If you believe the QS employability rankings, you’re off the charts deluded
It’s still only a 2:1 from Aston mate
In every school in the country, blutacked in the corner of a whiteboard or pinned above a Maths teacher’s desk, there’s laminated sheet of A4 paper. Dog-eared and half-forgotten, it carries an inscription in lime green Comic Sans – the kind of fabricated, defiantly unsayable quote you’d see falsely attributed to Gandhi, Churchill, or maybe even Tupac Shakur. “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics,” it says. You probably saw it as a year nine. At the time, you don’t really get it, but remember it anyway.
Now you’re just into your twenties, sleepwalking through a provincial town – Loughborough, say, or Huddersfield – into a 2:1 in a subject you neither know nor respect. You don’t fancy Cheryl Cole or Eoghan Quigg or Michelle Keegan or strapping breakdancer Ashley Banjo of 2009 Britain’s Got Talent winners Diversity anymore. Fattening, you sleep in til 3pm on weekdays underneath a Pulp Fiction poster as the people around you achieve real things. You’re not particularly interesting, and aren’t sure if you want to be.
You ask yourself the big questions as you fall asleep: “Am I supposed to like Jeremy Corbyn? Do Cadbury’s do those white chocolate Dream bars anymore? Am I shit at everything? Will I have a job when I graduate?”
Now statistics are your only friend, the only ones telling you things are going to be alright: the Sainsbury’s grad scheme salary, your second year average mark, and, as of yesterday, the dullest list ever compiled – the QS International Graduate Employability Rankings.
The yearly league tables cycle is exhaustingly predictable. Oxbridge rule the roost and everyone else gets to bask in misguided relief. These lists are mostly bollocks and their methodologies are complicated and irrelevant. QS’ pointless employability rankings are no different – which, to be fair, should be expected from a company that made the absolutely diabolical shout of ranking UCL, a place where everyday feels like an open day at a middling accountancy firm, as the forth best university in the entire world.
The list’s knack for putting its faith in a system that’s transparently useless puts even Brendan Rodgers to shame. For all its pretensions of authority, its calculations are based on weirdly flimsy ground. “Employer reputation” – whether some blokes at FTSE 250 companies like your uni or not. “Graduate employment rate” – which will include minimum wage bar work as well as grad schemes. “Employer presence on campus” – how many LinkedIn-endorsing wetters they have repping for them. It’s not hard to see how these lists get it so wrong.
Is Leeds really the 20th best university in the world for employability? Better than esteemed North American heavyweights like Duke, McGill and NYU? Well, yeah, it’s alright, but no, obviously not. Loughborough, as good as they are at sports and that, will never be a better university than LSE either. Aston has barely made a mark on the consciousness of its own city – let alone had a good enough run to dislodge Cardiff, Newcastle and St Andrew’s – and Cranfield, higher than most places on the list whose names you’ll at least recognise, is essentially a finishing school for people who like planes.
We all know it – but nobody wants to admit it. League tables are the ultimate way of passing the buck, of riding the crest of the nerds’ wave, of letting your boring uni watch your back instead of getting your shit together. Enjoy your imaginary 100 employability status while it lasts – soon even you won’t have an excuse to pretend to give a shit.