3 January 2012

University League Tables – a calibration of sorts

This blog is mildly obsessed with UK university league tables. One recent post attempted to consolidate the four current sets of UK rankings into a Top 30, and another tried to reconcile this with the rankings provided by the three international university league tables.

I recently came across some data which provide a different sort of comparison. The Cabinet Office reports on its annual recruitment of graduates into the UK Civil Service Fast Stream, which is
:… the Civil Service’s training and development programme, which attracts some of the country’s brightest graduates. Fast Streamers are selected for their potential to become the leaders of the future, and it is expected that many will reach the Senior Civil Service.
The Civil Service recruits to the Fast Stream on the basis of fair and open competition and selection on merit
(For details of the processes of competition and selection, see the Fast Stream website.)

The reports for the annual recruitment in the years 2010 and 2009 (ending November 2010 and 2009 respectively) contain a wealth of data including the number of candidates from each university and their success rates. There are five separate schemes to cover economists, statisticians and others, but the total figures are quoted here.

Two immediate cautionary notes. Firstly, across these two years more graduate Applicants are chasing fewer jobs (see left) which accentuates the second problem: the Success numbers are small. So in 2010 the most high-performing institution at a 100% success rate was, apparently, the Royal Academy of Music, with its only candidate being successful. More significantly, Dundee in 2010 provided 52 candidates, three being accepted, giving a very creditable success rate of 5.8%. However, a year earlier, none of its 53 candidates were successful, so 0%.

Anyway, the chart below shows the success rates in 2009 and 2010 for the recent Top 30 in descending rank:

Overall, there does seem to be a correlation of sorts with the candidates from universities towards the bottom not being as successful as those at the top. St Andrews appears a bit of an underperformer in the top five. In the international rankings, Manchester, Aberdeen and Queen’s Belfast did better than in the domestic rankings, and here (added below the Top 30) they seem to do as well as most below the top 10.

Finally, some pie charts (relative sizes indicative, not to scale) to show that while the Oxbridge slice of the cake is in decline, the Top 30 including Oxbridge, take about 75% of it.

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