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Post Time:Jul 05,2013Classify:Industry NewsView:301

Some 1960s “plate glass” universities are challenging the big names

Jul 6th 2013 |From the print edition Tweet..EVERY year newspapers and college guides rank British universities according to the exam results of the students they admit, the quality of their research and teaching and what students think of them. Every year the top of the list looks more-or-less the same. St Andrews, Cambridge, Durham, the London School of Economics, Oxford and University College London tend to feature. But just below the top tier, things are churning.


The University of Bath has zoomed into the premier league: it now sits in ninth place in the Complete University Guide rankings of British universities and third in the Sunday Times listings. The University of Surrey has jumped to eighth place in the Guardian’s 2013 league table from 20th two years ago. As they advance, somewhat older, better-known institutions like Glasgow, Nottingham and Sussex find themselves edged downwards in some rankings. More is at stake than bragging rights: vice-chancellors estimate that entering the top ten adds around 15% to their applications.


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GlenfiddleThe unquiet woodsReprintsSome of the shifts reflect the vagaries of fashion, as well as the appeal of cities. In the 1990s students flocked to Manchester in part because of the Hacienda and other large nightclubs. Criteria change, too. Several tables now take greater account of student satisfaction and graduate employment. That is a reflection of how rising tuition fees—most universities charge near the maximum £9,000 ($14,000) a year—have changed students’ priorities. The change has favoured some of the 1960s “plate glass” universities.


Surrey, which was founded as a technology college and became a university in 1966, emphasises work placements, which are particularly appealing to potential students in a sluggish economy. Entry standards in some subjects rival Cambridge. The university is building a new centre researching the successor to 4G mobile phone technology and will soon begin training vets. Glynis Breakwell, vice-chancellor at the University of Bath, says 60% of students on all courses there go on a work placement with leading global businesses such as Nike, L’Oréal and Google.


The newcomers are trying to fish in a larger pool. A quarter of Bath’s and Surrey’s graduates arrive from overseas. Bob Cryan, who runs Huddersfield University (lower-ranked but admired for its entrepreneurial links in the north), once recruited a student from Minnesota by chatting to him on a flight.


But Phil Baty, who oversaw the Times Higher Education Supplement’s latest global ranking of universities under 50 years old, points to growing competition from Asia. Two South Korean institutions appear in the top three this year. Singaporean universities are also moving up the league tables. The challenge to Britain’s best middle-aged seats of learning is not from their elderly competitors at home, but from hungry, deep-pocketed Asian institutions that have not yet reached their 30s.

Source: http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21580502-somAuthor: shangyi

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