League tables – helpful or fueling elitism?

League tables fall back into the ongoing cultural debate between appearance and what’s inside. Russell Group universities appear far better than other universities, not simply in the United Kingdom but worldwide.

By Andrea Gaini

Before coming to Cardiff from Italy I had never heard of the University of South Wales or Cardiff Metropolitan University, and looking at league tables I remember picking from the top 30 universities and forgetting about thousands of universities proposing different courses or different approaches to teaching, simply because their score was not as high. But does it really matter what score universities have in the league tables?

Graduating from Cardiff University without having learned anything, but still managing to get a 2:1 will not help you become the experienced, intellectual alumni Cardiff claims to input in the world. Knowledge cannot be bought, and it cannot even come with good grades, or good league scores. Knowledge comes from your curiosity and willingness to understand how things work, mostly for the sake of it.

Remembering Schopenhauer’s study on the “Veil of Maya” will probably not come to hand while sending emails, nevertheless, it will expand your understanding of human thought, whether you approve the philosopher’s conception of life or not.

Despite this very philosophical approach to knowledge, we live in a society where appearance is almost always more important than content. Therefore, league tables have become central to prospective students’ selection process of universities.

Going to a higher rated university will almost certainly provide more life opportunities and better chances of getting a good job after graduating. Success becomes the most important thing in life. Success in having a good job, success in having a beautiful family, success in living a “dream” that is more defined by adverts than our minds. This so-called dream gives the right to people to feel better than others because they studied in a “better” institution or they have a “better” job.

But success is not for everybody. Success is for the elite, for the best appearing ones. League tables are just an instrument used to live the “dream”. They fuel a society that is just rotten in itself. A society where living up the generational standards is the only thing that matters. Being a good journalist does not mean anything, if you are not writing for the Guardian.

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