Universities with Top Grades in Quality Examinations; How Good Are the Region's Universities? Finola Lynch Does Some Research

By Lynch, Finola | The Birmingham Post (England), August 22, 1998 | Go to article overview

Universities with Top Grades in Quality Examinations; How Good Are the Region's Universities? Finola Lynch Does Some Research


Lynch, Finola, The Birmingham Post (England)


When the University of Birmingham conducted a survey among its home-based students to find out what life was like for them, its organisers expected a less than enthusiastic response.

Despite the obvious attractions of attending a university closer to home, such as financial ease and proximity to a washing machine, external relations officer, Mr Frank Albrighton said the university had been, "expecting to get almost apologetic about t he advantages of attending a neighbouring university".

But the results of the survey revealed some surprising advantages to boarding at home.

"Money was the main motivator, of course," said Mr Albrighton, "but surprisingly, students did not feel they had missed out on the social life of the university and they said they actually found it a better learning experience.

"The bedroom at home was a much quieter place to study than a room in the first year high-rise block."

Aston University said 21 per cent of applicants in 1997 were from the West Midlands and like the University of Birmingham, it had noticed local students were applying in increasing numbers.

But neither establishment thought the main reason was the introduction of tuition fees this year, preferring to praise their relationships with neighbouring schools and colleges.

Mr Albrighton added: "Students should always go to the place where the course suits them best. But it is perverse to leave the West Midlands to study in a far-off part of the country when you have a world-class university on your doorstep."

As this year's intake shows increasing numbers are turning to universities in their area, we have looked at the universities and the subjects which have so far been scrutinised by the Quality Assessment Authority (QAA).

The QAA has been assessing institutions for two years based on two main criteria - research facilities and teaching standards - on behalf of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), who distribute money from the Department of Education a nd Employment (DfEE).

The assessment has another three years to run before every subject has been evaluated. Each subject is given one of four ratings, Excellent, Approved, Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory.

The list below is a sample of the main findings for each university assessed in the West Midlands on the basis of its departmental teaching, the main concern for undergraduates.

Aston University, Birmingham: No Excellents; Approved, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, French, German; Satisfactory, English.

University of Birmingham, Edgbaston: Excellent, English, geography, history, music; Satisfactory, business and management studies, English, mechanical engineering, social policy and administration.

University of Central England in Birmingham, Perry Bar: Excellent, music; Satisfactory, business and management studies, English, mechanical engineering. …

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