Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The best universities are private?

An article in the Guardian newspaper last week reported that the only private university in the UK, Buckingham University, was the highest rated in the National Student Survey. Buckingham University also happens to be the smallest university in the UK, with under 1000 students.

The National Student Survey has been plagued with controversy ever since it was introduced in 2005. It asks fairly general questions about student satisfaction with teaching, assessment and support. You can make up your own mind as to whether it seems to be either a reliable or valid measurement of the quality of a degree programme.

Obviously, those who score well tend to think that it is valid and reliable. I very much like Buckingham's response to the news that they came out on top. The Vice-Chancellor remarked '"It is no coincidence that a private university has come top," he said. "The best universities in the world, the Ivy League and the liberal arts colleges in the US are private."'

I think some people would suggest that Oxford and Cambridge are amongst the best universities in the world, and they aren't quite private institutions . . . yet.

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