Bristol University: Where Does It Really Stand?

By November 24, 2015


Bristol Univeristy

Ask a student what the best university is and most of the time, you’ll get the name of their own university back in response. It doesn’t take a long time to develop a fierce sense of pride and loyalty for your place of study. However, when choosing a university, it’s not often we heavily base our future on anecdotes from other students. Instead, most people find themselves mulling over a few possibilities, thinking of distance and general ambience and then doing what we all do: going to the internet to type ‘university rankings UK’.

As a student of Bristol University, there are a few duties. First, to declare that Bristol University is a breeding ground for excellence, the best of the best, and secondly, to complain about the amount of hills. Other sources have different ideas however. Each year, The Complete University Guide, The Guardian and The Times publish their own university rankings with Bristol being ranked 15th, 35th and 20th this year. The disparity between grading is as a consequence of how these tables are constructed.

For instance, the Complete University Guide uses different categories, with the highest weighting on student satisfaction. Each category is given a score and then transformed to a scale with a maximum score of 1,000. To give some perspective, Cambridge University was the top of this table with a full score of 1,000 whilst Bristol got a score of 834. The Times newspaper, as like the Guardian, has a different technique, with varying criteria and different weighting. Ultimately we are left with a haphazard consensus on where a university falls in it’s success rating across the UK.

Of course, one can always use the university’s own website as to understand the institutions place in contrast to others such as Cambridge, Oxford, and Imperial. The University of Bristol’s website instantly highlights a few facts, for instance, the University is proudly one of the twenty four universities to be a member of the Russell Group. The Russell Group states that it’s universities are ‘world class’, playing an ‘important part in the intellectual life of the UK’.

These attributes are only reinforced by another proud declaration–the university is “ranked among the top five UK institutions for research excellence”, with 36% of its research rated as world-leading and 47% rated as internationally excellent. Continue reading and you are further bombarded with more statements expounding the brilliance of the university. For example, what you may not have known is that Bristol also ranks in the top ten for the subjects of Chemistry, Engineering, Computer Science, Dentistry, Economics, English, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, Politics, and Veterinary Medicine.

This information disclosed by the university is hardly surprising. The website is there to inform, but it is also a mode of advertising, a method in attracting the students who make the university what it is. As a student of this university, reading these statistics and facts are a source of pride but it must also be confessed, this excellence is not what races through the minds of students as we work through a daily routine of tutorials, lectures, seminars, and trips to the library. It’s difficult to experience these facts on a human level. The university is not perfect, nor does it claim to be. There are moments of human (and much technological–thanks Blackboard) error and undoubtedly students complain as much as students praise the university (although perhaps this tells us more about humanity than it does the university).

Yet, the point is this. These facts, although helpful guides, especially for the lost 17-year-old trying to decide whether Bristol really is the place for them, are not what makes a student rank it’s university nor what makes us spend our limited supply of money on a hoodie emblazoned with the university name. It is the daily events which overshadows the rankings and force them out of our mind. Bristol’s unique traits, although sometimes foundations for mockery, such as it’s music and theatre scene, it’s love of being different, even the beloved yet slightly shameful nightlife, all constitute the personal and biased, mind-forged ranking of the individual student.

Bristol University students aren’t blinded, we don’t claim to be alongside Cambridge, but personal experience and lack of other university experience, for most, will mean that tradition is obeyed. When answering the question, as a current or past student, the reply is not influenced by criteria or even common sense, but in our eyes Bristol is a forceful contender in the UK rankings.

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