New universities: Another year of the great divide

There is some good news for the former polytechnics – but none has managed to break into the top 50
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The post-1992 crop of universities once more failed to break into the top 50 and the binary divide that has separated them from the old universities remains intact. Only Nottingham Trent and the University of Hertfordshire managed to cross the traditional line, beating Bangor, which was the lowest placed old university.

Nottingham Trent, one of the largest new universities, came top of the former polytechnics at 52, one place ahead of The University of Hertfordshire, which spent more money on facilities than any other university. Hertfordshire was also the most improved university, rising 40 places from last year's table.

Bournemouth was the third-placed new university, at 56. It has worked closely with employers to develop its courses, and it shows: Bournemouth scored well on graduate prospects, where only Nottingham Trent, Robert Gordon and Napier fared better. Napier had the highest rating for graduate prospects, despite falling six places to 77.

The University of the Arts, London, which includes such venerable institutions as Central St Martins and Chelsea College of Art scored 4.7 for research assessment compared to Bournmouth's 1.9. But the group of London institutions was again let down by having the worst student satisfaction rating, and only managed level 56th with Bournemouth.

The University of Gloucestershire was the fifth placed new university, rising 15 places from last year. The former Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education only became a university in 2001, but has carved out a niche for itself for its greenness, and even has a centre of excellence for its environmental programmes.

The University of Chichester, which came 71st overall, had the highest student satisfaction rating of all the new universities. The university, which has fewer than 1,000 full-time undergraduates, is praised by students for its close-knit feel and beautiful scenery.

The University of the West of Scotland also put in a good showing, climbing 39 places since last year, despite spending the least on facilities of any university. The result of a merger between the University of Paisley and Bell College, UWS is the newest of the new universities, and is also Scotland's largest modern institution, with campuses in Paisley, Ayr, Dumfries and Hamilton.

London South Bank came bottom of the table, performing below average on all nine indicators. Its neighbour, the University of East London, was the easiest to get in to. Perhaps this was why it came out low in the proportion of good degrees it hands out. It fell 12 places to 105.

Bolton University, now in its third year, came second last after a respectable showing last year. The northern university claimed the wooden spoon for drop-out rate, losing over a third of its students each year. It also spent the least amount of money on academic services, showing that it pays to spend. However, despite spending lavishly on facilities, Buckinghamshire New had the worst graduate prospects.

Thames Valley, a university which has had difficulties in the past, dropped to 110 after modest gains last year. The university scored 0.5 for research assessment, the lowest of any institution.


By Kaya Burgess

University of Hertfordshire

Hertfordshire has had a reputation for computing and engineering since its foundation on land donated by the de Havilland aircraft company in 1952. To this, it has added a wide range of arts and design courses, as well as artificial intelligence and e-commerce. The university spent its cash on careers guidance, wardens for halls of residence, sports facilities, an inter-campus shuttle bus service service, student parking and on-campus security.

The university has close links with Fuzhou University in China, where students can study for degrees in accounting and finance, computer science, or digital communications and electronics.

University of the West of Scotland

The university has a range of strongly vocational courses, and the largest school of health, nursing and midwifery in Scotland. The most popular courses are in business, multimedia and health. The university boasts one of the most extensive work placement networks in the UK, and takes a large proportion of students from areas with no tradition of higher education. However, the university ranks low for student completion, and has one of the highest drop-out rates in the UK.