Imperial has dropped a stunning 11 places in the Sunday Times League Table for 2012 entry, published last month. The College is now ranked fourteenth in the UK, behind institutions such as the University of Exeter and Newcastle University. This is the first time in fourteen years that Imperial has not been in the table’s top four. This drop has been attributed to a change in the methodology of compiling the table, which has also seen King’s College London slide from tenth to seventeenth place and the University of Edinburgh from fourteenth to twenty-seventh.
The table no longer considers universities’ student/staff ratios, instead giving greater weighting to the results of the National Student Survey (NSS) and the number of students unemployed six months after graduation. Graduate employment now contributes up to 200 points to each institution’s score and the first 12 NSS questions; relating to “the teaching on [the] course”, “assessment and feedback” and “academic support”; contribute up to 250 points. Out of the 168 institutions participating in the NSS Imperial is ranked 102nd, 163rd and 130th in each category respectively.
Universities can also gain up to 50 points or lose up to 55 points depending on answers to question 22, relating to overall satisfaction. While the overall weighting given to the NSS is greater than last year the answers to questions 13-21, concerning “organisation and management”, “learning resources” and “personal development” are no longer considered. Each University can receive up to 1207 points, with Imperial receiving 832 and Cambridge, which is ranked number one, receiving 1004.
Other league tables have also seen a drop for Imperial. Nationally it has been ranked tenth by the Guardian (down from seventh) and fourth by the Times Good University Guide (down from third for the first time ever).
The College has, however, gone up from seventh to sixth place in the QS World University Rankings, which take less account of student satisfaction than the UK tables. In addition, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2011-2012, published yesterday, have seen Imperial rise to eight position globally – up from ninth last year.
Union President Scott Heath has called the drop in the rankings “worrying”. In his official blog Heath writes that the Union is taking the situation very seriously and that he is drafting a document, due to be released on Monday 10 October, that will outline what “should be done to increase student satisfaction”. He has already called for the College to produce “new guidelines to improve the pace of feedback across the board” and work to improve participation in the Student On-Line Evaluation (SOLE) as well as the NSS. He has also urged “the College to roll out our recommendations universally; as opposed to allowing each Faculty to individually uptake changes at different paces” and to treat “students as colleagues, not as customers”.
Heath, however, admitted that the Union also has a large part to play. It has already begun to restructure “the Representation & Welfare Board, in order to facilitate the sharing of best practice, bring issues to the Union’s attention more rapidly and provide a better forum for discussion”. The Union will also advise the College “on how to better provide Feedback” and will contact the other “Russell Group Student Unions to see what systems they have implemented”. Heath hopes that these actions “will bring into place better student satisfaction and help restore our University to the rank it fully deserves in the UK tables”.