By Rachel Kay
Despite continuing to rank highly in student satisfaction and the national league tables, St Andrews, along with other UK universities, is now facing tougher international competition.
For the fourth year in a row, both the Times and the Guardian have ranked St Andrews among the UK’s top 5 universities.
93% of final year students who participated in the National Student Survey gave the university top marks for the quality of the learning and teaching experience, earning St Andrews the top spot along with the University of Oxford.
St Andrews Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Dr Louise Richardson, said these results demonstrated the university’s “deep rooted commitment to academic excellence and the student experience.”
However, the University has been steadily slipping in the QS World Rankings since 2007, placing 76th, 83rd, 87th, and 95th over the last four years. The Times Higher Education World Rankings, which have been revised this year to put more emphasis on research and less on academic reputation and subjective opinion polls, list St Andrews in 103rd place.
According to Niall Scott, Director of the University’s Press Office, this disparity reflects a difference in the scoring criteria. He said that indicators which serve St Andrews well in the domestic tables, such as student satisfaction, good degrees, completion, and student to staff ratio, are not highly weighted in the world rankings, and, in some cases, ignored altogether. The rankings also place less emphasis on the proportion of international students and staff.
Of the twenty-nine UK universities that currently rank among the global top 200, twenty-two have scored lower than last year. Unprecedented budget cuts to higher education have raised concerns over the UK’s future ability to compete in a world arena, while countries such as Canada and China pump billions into universities.
“There is, I think, truth in the warnings that this is an early wake up call to the UK and reflects the fact that other countries are investing more in higher education, and reaping the benefits,” said Scott. “There can be no doubt that Scottish and UK higher education faces an extremely challenging financial future.”