Every year, a variety of organisations produce their list of university rankings, each with different criteria and often different results. So when it comes to picking a University, referring to the Guardians rankings or The Times Good University Guide may seem like the best way of choosing the perfect institution for your study. In this article we look at why it might not be though.

Ranking Factors

University rankings take into account several factors including student satisfaction, entry requirements, research quality and students career prospects amongst others. The way in which the different organisations rank UK Universities for each of these items isn’t clear though and most rankings fail to acknowledge some key elements that are important to choosing the University that’s right for you. Distance from your family and friends, course content, even the weather can play a massive part in whether you fall in love with a particular University and no rankings tables take any of this into account.

Ranks well, doesn’t rank well

Another issue raised by many is the difference between the major organisations rankings. The Guardians rankings and The Times Good University Guide results regularly differ, leading many to question the validity of the the positionings. Aberystwyth University for example, featured 40th on The Times Good University Guide 2012, but only managed 50th in The Guardian Rankings. Whilst the majority of Universities feature in similar places across these two rankings tables, there are some strange anomalies such as this one.

What does it all mean?

So what do the University rankings mean then? Well generally, the higher the rank of a University, the better it will look in the eyes of your future employer. However, the majority of employers are now up to date on the latest subject specific rankings that relate to their industry. For this reason, it’s recommended that you should generally put a greater weighting on the performance of a department than the University itself. Oxford and Cambridge offer excellent education, but there are universities more distinguished in fields such as Sports Science.

It’s for these reasons that the rankings have drawn a lot of criticism and that they should not be used solely to decide on which University is right for you.