Rankings & Subject Areas

Who's number 1?

The United States has its U.S. News & World Reports annual college and university rankings that influence where graduating high school seniors apply. There is also the Peterson’s Guide and other publications that purport to evaluate and compare the quality of education at most major U.S. colleges & universities.

The U.K. has its own system of ranking institutions of higher education there, most notably the League Tables of British Universities published by The Times and, more recently, similar tables published by The Guardian and The Sunday Times.

These ranking systems usually take into consideration several factors that comprise an over-all score for a particular university. Such factors include student satisfaction surveys, peer-reviewed assessments of the teaching quality and research standards of universities, entry requirements, and drop-out rates.

No system is perfect. Critics in the U.S. and the U.K. believe the rankings employ unscientific methodologies. Students who use the League Table are encouraged to remember that, just as there are many top-notch universities in the U.S. besides Princeton, Harvard, and Yale, so too are there many excellent universities in the U.K. besides Cambridge, Oxford, and Imperial College London.

For an excellent overview of the issues, see the Wikipedia articles on “League tables of British universities” and “College and university rankings.”

Further reading

Times Higher Education Supplement
(see Stats => World University Rankings)
The Times “Good University Guide”
The Guardian “University Guide 2009”
(see Education, then search Education for University Guide)
HERO – the official gateway to UK colleges & universities
Research Assessment Exercise
Quality Assurance Agency