In a previous post (University Entrance - Today's 11+? ) I pointed out that the current participation rate in higher education in the UK was at a similar level to 11+ success and grammar school attendance in the 1960s. At that time, however, university was for an elite minority – less than 10% of the under 21 age group. Although this is no longer the case, there is a perception of there being an institutional elite, and arguably, for those choosing which universities to apply to, and for recruiters of graduates, the perception can be more important than the reality. This post looks at some possible shapers of these perceptions (league tables and elite groupings), and then revisits the statistics of participation.The post combined the results of four published league tables (each one using its own assessment criteria, but with inevitable overlaps) to produce a listing of the top 30 universities. The league tables have been reissued for 2012 (by The Times, Sunday Times, Guardian and Complete University Guide) so I have taken the opportunity to update the table, again identifying the Russell Group, and the Sutton Trust’s ‘elite’ (ST13) and ‘highly selective’ (STHS) groups. Access to the ‘top universities’ continues to be a significant political issue and has come to be regarded as a key determinant of social mobility. For example, Ed Miliband used the words ‘top universities’ once, and ‘most competitive universities’ twice, in his speech at the Labour Party conference last week. (UPDATE: However, David Cameron made no reference to universities in his speech to the Conservative Party conference on 5 October, with the education passage focussing on schools).
At the bottom of the 30, Manchester and Liverpool have been replaced by Surrey and Reading. Otherwise changes in ranking are probably not significant, particularly in the top 10.
The graph showing the capacity of the elite groupings alongside historic participation rates is taken from the earlier post – it is only meant to be illustrative and I have assumed that, for that purpose, the changes to the relevant data in one year are insignificant.
To find out how this Top 30 rates in the three international league tables, see my later post.