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Only 10 universities across UK worse than Cumbria – survey

University of Cumbria

There are only 10 universities worse than the University of Cumbria, according to a new league table.

The Guardian University Guide has placed it at 109 out of 119 institutions in the UK. This is a fall from 89th in 2012 and 102nd last year. But the university has defended itself and said the ranking system – which marks nine different aspects of campus life – is “somewhat out of date”.

The league is based heavily around the National Student Survey (NSS), which saw students in their final year quizzed about their opinions of the teaching, the assessment and feedback they have received, as well as how satisfied they were with their time as undergraduates. The questions were asked in 2012.

Alongside this, the table makes use of other data compiled over the past decade.

Cumbria came in joint 91st in the NSS teaching survey.

It also scored poorly on expenditure per student – again coming joint 109th – and was in position 110 in the entry tariff category, based around the qualifications of first-year students.

However, the university did do better in some areas. Despite its poor showing in the NSS teaching quiz, it was joint 12th when it came to the survey’s overall satisfaction result. It was also in the mid-table when it came to value-added service, which indicates how well students do compared to expectations, coming joint 43rd.

The university also fared reasonably when it came to staff-student ratios (joint 60th), the NSS’s feedback query (joint 67th) and career prospects (joint 76th).

Professor Peter Strike, the university’s vice-chancellor, said: “The data used by this league table compiler is always retrospective and is the average over three years. Therefore, the data used to complete this league table continues to include a period of considerable transition for the institution.

“Whilst a number of factors contribute to an institution’s league position, the most heavily weighted factor is the institution’s NSS score.”

He continued: “The university has worked hard to improve participation in the NSS and to improve all the NSS scores and has made very good progress in the past two years with its performance steadily improving.

“However, this improvement is not yet reflected in the league table data.”

The professor added that the university had brought in changes in 2010 and 2011, which may have affected its placing in the NSS.

“The university has achieved a remarkable turnaround in its operations over the past few years to secure a sustainable future,” he said.

“As a new university we strive constantly to improve the quality of our programmes and to provide the best possible student experience.”

A university spokeswoman added: “It is disappointing that the position of University of Cumbria should have fallen in this particular table, but whilst they are widely used, league tables of necessity rely on historic data rather than current activity, and are inevitably therefore somewhat out of date.”

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