A-level students face ‘minefield’ of university rankings


21 August 2017

  • Variety of university league tables can be bewildering to students
  • Lack of consistency across tables means students should not rely on just one or two sources when choosing their university
  • Learning ‘soft’ skills can be just as important as academic outcomes

Students struggling to decide on a university in the wake of this week’s A-Level results are being warned not to rely on individual university league tables.

There are several major university rankings – including TEF tables, LEO data and THE world rankings – and their results can vary widely.

For example, Birmingham’s Aston University ranks 49th among UK universities according to The Complete University Guide, while the LEO data puts it at No.2 in the country.

Aston’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Helen Higson, said:

“In some ways it’s a minefield for young people and it’s difficult to know what to believe. Available advice is not always good and so people do look at league tables.

“Students shouldn’t go to a university just because it’s a so-called elite university, they should go to the best university for their subject or for what’s important to them.

“They should look at a university’s ‘mission’, what it’s trying to do, and asking if that fits with what the student wants to do.”

There is no doubt that a degree from the traditional “heavy hitters” of the university world, such as Oxford and Cambridge, still opens doors for students but other institutions offer their own strengths.

Aston is a case in point. Prof Higson said:

“Aston does one thing particularly well and that is get students into good jobs. That’s why we’re No.2 in the LEO rankings.”

The advice to students is to compare different tables, paying attention not just to purely academic outcomes but also the other elements of university life that can be so important in an individual’s development – for example, work placements or the “soft” skills that are so important for getting on in life.

Students should also look into dropout rates, particularly as evidence suggests those who drop out of university fare worse than those who never go in the first place.

In other words, before choosing which university to attend, students must do their homework. 


Notes to editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University has been always been a force for change. For more than 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. Aston is renowned for its opportunity enabler through broad access and inspiring academics, providing education that is applied and has real impact on all areas of society, business and industry.

For more information, call Kenny Campbell on 07824 156311 or email [email protected]