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Music departments jostle for position in university league tables

- 10 June 2014

Seventeen universities, colleges and conservatories share the top ten spots for music in the higher education guides published by three separate leading sources.

The results show sharp degrees of variance in the assessments of the teaching institutions with each guide placing a different university at the top of its rankings. The battle to influence prospective students is being fought by two daily newspapers ‒ the Times and the Guardian ‒ and the independent Complete University Guide.

Although all three guides share some of the same assessment criteria, they all used different methods of calculating individual scores for each of the criteria and to arrive at an overall score that determined specific rankings.

The Guardian’s newly-published guide for 2015 provides the most startling surprise in its grading of teaching institutions, with Edinburgh University’s Reid School of Music rising 22 places year on year to take pole position. Despite improvements in spending per student and student-staff ratios, student satisfaction with teaching fell by 4.5 points while the ‘value added score’ (a comparison between individual degree results an entry qualifications) remained stable. The paper’s own overall score gives Edinburgh a 100/100 rating.

Top of the league: Edinburgh University's Reid Concert Hall, part of the Guardian table topping Reid School of Music

Top of the league: Edinburgh University’s Reid Concert Hall, part of the Guardian table topping Reid School of Music

Surprising, then, that Edinburgh failed to make the top ten places in either the CUG or the Times tables, languishing in 12th and 14th places respectively (although the Times placing is for 2014, the most recent available). Nor does the Guardian’s second-ranked Guildhall School of Music and Drama feature at all in the competitor guides, despite both including more than 70 other institutions.

For the Times, the top destination for music education in 2014 was Manchester University, which is ranked in third place by the 2015 editions of the other two guides. Top honours for the CUG went to Cambridge University.

Only two other universities ‒ Nottingham and Oxford ‒ featured in the top ten rankings of all three guides, with Queen’s University, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Royal Holloway and Kings College, London placed in two guides. Single-guide entries included the Royal College of Music, and the universities of Brunel, York, Newcastle, Durham and Glasgow.

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