Further disappointment for Holloway in league tables

The 2009 Times Good University Guide sees Holloway ranked 30th, having dropped 6 places since last year and a worrying 18 places since the 2007 tables, where the university ranked a respectable 12th. The Guardian University Guide 2009 provides some respite, ranking RHUL 35th, two places higher up the table than last year.

Interestingly, however, the most significant drop can be seen in The Complete University Guide, published in association with The Independent and Pricewaterhouse Coopers. It is the ranking from this table that RHUL has promoted in the past year since its poor performance in the Times and Guardian tables. However, this year Royal Holloway has dropped a staggering 9 places to 22nd.

The chief concern is not RHULÂ’s actual place within the table, after all, we are, at worst, 35th out of nearly 120 institutions. The main cause for concern is the general downwards trend being shown in the league tables.

Last year, The Founder published an anonymous letter from an Undergraduate student who also held an administrative job on campus. The letter stated that “human error paved the way for Royal Holloway to drop dramatically…” Readers were informed that Holloway had submitted incorrect information to the official panel, and that the information sent would have indicated a ratio of almost 400 students per lecturer. The author of the letter reassured fellow students that, had the mistake not been made, RHUL would in fact have climbed two places in the tables.
In light of the latest figures from the various League Tables however, it would appear that either another error has been made, or that something else is causing Holloway to drop down two of the main league tables.

However, looking through The Times League Table it is hard to see exactly what could have made such a difference. The only significant changes were in Student Satisfaction (down 4% on last year) and the number of Good Honours achieved (down almost 5%). The Services and Facilities Spend has increased notably, whilst the Research Quality of RHUL (rated in the top 3 in the country in 2007) has remained unchanged.

Perhaps the most interesting figure, however, is the Student: Staff Ratio. In the 2008 table this stood at 13.9 Students per Academic Staff Member, whereas in this years’ table, the figure has actually increased to 14.7 – meaning there are more students per staff member.

This throws doubt on the “error” quoted as the reason for last years’ sudden drop in the league tables for Royal Holloway: not only was our ratio figure not dramatically higher than other institutions last year, it has also increased this year.

Of course, there are many who question the importance of league tables, and even those who believe the race to be top of the table may detract from other more important aspects of university life.

What is not disputed, however, is that the league tables are, to some extent, a factor in almost every applicant’s decision. With this year’s A Level results better than ever before and Holloway dropping further down the league tables, surely we should be wondering – exactly what will attract potential students to Royal Holloway in the future?


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