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Factors that impact the rankings of UK universities based on The Complete University Guide

The process of applying to study in the United Kingdom is a journey. It's like embarking on a highly anticipated hike to the classical Inca-style trail of Machu Picchu. Did you know Machu Picchu is a Wonder of the World and a World Heritage-listed site? Fun fact! You can share that with the friendly bus driver you meet on your regular commute to work. Hiking a trail like Machu Picchu requires planning and advanced preparation. No one shows up at the 15th-century Inca Citadel munching a bar of chocolate, parading in flip-flops, and wearing sunglasses made for the Greek Island summer.

Preparing to hike the site of the ancient Inca ruins consists of purchasing tickets in advance, arriving with your passport, wearing practical trousers, carrying a sizable backpack with water bottles for hydration. The importance of preparing for this lifetime adventure cannot be overstated. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." We all know a sharpened axe makes chopping down a tree easier.

Akin to a dream adventure hike, planning to attend a UK university requires in-depth research. A few years ahead of the scheduled commencement of the program, you or your loved one should look at the variety of programmes in the desired faculty. Also, the average tuition and entry requirements are essential factors to add to your diary of considerations. For most, the rankings of the universities are also critical in determining the target institutions. There are three national rankings of universities in the UK published by The Guardian,, and joint rankings by The Times and Sunday Times.

We will look into the factors that impact the rankings of UK universities from the perspective of The Complete University Guide.

Factors that impact the rankings of UK universities based on The Complete University Guide

The Complete University Guide evaluates universities based on criteria that include student-staff ratios, entry standards, facilities spending, graduate prospects, degree completion, international student enrolments, and spending on academic services. Let's quickly look at some of these ranking criteria individually:

  1. Entry requirement:

    The data source for this metric is generated from HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency). Data is collected from public sources such as OfS (Office For Students), SFS (Scottish Funding Council), The Department for the Economy of Northern Ireland, and other additional bodies. There is no ranking score attributed to the entry requirement criteria. Usually, the average UCAS (The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) tariff score of the new undergraduate students is considered when ranking universities.

  2. Student satisfaction:

    UK universities are graded based on their average satisfaction score during The National Student Survey (NSS) exercise on final-year undergraduate students. 2) Student satisfaction: There is a maximum score of 5.00 assigned to universities based on this measure. The formulation process accommodates student biases by dividing the z-score by 3. There is a maximum score of 5.00 assigned to universities based on this measure.

  3. Research quality:

    Universities in the UK are assessed based on the quality of their research using data sourced from the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) embarked upon by the funding councils. There is a maximum score of 4.00 assigned based on meeting the research quality criteria. In determining the research assessment measure, a grade point average is usually calculated.

  4. Research Intensity:

    The university's ranking is impacted by the intensity of its research. The intensity, in this case, is evaluated by the degree of staff participation in the study. One can easily assume that a greater staff involvement will enhance the research potency at a given university. Data is also sourced from HESA and The 2014 Research Excellence Framework. A maximum score of 1.00 is available to universities that meet the research requirements and parameters.

  5. Graduate Prospects - outcomes:

    Education is a huge investment for both home and international students. The ultimate goal for most attending university is to secure a skilled and lucrative job upon graduation. The employability of graduates and those pursuing further studies are taken into account. During computation, only highly skilled jobs are considered. The maximum score for this criteria is 100.0. HESA data is also helpful in determining this outcome.

  6. Graduate Prospects - on track:

    Most students graduate from a university with career aspirations and a timeline on when they expect to achieve these goals. Scores are assigned to universities based on the proportion of graduates who agree that their current career pursuits align with their plans. Graduates are presented with the statement 'My [activity] fits with my future plans to determine if they are on track with their career aspirations. This criteria also has a maximum of 100 points available.

Additional factors such as student-staff ratio, academic services spend, facilities spend, and degree completion are also considered when ranking universities by The Complete University Guide.

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