Go back

Times Good University Guide or Research Fortnight Quality Index – which is most relevant to tuition fees?

I’m a fan of the Times Good University Guide. What’s not to like? But I have been surprised by the number of people relying on it as a guide to the level of tuition fees to be expected from different universities.

I know the “student experience” is supposed to be a big deal. But Ive always take it as read that it often has little to do with the market value of degree courses – which of course is a big problem if you are trying to use a market in tuition fees to improve the student experience.Instead, I prefer to rely on research quality as measured by the Research Fortnight Quality Index in our own Research Benchmarks product.

This is because I think the key to market value is “prestige” and for a variety of reasons, partly to do with the prestige of research itself and partly to do with the historical development of the sector, research quality is well correlated with my idea of prestige.

Well, so much for what I think. What does the data say? Now that weve got some data on tuition fees, which correlates better, the Times Good University Guide or the Research Fortnight Quality Index?

To find out, Ive ignored the institutions at the top of both tables that are all charging £9,000 and compared the data in the lower reaches of the tables, going up as far as Surrey.

Heres the scatter plot for the Times…


And heres the scatter plot for Research Fortnight…

On the charts, the R2 figure indicates how strong the correlation is for the best-fit straight trend line through the two sets of data. And at 0.49 the one for Research Fortnight is a lot higher (better) than the 0.35 for the Times. Which is no surprise if you look at the data points on the charts – the Times ones are almost a cloud.

All of which goes to show, I think, that the Research Fortnight Quality Index is indeed a better predictor of tuition fees than the scores from the Times Good University Guide.