University courses: better than Oxbridge

How do you define whether one University course is ‘better’ than another?

Here are the results of an analysis I undertook, for to give The Daily Telegraph a set of courses which could be described as better than Oxbridge.

So what does make one course better than another? It could be the rigour of the academic study, or the quality of teaching, or any number of criteria. For this study, I took the objective measures of employment outcomes: probability of employment at the end of the course, and starting salary. The employment and salary data were averaged over 2 years to reduce the chance of ‘blips’, and to increase the population of students studied.

To be considered, a course had to exist at either Oxford or Cambridge – not necessarily both, as that would have excluded all sciences, since the Natural Science course at Cambridge would not be directly comparable with a ‘single subject’ science course elsewhere. Only first degrees were considered.

The ‘gotchas’ in the analysis were that

  • probability of employment is not a straightforward comparator – some courses have a high number of people choosing to take a second degree.  For some other courses I wondered whether this was a positive choice, or whether further study was the fallback option. Without definitive data on this I decide to concentrate on salary.
  • salary reported is the mean salary amongst respondents to a post-graduation survey. The proportion of students on a course who chose to declare their salaries was unevenly distributed across courses. There was no way to tell whether this distribution was representative. To mitigate this, courses were only reported where a threshold in count and proportion of students declared their salaries.

I would take the survey as it was reported – not definitive, but indicating courses that would definitely be worth a look.

University courses: better than Oxbridge

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