…living up to its name


This isn’t a comprehensive review of dev8d, checkout the twitter stream (that link uses twapperkeeper by the way, the guy who created it was there and it was great talking to him), and wiki for and much else on the web for what went on.


University league tables combined data

Last year I collected the University League tables published from various sources and combined them in to one spreadsheet.

I’ve been updating this for this year, i.e. tables published in early/mid 2009 aimed at those starting in 2010.

You can see the UK Combined University league table data Google spreadsheet here and re-order as you please. I’ve updated the three ‘UK only’ lists, and will update the international lists in the near future.


  • This is a bit of fun, for my own interest. Don’t take it too seriously.
  • There are plenty of good guides to UK Higher Education including The Guardian, The Times and plenty more. Use them, not this site, if you are thinking of studying in the UK!
  • A quick glance will reveal that I have never studied statistics. In particular my made up scoring system is laughable.

You’ll find last years data in a seperate sheet, accessible via a tab at the bottom of the document. Are you able to produce anything interesting with this data?

JISC, Monitter and DIUS (Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills)

Earlier this week the Jisc 2009 Conference went ahead. A one day summary of where things are going in Jisc-land.

Like last year, I got a good feel of the day via twitter. I used a web app called for real time updates from anyone on twitter who used the tag #jisc09. allows you to track a number (3 columns by default) of words/searches, this works well as these can be usernames, tags or just a phase. I used ‘jisc09’, ‘brighton OR sussex’ and ‘library’.

The keynote talks was also streamed live on the web, the quality was excellent. Check out the main Jisc blog for the event.

Linking to all the different sites, searches and resources on the web after the event wouldn’t do it justice. The usefulness was in the way these were all being published during the day itself, using things like twitter (and bespoke sites) as a discovery mechanism for all these different things being added around the web. I didn’t know who most of the people were, but I was finding their contributions. That’s good.

An email came out the next day about the conference and announcing a guest blog post by David Lammy, the Minister for Higher Education, on the Jisc Blog.

He finished by asking for the conversation to continue, specifically on which is described as ‘a place to open up lines of communication between Ministers and the HE Community’. is set up to allow users to ask ‘famous people questions’. Its homepage suggests that it is designed for any kind of ‘famous person’ though seems to be dominated by UK politicians. Looks interesting but can’t help wonder if there are other sites which could facilitate a ‘discussion’ just as well or better.

The dius section of the site seems quite new. In fact my (rather quickly composed) question was the second to be added to the site. I think the idea of practitioners (yuck, did I just use that word?) raising issues directly with Ministers is an interesting one, and hope it takes off, and at very least, he/they answer the questions!

DIUS do seem to be making an effort to use web2.0 tools. I recently came across this sandbox idea of collecting sites from delicious based on tags, in this example, the library2.0 tag. Interesting stuff, but not specific to HE, it will work for any tag and really just creates a nice view of the latest items bookmarked with the tag in question. The code for it is here.

In any case, it is good to see a government department trying out such tools and also releasing the code under the GPL (even 10 Downing street’s flickr stream is under crown copyright, and don’t get me started on OS maps and Royal Mail postcodes). I’m reminded of the team who, when they found out there was a ‘hack the government‘ day to mashup and improve government web services, decided to join in.

DIUS homepage with web2.0 tools

DIUS homepage with web2.0 tools

On the DIUS hompage, just below the fold, they have a smart looking selection of tools, nice to see this stuff here, and so prominent, though the Netvibes link to me just a holding page when I tried it.

Finally, they have set up a blog on the jiscinvolve (WordPress MU) site. At the time of writing it has a few blogs posts which are one line questions, and has a couple of (good) responses. But I can’t help feeling that these sites need something more if they are to work. At the moment they are just there floating in space. How can they integrate these more into the places that HE staff and students inhabit. Perhaps by adding personal touches to the sites would encourage people to take part, for example the blog – a set of questions – is a little dry, it needs an introduction, host, and photos.

To sum up, some good stuff going on here, but need to see if it takes off, it must be difficult for a government department to interact with HE and students, the two are very different but they are trying.  I hope it proves useful, if you’re involved in HE why not take a look and leave a comment?


March 25, 2009

Top UK Universities : Combined Rankings

There are various  league tables out there for UK Universities. I’ve collected the results from a number of them, a league table based on league tables. This should hopefully help to remove any biases or weaknesses in particular methodologies. The results are further down this post.

I collected results for just 53 Universities, not the full 120 odd that exist in the UK. This was due to laziness, and to be honest I’m more interested in the higher end of the numbers. However I’m fairly sure no university I’ve excluded would come higher that those I’ve included In fact it was originally going to be 50, but as I collected from the various sources I added a few more around the cut off point.

For each ranking, I’ve recorded the position (e.g. 5th) , and then converted it to a score. To a create a score I simply subtracted the ranking position from ‘101’, which ensures that the University ranked first will get 100 points. A good University (according to the rankings!) will have a low number ranking and a high score, e.g. a University ranked 5th will get a score of 96 (101-5=96).

Let’s just be clear at this point, I’m not a statistician, this isn’t remotely scientific, or fair, or well thought out, or thought out at all in fact. Did you get that? Perhaps read it again to be safe. These numbers are crap, and any conclusions drawn on them are without foundation! I’m also no Higher Education expert.


Comment on Sources:
I’m not going to go in to detail about each source, you can follow the links, and if that seems like too much effort, then this Wikipedia page provides an overview for some.
I’ve provided two totals, one for UK only based rankings, and the other includes the international rankings.

The UK only rankings –  and it is my impression that the Guardian in particular – focuses on Teaching. They are, after all, aimed at prospective students. Though there is a danger in focusing two much on teaching resources, as ultimately one University may have fantastic teachers, amazing classrooms and great support, but ultimately is seen as a bad University by employers and the public at large (and to be ‘highly respected’ normally requires a good research record, not to mention being very old). You see, that could be rubbish, I don’t really know, you’re taking this with a pinch of salt right?

The ‘Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers’ from ‘Higher Education Evaluation and Accreditation Council of Taiwan’ is perhaps the most controversial. A major ingredient is citation/impact factors from SCI and SSCI, so those stronger on the Humanities will suffer due to these disciplines being excluded . Interestingly those who focus on the Social Sciences also seem to suffer as well, notably the LSE and Warwick. As I added these numbers in last, it was very notable that some Universities moved several positions due to its inclusion.

The Result:

Click on one of the two following links:

Combined UK University Rankings (excel) (recommended)

Combined UK University Rankings (via Google docs) (as a spreadsheet)

You can order the list by any field. There are two totals: the first using the three UK only rankings, and the second, one of the middle columns, is a total which takes in to account both UK and worldwide rankings.

The rest of the columns are either raw league table data – in black text, or scores – in red.

A score is: 101 minus the ranking. The scores just make it easier to add up and order the totals by highest score, though working in this was does make things a little messy.

The worldwide rankings have an extra column, they include the world ranking as well as the UK only ranking (A University may be the 4th UK university in the list but the 28th University overall). You could potentially do something with the world ranking, e.g. if one comes 10th in the world results, the next comes 11th and the third comes 98th, then clearly it suggests that the first two are broadly similar while the third is not at the same level, though my method simply treats them as first, second, third, and does not take this in to account.

Some Universities did not appear in all the world rankings. Simply giving them a zero score seemed a little harsh, so I hacked it a bit. If, say, the lowest score was 60, then any University without a score may get 40. I know just about everyone will be pulling out their hair out at such random stupidity, though it seems to avoid those not appearing on certain tables being heavily penalised. Especially as some Universities do seem to be randomly missing from certain worldwide tables.

As mentioned above, the Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers is perhaps the most controversial here, and perhaps should not be excluded (comments welcome)? They do explain on their website the pros and cons of their method: The Humanities are more or less ignored, while the Social Sciences are treated like the Sciences, however, as they note, the datasets they use include far fewer Social Science journals, which means these subjects will score relatively lower than the sciences.

This seems true, the LSE amazingly does not appear at all (it normally appears in the top 5), and Warwick appears very low in the list, even though it has a medical school, something they say helps pull Universities up the list. In fact, before this data was added, the LSE was fourth over all, now I’ve added this data they are twelve! I’ve created a column which shows totals ignoring this ranking.

Top 20

UK-only rankings

  1. Oxford
  2. Cambridge
  3. LSE
  4. Imperial
  5. St Andrews
  6. Warwick
  7. UCL
  8. York
  9. Durham
  10. Loughborough
  11. Bath
  12. Exeter
  13. Edinburgh
  14. Leicester
  15. Nottingham
  16. Kings college
  17. Lancaster
  18. Southampton
  19. Bristol
  20. SOAS
All Rankings
1= Oxford/Cambridge
3 Imperial
5 Edinburgh
6 Warwick
7 Kings college
8= St Andrews/Bristol
10 Nottingham
11 LSE
12 York
13 Manchester
14 Durham
15 Southampton
16= Leicester/Sheffield
18 Birmingham
19 Glasgow
20 Bath


My thoughts:

  • First, a week a go, I asked on this blog for people to provide their top 20 lists, you can see them here. My question was badly phased, but the replies are interesting. It includes my results in the first comment (I wrote this without looking at any of these rankings first).
  • Looking at my guesses, I clearly have an aversion to Universities starting with L. Completely missed out Leicester, Loughborough, and Lancaster. The Scots also faired badly from my off-the-top-of-my-head list: St Andrews was no where to be seen, and yet is near the top of both lists. Aberdeen and Dundee both are close to the top 20, yet I would have probably failed to include them in a ‘top 30’. Oh, and somehow forgot Durham.
  • I think I’ve always put UCL as the ‘one after oxbridge’, yet according to these results Imperial, LSE, St Andrews and Warwick are more or less on an equal pegging.
  • I’ve also thought of the groupings a bit like the football league tables: Russell Group, then the 94 group and then the rest. With people joining/leaving these groups as they progress or stagnate. These results show this to be wrong. Looking at the UK-only top 20, 9 of them are 1994 group (and so coming out better than many Russell group Universities). In fact the LSE and Warwick were both in the 94 group until recently, which would have lead to the majority of Universities in the top 20 being in the 1994 group! There are Universities in neither of these groups who are easily ahead of some of those in the Russell group.
  • As you can see from my guesses, I put Manchester, Birmingham and Southampton higher than their actual results, so why were MY expectations high for these organisations? The first two being grand old Universities and Southampton perhaps being accounted for because the one department I know something about – Electronics and Computer Science – is very highly regarded.
  • If these results really do reflect the Research (and teaching) ability of Universities, and if the Russell group is, as it is often portrayed, the leading research Universities, and the 1994 group being smaller research Universities, then there is argument that their should be some movement in group membership (I shall leave it to the reader to look at the excel file and decide who should move up and down!).
  • Having said this, the Russell Group website reports that the group accounts for 68% of all research income, so not doing that badly.
  • Oxford and Cambridge were equal in the international results, Oxford just one point ahead in the UK-only results. So no conclusions there.
  • The Times notes in its own assessment how there is almost a clear split between pre and post 1992 Universities, the list starts with the ‘old’ Universities, and then the ‘new’ universities, with only a couple of exceptions.

And Finally…

I have tried to provide some comment, but this is just my personal view based on near total ignorance. By all means laugh, but don’t get upset.

Link to the results excel file again Combined UK University Rankings.

(this post was slightly updated in November 2008 to improve readability)

Top 20 UK Universities

UPDATE: if you are looking for the Top UK Universities (according to the league tables) then have a look at this blog post.

What’s the top 20 Universities in the UK? What order would they come in?

I want you to reply right now to this blog post and add a comment listing the top 20 Universities UK 1-20.

I want people to list them as they perceive them, so don’t go and look up some list, I want to know your 1-20, if you were held at gunpoint and asked to instantly list the the best Universities in the UK, what would you answer.

I know some may be a little reluctant to do this for fear that, even though no one reads this site, it could come back to haunt them or whatever, e.g. your University may be impressed if you put them lower than they think they should be. If this is the case, comment anonymously. Seriously, just reply and leave any old name. Just leave a comment, it isn’t a test.

Some may ask: define ‘best’? what criteria?

The answer is what ever your gut reaction is. If you were an employer and one person had been to University A, and the other University B, (all else being equal) who would be more impressed by?

However I will say, I’m looking more towards the overall reputation of a University, not specifically just teaching or just research.

So your list of 20 Universities please (you can put more or less than 20 if you wish!), try and put them in some sort of order.

I’m hoping to get a few responses and will follow up with another blog post later this week.


UPDATE: I have now collected the rankings of 50 of the top UK Universities from major newspapers and other sources. The rankings have been combined to find out the overall ranking on these universities based on these league tables. You can see the latest version of the Top University table here. –  You can find some more info in this blog post.

UCU: Guardian article

Good article about HE unions at the guardian