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Do university rankings really matter?

(34 Posts)
Parsley65 Sun 24-Nov-19 10:55:07

DS (now in second year at uni) was all over the university rankings when it came to choosing where to go and eventually picked a prestigious establishment that was in the top ten for his chosen subject.

DD (Y12) is taking a different approach and says that as long as the course she chooses is fully accredited by the professional body, then it doesn't matter about rankings.

Is she right?

OP’s posts: |
MarchingFrogs Sun 24-Nov-19 11:08:42

If accreditation is going to be relevant for what she aims to do post-grad, then that aspect is more important for her than the 'name's of the university generally. e.g. accredited course at a Post-1992 vs non-accredited at RG. Though if doing, say, Biology with the desire of going into Investment Banking, whether or not the course was accredited by the Royal Society of Biology might be less important than having the 'right label on the tin', so to speak.

DontLettuceBrexitLettuceRomain Sun 24-Nov-19 12:28:14

No she's not right. We might all wish it were different but it isn't. The names of research intensive and well established universities (Russell etc) still count for more than post 92s and modern universities when it comes to employers. And no new metrics like TEF are going to change that anytime soon.

CostcoFan Sun 24-Nov-19 12:31:45

The accreditation is clearly more important than a better ranked university with no accreditation. But it maybe possible to get both ?
I do think that in jobs with hundreds of applicants that employers must use university as a way of filtering out applications to read in more details. So apart from in cases where a new university is know to excellent (for example I hear Bournemouth is great for media related things) I think a better ranked university will help an application get a more thoughtful look. The assumption is that a better candidate would have gone to a higher ranked university. It may not be true and people obviously change and develop at different rates, but if the courses are equal, the higher ranked uni will make things slightly easier in the job market.

Parsley65 Sun 24-Nov-19 14:40:10

Thanks all.
I'll pass that on and we'll factor the ratings in as well as accreditation.

OP’s posts: |
Xenia Sun 24-Nov-19 17:36:21

I agree. Go for both - accredited and higher ranking. It didn't do my sibiling harm to read medicine at Cambridge for example even though every other medical school in the country is accredited. Better to be on the safe side and go to accredited and well regarded.

damekindness Sun 24-Nov-19 22:22:00

If it's for nursing or Allied health professions then university rankings make no difference for employability. Employers will fight to recruit any graduates regardless

SarahAndQuack Sun 24-Nov-19 22:38:54

Be cautious - medicine is a particularly odd example, as Cambridge medicine, though it's accredited, may not be the best place to go if you want to be a practising doctor rather than a research medic. I mean, obviously it would be fine, and wouldn't do you any harm.

I would think also, if there's a chance she's not going to continue in that specific field, it might be useful to have a university with higher rankings on her CV.

Keepthebloodynoisedown Sun 24-Nov-19 23:01:38

It depend what subject really. Lots of top company’s in sectors like law, tech, finance, only recruit from the top whatever unis in that area.

BubblesBuddy Mon 25-Nov-19 00:48:36

There are variables here depending what degree and accreditation you are talking about. Some newer universities have excellent courses that are valued by local employers. Other universities would be better if you were aiming for a certain career where prestigious university matters, eg Law. So subject matters. A lot.

Parsley65 Mon 25-Nov-19 06:39:53

She is passionate about studying psychology.
She has done the GSCE and is now doing the A level.
Really appreciating the feedback.
She'll be looking at the different universities/courses in the new year.

OP’s posts: |
SoxiFodoujUmed Mon 25-Nov-19 07:06:53

it depends on the career, and how popular it is. does she think she will be up against a lot of competition when she is job hunting?

to singer extent the university is effectively a "brand image" for the graduate - although that's an image based on real factors in the quality of teaching and research.

If someone is choosing a dozen apples and has a range of supermarket brands to choose from, including sainsbury's "taste the difference", waitrose 1, Asda's Smart Price, Tesco both "Finest" and "Value" and Aldi & Lidl. They will all have passed the UK food safety standards (equivalent of accreditation) but you know that some will be better than others. if you can't taste a sample and the choosing scenario doesn't have a difference in price to consider then you will go for the premium brands, and may well guess that a waitrose "essential" might be just as nice or even nicer than an asda Extra Special.

recruiters for graduate roles are generally overwhelmed with mid applications than they can ever read. the prestige of the university is often a quick first criterion for getting the number of applications down to a manageable level.

once someone has been in a career for a year or two then it stops mattering, but you can't get to that point without a first job.

So as well as the overall university rankings look at the employability stats for the individual courses. you should be able to find details of what percentage of graduates are employed (subdivided by whether or not the job is using their degree) and those stats may reveal that a slightly less prestigious university actually has the edge in a particular field.

Pomley Mon 25-Nov-19 07:18:36

What does your DD want to do for a career? If it's something such as being a Psychologist, then as long as the degree is accredited, I would go somewhere where there are opportunities to volunteer alongside studying, and where she feels like she would thrive; getting a first or at minimum a 2:1 would make getting on to a Master's reasonable, and in reality, she could apply for that at a more prestigious uni if need be. Psychology on its own as an undergraduate degree doesn't lead to much aside from 'generic' grad jobs- it would probably help immensely if she had an idea of what she wanted to do when she graduated and researched it. A lot of my friends studied it at degree level, and have been surprised at the lack of opportunities. As it is, I went to an ex-poly probably not even on the league tables and it's never held me back.

stucknoue Mon 25-Nov-19 07:22:30

The answer is, it depends! The ranking of the university overall can mask huge variations within departments so for professional jobs eg architecture, engineering, etc. it will be well known where the best courses are. However if you are doing English or history then applying into the graduate job market the overall ranking matters more.

All that said, unless you succeed at your course it's irrelevant so it's essential they find the size and location that is a good fit, even consider staying home if that's more suited to their personality. I know 2 Cambridge drops outs now in their final year of a middling university who said it was dreadful there if you weren't from a certain background and/or certain personality type, they also were really bad about mental health issues, heard the same about Warwick .... yet know kids at Warwick who love it. Also can they afford to live in that city, if cost of housing means they need to work more it could impact grades - the difference between a 2.1 and 2.2 is more than going to ucl and a middling university when it comes to jobs

Note there's loads of different lead tables so to take my DD's university as an example, it ranges from 19-62 depending on what factors they choose, her department is ranked from 8-46.

stucknoue Mon 25-Nov-19 07:27:29

Just seen the update - psychology is one of the most popular degrees out there. There's serious oversupply of graduates, she needs to work out what she thinks she will do with her degree, marketing for instance may be a good alternative as a degree. Also many universities don't rate the a level so check that it won't count against her before choosing, they had twice as many applicants as places here and was one of the courses that doesn't go into clearing usually.

CmdrCressidaDuck Mon 25-Nov-19 07:36:15

For psychology I'd say she needs to go to the most prestigious uni she can get into. Every uni has a course, there are buckets of grads, it doesn't qualify you for anything directly so your options are train in one of the post-grad psychology routes, for which you need work experience and the best degree you can get, or you're on the graduate market in which case you need work experience and the best degree you can get.

Just being accredited for psychology undergrad is the bare minimum really. The professional postgraduate routes are different, only a few unis run them in many cases so accreditation is the most important factor.

SoxiFodoujUmed Mon 25-Nov-19 07:48:36

omg for psychology there is no point going to any university that isn't in the top 5 for that subject, unless she is planning to only do the degree for Interest's sake and will be pursuing a degree in an unrelated field where any 2:1 is fine. if she wants to actually practice Psychology then she will also need to work her socks off, because although the postgraduate opportunities say on their entry requirements that all they need is 2:1 from any accredited course, the reality is that there are more applicants with a 1st class degree from a top university than there are spaces available so anything less than this won't get a look-in.

CherryPavlova Mon 25-Nov-19 07:58:59

Yes the university matters. In some fields, it matters a lot.
Medical students rankings for foundation programme jobs include points for the university attended - so can help decide whether you go to Oxford, London or Carlisle to live.
If you’re entering a competitive field after university then it really matters that it’s RG. The university placements and internships that open doors later on will be dependent on the university in many cases.

The big four want RG for their graduate programmes. Hospitals will be less fussy where their nurses graduated from.

Psychology is notoriously competitive, a long training programme and they’ll have the pick of high achievers from the most prestigious universities.

BreakfastAtLitanies Mon 25-Nov-19 08:33:58

For Psychology, yes it very much matters which university she studied at if she wants to go into clinical/mental health etc as that is one of the most competitive fields coming out of the degree, as well as forensic Psychology. It's actually incredibly hard to get even placements in this field due to the competition, let alone start a career in it. (studying for a psych degree myself, with friends wanting to go into mental health, though I do not want to). So would recommend the best ranked university she can get in to, as sadly employers do look at this.

If she "just" wants to be a research Psychologist, it will not matter as much in terms of university though as it's such a competitive and popular subject, I'd still try to get the best university possible.

BubblesBuddy Mon 25-Nov-19 13:40:49

Check out Bath. I think they have excellent courses with a year’s placement. This is invaluable. They are looking for very well qualified students and DO look at GCSEs and mathematical ability. Bath are ranked 3rd so their info is very relevant to high flyers in this field who wish to practice. If she doesn’t meet their academic criteria, work back in the league tables to see where is less academic in intake. Bath do accept Psychology A level (I think most do) but on a competitive course one would think maths and biology were also great A levels.

Serin Mon 25-Nov-19 14:03:12

I think it depends.
I know 2 kids who went to Oxbridge and couldn't hack it. Both dropped out, restarted at less intense institutions and thrived.
Our DS has offers from Durham and York, he much prefers the atmosphere at York and will likely choose to go there. Possibly mad, but his choice.
Some excellent degree apprenticeships have their theory content based in lower ranking universities eg we were surprised to see GCHQ approved degrees at Royal Holloway and Oxford Brooke's.
Also I do wonder how some universities maintain their "elite" status. Despite going to Liverpool myself (30years ago) I wouldn't have thought it could compete with the likes of Loughborough/Bath/Warwick these days, and yet it's right there in the RG.confused

SirTobyBelch Mon 25-Nov-19 16:34:20

Also I do wonder how some universities maintain their "elite" status.

I'm afraid it's self-perpetuating. Apart from the fact that many people in positions of influence genuinely believe membership of the Russell Group confers magical powers, they also make judgements on the basis that some universities rated highly for certain subjects weren't "proper universities" when they were students 30-40 years ago and therefore the ratings must be wrong.

Of course, the Russell Group was only invented a little over 30 years ago - as a lobby group to promote the interests of a self-selected "elite" - so these institutions weren't in the Russell Group when the ministers & senior civil servants studied there.

Xenia Mon 25-Nov-19 17:31:56

I graduated in 1982 before the 1994 foundation of the Russell Group. In my day and today the rankins were pretty much as now for the to places, Oxford and Cambridge, below that Durham, Bristol etc. I don't think it's changed much. Durham and Bristol rejected me and I went to Manchester and did fine. 3 of children went to or are at Bristol (and all 3 rejected Durham) and none of my 5 tried for Oxbridge.

Just go for the hardest to get into uinversity with the highest grade requirements you can get as has always been the best advice and go from there.

MarchingFrogs Mon 25-Nov-19 17:35:34

many people in positions of influence genuinely believe membership of the Russell Group confers magical powers

The Kimpton Fitzroy Groupdoesn't have the same ring, somehow, does it?

I've always preferred the Tavistock, myself. I do love a good bit of Art Decosmile

Needmoresleep Mon 25-Nov-19 17:59:35

The Russell group is called that because they met in the Russell Hotel. Just as well they did not meet in a Travellodge.

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