An online forum on The Student Room has sparked debate this month over which of the UK’s unis are the most underrated. The thread starter wondered which universities “don’t receiv[e] enough credit or recognition among the [UK] general public", and received numerous suggestions.
Times Higher Education compiled a list of which universities were mentioned most often by The Student Room members. What was shocking was that every uni in the top 10 on the list had also been included in the Times’ World University Rankings 2015-16. So what makes these unis so underrated?
Popular opinion in the forum was that people in the midst of searching for universities tend to believe that “Higher entrance grades= higher quality uni", and to ignore universities which don’t belong to the Russell Group. But overall the forum agreed that “a single ‘one-size-fits-all’ [league] table really doesn’t help at all", and people who focus on general prestige too much may be missing out.
Top 10 Most Underrated UK Universities
1. The University of East Anglia
It’s easy to guess why UEA came in top of this list. One student’s story rang true with almost everyone; “I hadn’t even heard of it until I came to applying for unis". And yet Norwich’s cultural heritage and 15,000 strong student population made largely of foreign students, showcase its global appeal. For Medicine and Law especially, UEA does well in Times’ and other university rankings. It’s a mystery why for British students its reputation remains so overlooked.
2. The University of Bath
One student said that “snobbery" was the main reason so few people choose to study in this beautiful city, which is immersed in Georgian architecture and has been made a UNESCO World Heritage site. The university rarely ranks highly in league tables, coming 100 points after UEA in 250th place in the Time’s World rankings, and yet its students in Student Room forums speak incredibly positively about their experiences there.
3. The University of Manchester
Manchester is a bustling, vibrant city, second biggest in terms of student population after London. Student Room members thought the size of the university damages its performance in league tables, and that future students place too much emphasis on ‘student satisfaction’, rather than how well it rates in specific courses such as Engineering and Social Sciences, which might be why the university holds more prestige from global students than it does in the UK.
4. The University of Southampton
Southampton is the second most underrated Russell Group university on the list. The coastal town is steeped in maritime and wartime history, and the university’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics students are well sought-after by employers.
5. The University of St Andrews
Scotland’s first university nestled in a beautiful, historic city. Some forum members commented that students from England and further afield are put off by its remote location, or by its “limited course offerings" in the engineering and law departments. But others were more positive and highlighted that the university is slowly gaining popularity.
6. The University of Nottingham
After Manchester, Nottingham has the highest number of students enrolling each year. But the outdated reputation of Nottingham as a capital for crime was blamed for putting off incoming undergrads. Many of the students highlighted the university’s acclaim for Humanities subjects and said that in fact the city was the perfect mixture of historical landmarks, vibrant modern attractions and preserved green areas.
7. The University of Surrey
“General public opinion has some catching up to do", said one student room about Surrey. Guildford, the home of the university campus, has been seen as a quiet, agricultural town in the past but is slowly gaining reputation thanks to its upmarket high street and busy historical attractions. Likewise, the university was relatively unheard of until it started building acclaim for the quality of its teaching and facilities in recent years.
8. The University of Sussex
Many students agreed that they’d never heard of Sussex before starting to search for unis. In terms of STEM subjects it does not rate highly, but for Social Sciences students and in the fields of policy making and research in general it is an incredibly strong but underrated university.
9. The University of Leicester
Leicester’s reputation is fairly low-key, but as a university it offers a wide range of courses and is well-loved by its current students and alumni. The city is historical and has become an incredibly vibrant and cultural destination thanks to high rates of immigration.
10. The University of Edinburgh
It’s hard to believe that Scotland’s capital was thought of as so underrated in terms of university. Again, many students were “confused" by the way Edinburgh amongst other unis on the list “seem to have a great international ranking [...] and yet rank poorly nationally": to them Edinburgh deserved the level same prestige in the UK as it does worldwide.
By Alice Hiley