There are measures, and then there are measures…

26th March 2015

Dear colleagues,

For those of you whose understanding of cause and effect, and logical deduction, is greater than the VCs argument to FBL staff yesterday (summarised below), we suggest you read on.

Cause and Effect

VC Presented Fact: London Met has a relatively low notional SSR compared to the average of four other London universities (at a fixed point in time over a year ago – according to a Tribal benchmark, the raw numeric data of which isn’t provided).

VC Presented Fact: London Met has a low NSS score compared to all UK universities (despite the fact there was a significant increase on previous results obtained by the university).

VC Presented Conclusion: sacking large numbers of teaching and teaching-related staff increases our notional SSR to that of the average of four other London universities each of whom have a better NSS score. Therefore, ipso facto, such staff cuts will not damage our student’s satisfaction.

Staff Student Ratios (SSRs)

Rather than rely on a rather opaque benchmark figure for our SSR against a ‘London benchmark’ provided by Tribal as the VC wishes to do. Let’s instead look at the publicly accessible SSRs (and other data) as provided in the University League Tables that the VC assures us are our main judge, jury, and executioner.  Therefore, all of the following figures are publicly obtainable via: http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/league-tables/rankings?v=wide

The Tribal ‘London Benchmark’ institutions are: London South Bank University, University of East London, University of West London, and Westminster University. We are told that Tribal deduce an average SSR amongst them as 25.2, compared to their measure of London Met’s SSR as 20.8. However, the actual published SSRs used in the 2015 UK University League Table are the following, along with their overall league table position:

University of West London SSR = 18.3 (110/123)
Westminster University SSR = 20.3 (96/123)
South Bank University SSR = 21.9 (120/123)
University of East London SSR = 26.3 (122/123)

The average SSR of the ‘London Benchmark’ universities is therefore to 21.7, and London Met’s SSR is provided in the league table as 21.5, essentially, equal to the ‘London benchmark’ average. The mean SSR for all universities is 17.5.

It should also be noted, that the lower the SSR, the better the overall score allocated to the institution via the league table methodology: http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/league-tables/key/

NB: we are also aware that at least one of the ‘London benchmark’ universities has a new strategic plan that aims to REDUCE their current SSR in order to improve their league table position and Student Satisfaction Scores.

Some Other Important Measures

There are, however, a combination of measures – also included in the league table position calculation, where London Met scores extremely badly, and the combination of which is quite probably far more likely a strong correlator with NSS scores than having too ‘low’ (though significantly greater than the mean) a student-staff ratio. These are:

‘Academic Service Spend’ – The expenditure per student on all academic services;
‘Facilities Spend’ – The expenditure per student on staff and student facilities.

table1League Tables – Don’t favour Widening Participation Universities

One of the important measures that influence league table position, and helps account for example for Oxford Brooks being so much higher despite not excessively good scores, is the inbuilt bias of using average entry grades as a significant factor in overall league table position. So, we have the following:

table2_Page_1Mark Campbell, London Met UCU (Chair)
Cliff Snaith, London Met UCU (Secretary)
on behalf of London Met UCU

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