Jessica Murray: Don’t base your choice just on rankings

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It was no surprise that Leeds University was awarded gold in the newly implemented Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) rankings.

Having studied my undergraduate degree here, I can vouch for the fact that it is an excellent university, and the quality of teaching has, on the most part, been outstanding.

But whether lumping all universities into generic categories of gold, silver and bronze is the best way of recognising this is doubtful in the eyes of many students, staff and commentators. With students now paying upwards of £9000 a year for their education, I welcome any efforts to improve quality of teaching and ensure students get value for money. But these rankings are based on student satisfaction, completion rates and the number of graduates who end up in high skill jobs; all very important metrics but they don’t necessarily equate to teaching quality across all disciplines.

What the TEF fails to take into consideration is that the ‘best’ university isn’t a clear cut decision. What may be the perfect university for one student may not be the right one for another. Yes, it is baffling trying to navigate the numerous university rankings out there at the moment, but imposing yet another one isn’t going to solve this problem. It’s quite ironic that the government are trying to encourage nuanced, high quality teaching by implementing a dumbed down and simplistic ranking system that tries to make students’ decisions for them, and then links this ranking to tuition fee increases. Many commentators are already expecting that the new rankings will have significant impact on the decisions of prospective students. While I hope many students choose Leeds University for their degree, I hope they don’t base their decision on its ‘gold’ ranking. I hope they choose Leeds for the same reasons I did; its excellent teaching record yes, but also its beautiful campus and stunning libraries, the vibrant city of Leeds and the friendly people who live here, its first rate student union and amazing night life, the flourishing cultural scene and job prospects on its doorstep, and the opportunities it gives you to have some of the best experiences of your life. Ultimately, I hope prospective students don’t let a flawed government framework decide which is the best university for them.

Jessica Murray is the Editor-in-Chief of The Gryphon at Leeds University