HE Research Snippet 4 – Down one place in the league tables…The Times Good University Guide

Posted on 18th February 2013 by Youth

Research Snippets: Our monthly Research Snippets look at interesting and topical findings unearthed by the HE team at YouthSight. See all our HE Research Snippets here. If any of your colleagues would like to receive our Research Snippets, ask them to drop a line to: james.macgregor@YouthSight.com

Love them or hate them, university league tables are central to the decision-making of many university applicants. And with increasing consumerisation in higher education, they, along with other performance-related sources such as the Key Information Sets, are likely to remain central to decision-making processes for prospective students.Using our Higher Expectations data, we decided to create a league table of league tables to help institutions understand these important information sources.

Figure 1 below shows that The Times Good University Guide traditionally enjoyed the highest usage amongst prospective students. In the last couple of years, however, The Guardian’s University League Table has overtaken it. A probable cause of this is likely to have been the introduction of The Times’ paywall (which was lauched in June 2010, impacting on the 2011/12 and 2012/13 starting cohorts). More recently, the paywall has been removed for their Good University Guide, but it remains to be seen whether The Times will be able to regain their top spot.

Figure 1: League table of league tables

League Table 2012/13
rank
2010/11
rank
2008/09
rank
The Guardian University League Table 1st 2nd 2nd
The Times Good University Guide 2nd 1st 1st
The Complete University Guide (formerly in association with The Independent) 3rd 5th N/A
Times Higher Education World University Rankings 4th 4th 4th
Sunday Times University Guide rankings 5th 3rd 3rd
QS World University Rankings 6th 6th N/A
Academic Ranking of World Universities 7th 7th 5th
Figure 1: LEA1. Which of the following league tables, if any, did you look at?
Base: All respondents Higher Expectations; 2012/13 (12,176), 2010/11 (11,971), 2008/09 (11,468)
For the exact usage data percentages, contact us about subscribing to Higher Expectations

Our latest data shows that seven in ten students (69%) used at least one league table when deciding on university. However, certain key groups of students use league tables far more. As Figure 2 (below) shows, Law students use league tables the most and Creative Arts & Design students use them the least. Those who go on to study at ‘pre 92’ HEIs use them more than those who end up at ‘post 92’ HEIs. And overseas students are far more likely than home students to consult them.

Figure 2: League tables usage when deciding on university – Law students vs. Creative Arts & Design students; Pre 92 HEI students vs. Post 92 HEI students; Home students vs. Overseas students

 

Law students Creative Arts & Design students Pre 92 HEI students Post 92 HEI students Home students Overseas students
553 1,097 6,627 5,032 11,628 548
Used any league table 79% 48% 81% 54% 68% 79%
Figure 2: LEA1. Which of the following league tables, if any, did you look at?
Base: All respondents answering question – Higher Expectations 2012/13
Statistically significant differences: An orange background indicates that figure is significantly higher

Conclusions

University league tables are clearly a key resource in the university application process, particularly for certain groups of students. Usage has remained relatively stable over time, but it’s clear that since The Times introduced its pay-wall (affecting the last two academic cohorts), The Guardian has, at least for the time being, become the ‘go-to’ table for applicants. Whether or not The Times will be able to regain ground now it has removed its pay-wall remains to be seen. Through Higher Expectations, we will continue to monitor league table usage every year. Subscribing clients will be able to view results on this and hundreds of other questions, at the level of the individual institution.

John Newton, (Senior Project Manager, Higher Education)
john@youthsight.com
020 7288 8789

YouthSight owns the consumer access panel for higher education: 70,000 current students, 18,000 graduates and 17,000 applicants and 10,000 other young people.We’ve completed hundreds of projects for our HE clients, helping over 90 universities and HE organisations obtain the insights and data they need to drive important decisions. We’ve helped policy bodies collect evidence for ground breaking reports, we’ve helped marketing directors develop winning strategies and we’ve helped Deans to create new early stage course propositions that genuinely meet market needs.

Our portfolio of products is based on a clear understanding of the needs of HE professionals combined with a sophisticated approach to the ‘tools of our trade’, including qualitative and quantitative interviews, regression & key driver analysis, Price Sensitivity Meter and choice-based conjoint or trade-off techniques. Here are some of our key products and approaches:

Post image by Mervyn Chua

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