Methodology

Where do the data come from?

All the data come from sources in the public domain:

What are the measures that we use?

Entry Standards (maximum score n/a)

What is it? 

The average UCAS tariff score of new undergraduate students.

Where does it come from? 

HESA data for 2014–15.

How does it work?

Each student's examination results were converted to a numerical score (A level A=120, B=100 ... E=40, etc; Scottish Highers A=80, B=65, etc) and added up to give a score total. HESA then calculated an average for all students at the university. The results were then adjusted to take account of the subject mix at the university.  Students on a foundation year were excluded.

What should you look out for? 

A high average score (it is over 400, or more than three As at A level, at some universities) does not mean that all students score so highly or that you need to take lots of A levels to get in. The actual grades needed will vary by subject and few if any courses will ask for grades in more than three subjects (even if some students do take more). Universities which have a specific policy of accepting students with low grades as part of an access policy will tend to have their average score depressed.

Student Satisfaction (maximum score 5.00)

What is it?

A measure of student views of the teaching quality at the university.

Where does it come from? 

The National Student Survey (NSS), a survey of final-year undergraduate students in 2015.

How does it work? 

The National Student Survey asked questions about a variety of aspects of teaching. The average satisfaction score for all questions except the three about learning resources was calculated and then adjusted for the subject mix at the university. Due to the distribution of the data, and to avoid this measure having an undue influence on the overall ranking, the z-score is divided by three.

What should you look out for? 

The survey is a measure of student opinion, not a direct measure of quality so it may be influenced by a variety of biases, such as the effect of prior expectations. A top-notch university expected to deliver really excellent teaching could score lower than a less good university which, while offering lower quality teaching, nonetheless does better than students expect from it.

Research Quality (maximum score 4.00)

What is it? 

A measure of the quality of the research undertaken in the university.

Where does it come from? 

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) undertaken by the funding councils.

How does it work? 

Each university department entered in the assessment exercise achieved a quality profile which gave the proportion of research in each of four categories from 4* to 1* (with any remaining activity being unclassified).  For the research assessment measure, the categories 4* to 1* were given a numerical value of 4 to 1 which allowed a grade point average to be calculated. An overall average was then calculated weighted according to the number of staff in each department. 

What should you look out for?

Universities could decide who they wanted to return for the REF. In some cases, quite good researchers were omitted as a way of getting the best possible quality profile.

Research Intensity (maximum score 1.00)

What is it? 

A measure of the proportion of staff involved in research.

Where does it come from? 

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework and HESA data at October 2013.

How does it work? 

The number of staff submitted to the Research Excellence Framework was divided by the number who were eligible to give a proportion who were submitted.

What should you look out for? 

Universities could decide who they wanted to return for REF. In some cases, quite good researchers were omitted as a way of getting the best possible quality profile and so the research intensity measure can be an under-estimate of the actual research intensity.

Graduate Prospects (maximum score 100.0)

What is it? 

A measure of the employability of a university's first degree graduates.

Where does it come from? 

HESA data for 2013–14.

How does it work? 

The number of graduates who take up employment or further study divided by the total number of graduates with a known destination expressed as a percentage. Only employment in an area that normally recruits graduates was included. The results were then adjusted to take account of the subject mix at the university.

What should you look out for? 

A relatively low score on this measure does not mean that many graduates were unemployed. It may be that some had low-level jobs such as shop assistants, which do not normally recruit graduates. Some universities recruit a high proportion of local students and so if they are located in an area where graduate jobs are hard to come by this can depress the outcome.

Student–Staff Ratio (maximum score n/a)

What is it? 

A measure of the average staffing level in the university.

Where does it come from? 

Calculated using HESA data for 2014–15.

How does it work? 

A student–staff ratio (i.e. the total number of undergraduate and postgraduate students divided by the number of academic staff) was calculated. Again, the results were adjusted for subject mix.

What should you look out for? 

A low student–staff ratio, i.e. a small number of students for each member of staff, does not guarantee good quality of teaching or good access to staff.

Academic Services Spend (maximum score n/a)

What is it? 

The expenditure per student on all academic services.

Where does it come from?

HESA data for 2012–13, 2013–14, and 2014–15.

How does it work?

A university's expenditure on library and computing facilities (staff, books, journals, computer hardware and software, but not buildings), museums, galleries and observatories was divided by the number of full-time equivalent students in the latest year. Libraries and information technology are becoming increasingly integrated (many universities have a single Department of Information Services encompassing both) and so the two areas of expenditure have both been included alongside any other academic services. Expenditure over three years was averaged to allow for uneven expenditure.

What should you look out for?

Some universities are the location for major national facilities, such as the Bodleian Library in Oxford and the national computing facilities in Bath and Manchester. The local and national expenditure is very difficult to separate and so these universities will tend to score more highly on this measure.

Facilities Spend (maximum score n/a)

What is it? 

The expenditure per student on staff and student facilities.

Where does it come from? 

HESA data for 2012–13, 2013–14, and 2014–15.

How does it work? 

A university's expenditure on student facilities (sports, careers services, health, counselling, etc) was divided by the number of full-time equivalent students in the latest year. Expenditure over three years was averaged to allow for uneven expenditure.

What should you look out for? 

This measure tends to disadvantage some collegiate universities, as it mostly includes central university expenditure. In Oxford and Cambridge, for example, a significant amount of facilities expenditure is by the colleges but it has not yet been possible to extract comparable data from the college accounts.

Good Honours (maximum score 100.0)

What is it? 

The percentage of first degree graduates achieving a first or upper second class honours degree.

Where does it come from? 

HESA data for 2014–15.

How does it work? 

The number of graduates with first or upper second class degrees was divided by the total number of graduates with classified degrees. Unclassified enhanced first degrees, such as an MEng awarded after a four-year engineering course, were treated as equivalent to a first or upper second for this purpose, while Scottish Ordinary degrees (awarded after three years rather than the usual four in Scotland) were excluded altogether. The results were then adjusted to take account of the subject mix at the university.

What should you look out for? 

Degree classifications are controlled by the universities themselves, though with some moderation by the external examiner system. It can be argued, therefore, that they are not a very objective measure of quality. However, degree class is the primary measure of individual success in British higher education and will have an impact elsewhere, such as employment prospects.

Degree Completion (maximum score 100.0)

What is it? 

A measure of the completion rate of first degree undergraduates studying at the university.

Where does it come from? 

HESA performance indicators, based on data for 2014–15 and earlier years.

How does it work? 

HESA calculated the expected outcomes for a cohort of students based on what happened to students in the current year. The figures in the tables show the percentage of students who were expected to complete their course or transfer to another institution.

What should you look out for? 

This measure of completion is a projection based upon a snapshot of data. It is therefore vulnerable to statistical fluctuations.

Summary of measures

Measure

Data Source

Years

Subject Mix Adjustment?

Weight

Entry standards

HESA

2014–15

Yes

1.0

Student satisfaction

NSS

2015

Yes

1.5

Research assessment

REF

2014

 

1.0

Research intensity

HESA

2013

 

0.5

Graduate prospects

HESA

2013–14

 Yes 1.0

Student-staff ratio

HESA

2014–15

Yes

1.0

Academic services spend

HESA

2012–13, 2013–14, 2014–15

 

0.5

Facilities spend

HESA

2012–13, 2013–14, 2014–15

 

0.5

Good honours

HESA

2014–15

Yes

1.0

Degree completion

HESA

2013–14, 2014–15

 

1.0

How do we compile the tables?

The main League Table measures ten key aspects of university activity using the most recent data available at the time of compilation. 

Summary of the 2017 League Table scores

 

Entry Standards

Student Satisfaction

Research Quality

Research Intensity

Graduate Prospects

Student– Staff Ratio

Academic Services Spend

Facilities Spend

Good Honours Degree Completion

Mean

353.80

4.09

2.70

0.47

68.86

16.32

1369

564

71.61

86.29

Max

599.80

4.36

3.36

0.95

93.41

25.11

3326

1341

92.43

98.60

Min

234.30

3.89

1.40

0.07

45.23

9.63

421

129

50.45

70.98

The measures for the Subject Tables are the same as for the main University League Table, except that only five measures are used: Student Satisfaction, Research Quality, Research Intensity, Entry Standards and Graduate Prospects.

Arts, Drama and Music Institutions

Summary of the 2017 Arts, Drama and Music Institutions Table scores

 

Entry Standards

Student Satisfaction

Research Quality

Research Intensity

Graduate Prospects

Student– Staff Ratio

Academic Services Spend

Facilities Spend

Good Honours Degree Completion

Mean

350.41

4.09

2.85

0.46

76.51

12.61

1300

223

83.98

92.86

Max

470.20

4.30

3.49

0.96

97.78

30.94

4184

826

100.00

100.00

Min

279.70

3.81

2.29

0.15

51.55

7.85

0

0

65.59

85.76

How do we ensure the tables are accurate?

Each university was provided with complete sets of its own HESA data well in advance of publication. 

Notes

Main University table

Arts, Drama and Music Institutions table

Similarly, we consulted the universities on methodology. Once a year an Advisory Group with university experts meets to discuss the methodology and how it can be improved.

  • Methodology

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