Postgraduate league tables play a very important role for prospective students to gauge exactly what different universities are offering, and how they compare to each other. What makes the situation incredibly difficult when it comes to comparison, is that more often than not, the options on the table are not exactly the same from each place, meaning that gathering as much information about the universities is essential to making the right decision.
Numerous different organizations compile league tables each year, and although their methodology may be a little different, they usually follow the same pattern. We are examining the Guardian university table method as this is one of the most popular - here eight pieces of information are collected, some of which are value assessed such as completion rates and others are simply reference figures such as course fees.
Volume of Provision – this shows the number of full time and part time students who are enrolled on courses, indicating the size and depth of each university department. Distance learning figures appear in the part time section.
Foreign Students – all students whose permanent residence is outside of the UK are considered to be foreign students. The figure given is a proportion of the total amount of students enrolled at that time.
Expenditure per Student – this is figured out by adding up the total amount spent by an institution on providing a course and dividing it by the number of students. Staff fees are not included in this figure as they are accounted for in the student–staff ratio. This figure includes all students, and not just postgraduates. An average of money spent on academic services over the last two years is also added onto this figure to give an overall value. This value is then graded against the average number for that subject and a standard deviation is also used to ensure valuable figures are presented.
Student-Staff Ratios – the number of students divided by the number of staff teaching the subject gives a student-staff ration figure. The lower the ratio the better, as this means that each student should receive more personalized teaching. In order for the figure to be considered acceptable, there must be at least 25 students and 2 full time teachers in the group.
Full Time Student Completion Rate – this figure is collected in order to establish how many people are benefitting fully from a course at a university and leaving with a qualification each year. The figure also includes those who may have been handing in assignments and assessments from last year’s course, and those who have returned to university to complete the course, two sets of people who are not present in the volume of provision figure.
Part Time Student Completion Rate – exactly the same as the full time rate, except this only account for part time students. This is to cater for the fact that part time students often finish courses slower, and this can affect the overall figures.
Tuition Fees for Home and Oversees Students – guide figures are given for full time master’s degree courses to enable people to get an approximate figure in their heads. There are many determining factors to the course costs, and the figures given are only meant to act as a guide. Some students will be eligible for bursaries and discounts and would pay much less than these prices for their tuition.
Threshold for Inclusion – in order for institutions to be included in the postgraduate university tables they must meet three criteria: Have at least 25 postgraduate students enrolled onto courses, the cost centre used by the university must have at least 25 students included, and the department has to have a completion rate figure from the previous year.