(First written 8th October 2009)
So the THE World University rankings 2009 were published this morning. It shows UCL (my alma mater) climb yet again to make it the 4th university in the world and moving ahead of Oxford to 2nd in the UK. This is an amazing feat and probably well deserved given the profile of research undertaken there. Certainly in my field (life science), UCL research or an academic from UCL is often quoted in the media – showing both how well respected the research and researchers are thought of.
So in terms of research output, I am quite prepared to believe that UCL is 4th in the world, but to prospective students beware. In my view, UCL is not a world-leader in terms of undergraduate satisfaction. This is borne out by the National Student Satisfaction, shown at UniStats. At least (and again in my field), UCL performs badly at things like assessment and providing good feedback to undergraduates.
That said, especially in 3rd year when doing research projects, there is a feel for being in an amazing research environment and having tutorials with lecturers and academics whose names you recognise from having read and cited their prominent papers in your own essays.
I would say that UCL is a great place to study (and has a great student union) if you are able to work by yourself and are quite self-reliant. If you are looking to have your hand-held a bit more – move along.