It's green league table time again. This year, the University of Bath has slipped in the table from 31st to 57th position and lost its 1st class honours rating as a result. I could find no publicity about this on its main web pages. Commendably, however, it was the same last year when it got its 1st. The university takes the issues seriously, but knows its Kipling.
This year, an astonishing 45 institutions got a 1st. This is up from 36 last year (it was 26 in 2010). I wrote on green grade inflation last year, and it looks as if things have got worse. It might be simpler just to give everyone a coconut and not bother measuring anything. Validity might even improve. The euphoria at yet another People & Planet triumph is palpable, and the celebrations (I'm told) were more glitzy than ever. Well, we all need cheering up. But, is any of this doing anyone's reputation any good?
It would certainly be well were somebody whose opinion matters to read a recent report by Beth Foley and Harvey Goldstein for the British Academy. A THE report, Measuring Success: league tables in the public sector, is here. The BA webpage says:
Measuring Success examines the use of league tables in education and policing, and reviews the available evidence to determine the benefits and the problems associated with their use. The report concludes that good evidence about league tables is in short supply, which has only helped fuel their controversy; it also highlights the limitations of league tables and recommends that wherever they are produced they should be accompanied by prominent 'health warnings'. Furthermore, the authors suggest that some of the negative side effects of league tables could be reduced if they are used only as an internal tool to improve performance by the institutions involved and not published or made publicly available.
That's something to look forward to ...