The Complete University Guide 10th Anniversary Conference

About this Event

National league tables: the evolving relationship with the university sector

Date and time: Wednesday 27 September 2017, 10:00 – 16:00 BST
Location: Woburn House Conference Centre, 20 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9HQ

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University league tables have been with us for a quarter of a century, exposing the sector to a level of scrutiny that was previously the preserve of soccer clubs and consumer magazines.

In 1993, The Times published its first league table of the UK universities in a small paperback. At that time there were 96 institutions and their rank was determined by 14 measures, including staff qualifications and student accommodation. The outcome was met with derision by the body representing university vice-chancellors.

Its press release condemned the tables as a dubious exercise, wrong in principle and flawed in execution. While accepting the principle we shared some, but not all, of the misgivings and wrote to The Times in a more constructive vein. This resulted in a partnership which lasted for more than ten years whereby we, Mayfield University Consultants, developed and produced the rankings and the narrative surrounding them.

At the beginning of the league table era, the World Wide Web was in its infancy. The focus was on publication in newspapers and in book form.

By 2007, we were convinced that the web was the way forward for an annual university guide and set up The Complete University Guide in partnership with the digital publisher, Constable and Robinson.

Fast forward a decade and the guide is recognised as the leading independent and trusted source for university applicants and their mentors. Other guides are available, but both remain print-led and one is behind a pay wall.

The Complete University Guide is not associated with any newspaper publisher, and is, most importantly, free to access for its key audience of prospective university students, available in a form with which their generation is firmly familiar, and with a wealth of associated information that will guide their choice of course and institution.

So, with more than 20 years’ experience of compiling university league tables and 10 years since the founding of the guide, we have been encouraged to call a conference to take stock and look forward to the future.

We have brought together experts in the field, mainly from the university sector, to discuss and debate all the major rankings in what promises to be a seminal gathering.

Bernard Kingston (Dr)
Chairman, The Complete University Guide

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Ten years on from the launch of, and more than 20 years since Andrew Hindmarsh and Bernard Kingston first began compiling UK university rankings for a national newspaper, we are taking stock of the current scene and looking to the future at this one-day conference in London.

We have brought together senior colleagues from the university sector and beyond, leaders in their respective fields and institutions, to discuss the part league tables play in the strategies and performance of their organisations, including what they think of them, why they use them, how they use them and where they use them.

Individual sessions will be devoted to the rankings in the context of current practice within governance and management, student recruitment, marketing and graduate employment and a plenary lecture will examine the national tables vis à vis the international rankings. The final session will call on the experience and expertise of the compilers to take a look at how university league tables might develop in the future.

10.00 Registration and refreshments

10.30 Welcome and introduction
Simon Emmett, CEO, Hotcourses Group
Dr Bernard Kingston, Chairman, The Complete University Guide

10.45 Are national league tables a more valuable guide for target users than their international counterparts?
Professor Simon Marginson, Director, Centre for Global Higher Education, University College London

11.15 Uses and abuses of league tables – do universities use them or ignore them?
Panel discussion with: Professor Cara Aitchison, Vice Chancellor, Cardiff Metropolitan University
Dr John Cater, Vice Chancellor, Edge Hill University
Professor John Latham, Vice Chancellor, Coventry University

12.15 How effective are league table compilers in getting their message over to students and universities?
Open session with: Amy Baker, Managing Director, The PIE News

12.45 Lunch

13.45 Informed choices? Using league tables and public information in selecting university courses
Mike Nicholson, Director of Admissions and Recruitment, University of Bath

14.15 What does ‘good’ look like? How careers services and employers view and use league tables
Dr Bob Gilworth, Director, The Careers Group, University of London
Samuel Gordon, Research Analyst, Institute of Student Employers

14.45 Break and refreshments

15.00 Do league tables take themselves too seriously? Do universities take league tables too seriously? Does it matter?
Dr Paul Greatrix, Registrar, University of Nottingham

15.30 What about the future – where are league tables going?
Dr Andrew Hindmarsh, CUG League Tables Compiler and Data Adviser
James Seymour, CUG Content Contributor and Editorial Adviser

16.00 Closing remarks
Dr Bernard Kingston

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