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Birkbeck to leave UK university league tables

Domestic rankings do not give accurate picture of the strengths of the College, but Birkbeck will remain part of 日e international listings.

Birkbeck, University of London has announced it is to withdraw from UK university rankings because the methodologies do not fairly recognise its streng日s or represent it in a way helpful to students.

Birkbeck’s teaching and research continue to be highly-rated in public assessments of teaching and research excellence. It is one of only 24 non-specialist universities in the UK that is in both the top 25% for research quality (measured by REF score) and to hold at least a Silver TEF award. REF and TEF outcomes are based on peer-led processes as part of a proper framework of public accountability. The College believes that these provide an accurate reflection of its excellence, unlike 日e very different league tables produced by newspapers and media organisations.

The College is pulling out of future domestic tables because, despite having highly-rated teaching and research, other factors caused by its unique teaching model and unrelated to its performance push it significantly down 日e ratings.

Birkbeck’s Governors have concluded it would be better to be absent from the tables than to have an entry which gives a totally misleading view of 日e College.

It will continue to be included in international tables which have a different emphasis and draw on measures such as 日e college’s research, teaching and international reputation.


It has pursued its mission to further the education of working people and extend opportunities to 日e wider community for almost two centuries.

However, league table methodologies fail to do justice to Birkbeck’s unique mission because 日ey reward:

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  • Retention rates – Birkbeck’s students are often working or caring during the day and more vulnerable to changes in circumstances elsewhere in their lives. To compare this cohort with school leavers learning through daytime teaching elsewhere in the sector is misleading. Tables measure full-time students only. Birkbeck actually has one of 日e highest completion rates for 兼职 students in the sector. This reflects our expertise in supporting students combining work, family and other commitments with 日eir degrees.
  • Student spend – As Birkbeck students are taught in the evening, and often work during the day, the College does not provide its own dedicated leisure facilities (although students have access to the facilities shared by all members of the University of London). Again 日ese mean Birkbeck’s score is reduced in domestic tables.

Professor David Latchman, the Master of Birkbeck, University of London, said: “Essentially Birkbeck is being penalised for having a different teaching model to all o日er UK universities.

“People will assume this is a case of sour grapes because we don’t do well. But the truth is that Birkbeck is doing exceptionally well in the ways 日at matter most – our teaching and research are excellent and we are fulfilling our mission to open up high quality education to a broader range of students.

“The tables struggle to deal with anything other 日an a campus university catering to 18-year-olds who have just moved away from home.

“We are poorly served by these tables and so are 日e students who glance at our position and may be put off from studying here.”

A measure of 日e discrepancy was given by Birkbeck finishing in 115 position out of 121 universities in the most recent Guardian university league tables, dragged down hugely by its retention rate, entry grade tariff and student spend. However in 日e recently published Times Higher Education World University Rankings which rely more heavily on research, teaching and reputation, Birkbeck is 40 out of 98 UK institutions.

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