Tag Archives: ranking

University application news (Sept 2014 for 2015)

A handful of pieces from the Guardian and more from the Telegraph here, all selected as relating to choosing universities.

First there’s the news in the recently-released QS rankings (one of the three major world university ranking systems, and a very credible list) that there are four British universities in the top ten. This is no surprise – the top British unis have long punched above their weight and are very research-focused, which pushes them up the rankings. (Note that the other two ranking systems, the THE400 and the Shanghai, use different criteria, and produce different rankings. Not only should you read about and cross-reference all three, but be aware that subject-specific rankings are generally more important than overall rankings.) Note that traditional informal weighting by employers doesn’t exactly follow this list either.

If you just want UK universities, the Guardian’s 2015 table is the best guide, in my view. And here’s an interesting article about the most gay-friendly universities. Whilst only a minority of candidates are gay, this is an interesting ranking because it might say something more general about universities’ inclusiveness, the social liberalism of the environment, and / or the general level of care for student welfare issues – so it’s worth asking questions like this. If nothing else, remember that far more than just a dry academic ranking ought to be in your mind while choosing.

One thing uncaptured by these tables is the extent to which the “top” universities are so because of their academic output, and they are not necessarily at all top in terms of interest in or attention to their normal undergraduate students: see this Telegraph article on how students come second. They’re businesses first and foremost, basically. And the removal of the cap on recruitment numbers makes some people think there will be a surge in EU student numbers (though I tire of pointing out to British xenophobes that UK students are also from the EU.) I don’t think this panic is fair, actually: who’d leave Holland or Germany, with much lower fees, for the privilege of working a warehouse morning and barwork evening job in London just to pay the higher fees and cost of living? I’m not sure British universities have an edge over continental ones that would cause me to come that way across the Channel. In fact if I were going to uni now and the course was available at a decent Dutch university, taught in English (as many are) I wouldn’t dream of picking a UK option over that. (Note also that the Guardian reports the end of the cap having caused chaos in the university sector. As usual, free markets screw up.)

Perhaps if you want a British university education, the secret is not necessarily the UK: many British universities increasingly run parallel campuses in other continents (including here in the UAE). You would probably need a specific cultural reason to want to go to these, but it serves to remind that the university sector is increasingly international (and many EU and US degrees now include an integral  year abroad, and Masters degrees are now often taken in another country.) The competition you will face in the job market is increasingly international (and ever-more challenging): so now even Chinese students are coming to study in US and other western schools (though probably to access the university sector: US universities are well-ranked in world terms, their schools less so.)

Finally, here’s the Telegraph’s pretty useful “prepare for university application” page. No rocket science here but solid help which is always worth checking.

UCAS: comparisons and narrowing the options

When narrowing down and choosing your final options for university application (whether in the UK or elsewhere), firstly consider these lists of comparative status:

Notice you can change the filtering criteria on some of these. Play around. League table positions can vary radically from one subject to another, for example.

DBS students might also want to remind themselves of this powerpoint.

Careers news: uni figures, temp conditions, rating degrees and careers advice

Here’s a quick gathering of recent news in the Careers field.

Firstly (unsurprisingly, in the year fees have rocketed up) the number of applicants to UCAS has fallen noticeably. Don’t get too excited – it’s not fallen by the amount youth unemployment has risen, and a degree’s not a meal ticket any more. Unsurprisingly, given that getting a degree will now cost you a quarter of the value of a house in some parts of the UK, students will increasingly see themselves as customers – which explains why Which has decided to starting rating and ranking uni courses in the UK.

However, note the rise of temporary / agency work. More and more jobs and companies are taking workers on only through agencies. This rather nasty trick is to ensure they don’t need to give them normal employment rights. Even when the EU has passed a law to give most normal employment rights to temporary workers, it turns out big companies like Tesco are asking their staff to waive their new rights – the implicit threat being no waive = no job. Don’t end up in agency work if you can avoid it. It’s slavery by another name.

At the other end of the scale, you might like to look at the Telegraph’s top ten best-paid jobs in the UK. It’s a bit of a nonsense because (a) it massively underestimates some at the top of the list, (b) it ignores self-employed in some of these fields, who tend to earn more, (c) it’s all about being “top” of the organisations they name which, whilst nice, is not a realistic aim generally – you should expect more to be a successful middle-ranker and check those typical salaries.

Lastly and definitely not leastly, it turns out that people like me are not totally useless after all – while there is an ongoing rise in online or telephone careers advice, it seems some people are missing the personal touch of a Careers advisor in their own school. Don’t forget to book a meeting to come and talk to me about your future if you like. You might like to tell the Guardian about what you think of careers advice.