cities or courses that they found particularly good as reasons why the university deserved more recognition.

De Montfort University was named as having “one of the best law schools”, the University of Central Lancashire was praised for its media degrees, and Robert Gordon University and the University of Aberdeen were both mentioned as the best options “if you want a career in oil and gas”.

A number of students thought that universities should get more recognition for preparing students for the workplace, even if they were not prestigious by traditional measures.

An engineering student at Heriot-Watt University said: “One reason HW does really well…is due to the fact that they prepare their students very well for industrial jobs, which is a huge bonus for an employer as it means they are employing someone that knows what they are doing, so don't have to waste time and resources in teaching them. If you look at their course content, you'll see that they place a huge emphasis on practicals, just like Imperial College [London].”

Similarly, a student praised the forensics course at the University of Derby, saying “they've even bought a stand-alone house set up for crime scenes for the students to practise real-life scenarios”.

Other students delved into the question of why some universities were better known among the general international population. A consensus seemed to be reached that location in a big city, particularly one with international football teams, was the key to international recognition.

This, according to three students, was the main reason that Durham University was not as popular among international applicants or their families compared with universities in London, Manchester or Liverpool.

A student said: “It's surprising how many ‘non-native’ people I know in my family and elsewhere [that] have never heard of [Durham] or know where it is. They're only aware of the big city ones.”

In addition to the University of Bath, UEA and Durham, the University of Manchester generated the most discussion. Contributors all agreed that, while the institution was appropriately recognised internationally, it deserved more attention within the UK.

Five “underrated” universities are, in fact, in the top 30 of the World University Rankings: Imperial College London, University College London, the London School of Economics, the University of Edinburgh and King’s College London.

Surprisingly, students seemed to feel that these universities did not rank highly enough or receive enough recognition, saying: “[Imperial College London] is arguably the best university in the UK for engineering yet not many people...know about it”, and “[Edinburgh] suffers from domestic rankings well below its reputation and research quality because of expansionist business models adopted in the last 20 years.”

Underrated UK universities chosen by students

University

Votes

World University Rank 2015-2016

Other ranking positions

University of East Anglia

16

=149

100 under 50:  16

Life Sciences: 70

University of Bath

13

251-300

100 under 50:  42

University of Manchester

8

=56

World Reputation: 50 Arts & Humanities:  40

Clinical & Health: 6

Engineering & Technology: 35

Physical Sciences: 42

Social Sciences: 34

Life Sciences: 53

University of Southampton

8

=110

Engineering & Technology: 75 Physical Sciences: 74

Clinical & Health: 81

University of St Andrews

7

86

Arts & Humanities: 50

Life Sciences: 74

Social Sciences: 46

University of Nottingham

7

143

Clinical & Health: 94

University of Surrey

6

251-300

100 under 50: 65

University of Sussex

5

140

Social Sciences: 65

University of Leicester

5

=167

 

University of Edinburgh

5

24

World Reputation: 29

Arts & Humanities: 16

Clinical & Health: 12

Life Sciences: 19

Physical Sciences: 23

Social Sciences: 30

Engineering & Technology: 63

University of Kent

5

301-350

100 under 50: 93

Lancaster University

5

130

Arts & Humanities: 63

Social Sciences: 84

University College London

4

14

World Reputation: 17

Arts & Humanities: 5

Clinical & Health: 4

Life Sciences: 12

Social Sciences: 16

Engineering & Technology: 38

Physical Sciences: 27

Cardiff University

4

=182

 

Imperial College London

4

8

World Reputation: 14

Engineering & Technology: 9

Clinical & Health: 5

Life Sciences: 6

Physical Sciences: 16

Durham University

4

70

Arts & Humanities: 28

Social Sciences: 36

Physical Sciences: 83

World Reputation: 81-90

Oxford Brookes University

3

401-500

 

University of Aberdeen

3

=172

Life sciences: 84

University of Birmingham

3

119

Arts & Humanities: 88

Clinical & Health: 94

Loughborough University

3

351-400

100 under 50: 83

Queen Mary University of London

3

98

Clinical & Health: 75

Arts & Humanities: 53

Birkbeck, University of London

3

201-250

Arts & Humanities: 52

Liverpool Hope University

3

   

Heriot-Watt University

3

401-500

100 under 50: 77

University of Essex

3

301-350

Social sciences: 85

Leeds Trinity University

2

   

Keele University

2

401-500

 

University of Reading

2

=164

Arts & Humanities: 95

Life Sciences: 67

Brunel University London

2

401-500

100 under 50: 25,

London Metropolitan University

2

   

Manchester Metropolitan University

2

501-600

 

King's College London

2

27

World Reputation: 31

Arts & Humanities: 15

Clinical & Health: 8

Life Sciences: 34

Social Sciences: 20

University of Liverpool

2

157

 

London School of Economics

2

23

World Reputation: 22

Social Sciences: 12

University of Hull

2

401-500

 

University of Dundee

1

=185

Life Sciences: 85

100 under 50: 19

Clinical & Health: 90

University of Leeds

1

=133

Life Sciences: 52

Social Sciences: 79

Robert Gordon University

1

   

Queen's University Belfast

1

200

 

University of Sheffield

1

97

Arts & Humanities: 54

Social Sciences: 69

The Open University

1

401-500

 

University of Glasgow

1

=76

Clinical & Health: 47

Life Sciences: 77

Arts & Humanities: 58

Physical Sciences: 70

University of Warwick

1

80

Arts & Humanities 30

Social Sciences: 50

100 under 50: 9

Physical Sciences: 64

World Reputation: 81-90

Bangor University

1

301-350

 

University Campus Suffolk

1

   

Soas, University of London

1

   

Staffordshire University

1

   

University of Westminster

1

601-800

 

University of Exeter

1

93

Arts & Humanities: 71

Life Sciences: 82

Engineering & Technology: 94

Social Sciences: 81

Bournemouth University

1

401-500

 

University of Bradford

1

601-800

 

University of Huddersfield

1

601-800

 

University of Derby

1

   

University of Wolverhampton

1

   

Royal Holloway, University of London

1

129

Physical Sciences: 81

Arts & Humanities: 59

Life Sciences: 88

University of Stirling

1

351-400

100 under 50: 47

Swansea University

1

351-400

 

University of Central Lancashire

1

601-800

 

De Montfort University

1

501-600

 

Aston University

1

401-500

100 under 50: 70

University of Winchester

1

   

Queen Margaret University

1

   

University of Lincoln

1

601-800

 

University of York

1

=131

Life Sciences: 55

Arts & Humanities: 25

 

 

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