Best UK University Web Sites – According to Sixth Formers

This week’s issue of the Times Higher Education contains a six page article on “Deciphering the code” which asks “do universities’ websites tell prospective students what they need to know” and invites a panel of sixth-formers to identify the top University Web sites – and those which can be improved.

What were the best performing institutional Web sites? The top ten sites are listed in the following table – and although I an aware that the methodology is open to criticism, the table does provide an opportunity to begin a debate on what potential students may wish to find on University Web sites.

Note initially the top ten sites were listed. However as the table is an alphabetic list of the institutions with 20 points or more such an incomplete listing is misleading. The list has been updated to include all institutions scoring more than 20 points. Apologies for the confusion. [Brian Kelly, 26 August 2010].

Best-performing institutions (scoring 20 points or more) Accessibility Contact information Peer review Unique selling point Insight
University of Abertay Dundee 5 5 4 4 3
Aston University 5 5 3 2 5
Bangor University 5 5 5 1 4
University of Buckingham 4 4 4 4 4
University of Cambridge 4 4 5 3 5
Edinburgh College of Art 5 4 5 5 5
University of Exeter 3 5 5 3 5
University College Falmouth 4 4 5 5 4
University of Glasgow 4 5 4 3 5
University of Greenwich 5 5 3 4 5
Harper Adams University College 5 5 3 5 4
Imperial College London 5 5 5 4 5
King’s College London 4 4 4 4 4
Kingston University 4 5 3 3 5
University of Kent 5 3 3 5 4
Leeds Metropolitan University 5 5 1 4 5
London School of Economics 4 4 3 5 4
Northumbria University 4 4 3 4 5
University of Nottingham 5 5 3 5 5
University of Oxford 5 5 5 5 5
Royal Agricultural College 4 4 3 5 4
University of Southampton 4 5 3 5 5
Swansea University 5 4 3 4 4
Teesside University 5 5 5 4 5
University of Wales, Lampeter 5 4 5 3 3
University of Wales, Newport 5 5 3 3 5

What did the representatives of the three schools particularly like? I was interested to read the comment that I struggled to find student comments, and if I did they were always good and never bad ones” – so authentic student voices, including criticisms seems to be welcomed.

I also noticed that Imperial College are “encourag[ing] both students and staff to tag their photos of campus life and engage with prospective students through Flickr and YouTube. The Imperial site also features student blogs and “a week in the life” student profiles.

But do, I wonder, the approaches which have being adopted by those top ranking universities reflect the discussions and consensus of best practices which we hear about at IWMW events?

The article also mentions that “student discussion is unlikely to take place on the university website itself. Instead, students will meet and talk at the places where they naturally congregate online, on social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo and discussion boards such as The Student Room” and illustrates this point by describing how a student describes the Bangor University Web site as “modern” and “welcomes the clever links to the institution on social networking site Facebook“.

If the image shown below, taken from one of the top-ranked institutions, summarises where the students actually prefer to have the discussions over which institution to select what might this say about the future directions of the marketing aspects of an institution’s Web site?

Link to YouTube, iTunesU, Facebook and Twitter from a University home page

And is institutional involvement with iTunesU, YouTube, Faceboook, Twitter and Flickr now an accepted part of the portfolio of services which institutional Web team (or comms and marketing teams) will be expected to provide, support and promote? Has the “creepy tree-house” phrase which was used some time ago to criticise institutional use of Social Web services died as these services become mainstream?

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]


  1. Erm… Sorry Brian, but your post compounds any issues arising from the original methodology – the list of institutions in the THES (and hence the above) are in alphabetical,/i> order! If you do the sums from the original list you’ll see the ordering (based on total scores across categories) is as follows: 1st – University of Oxford (25); 2nd (jt) Edinburgh College of Art (24), Imperial College London (24), Teesside University (24); 5th University of Nottingham (23); 6th (jt) University College Falmouth (22), University of Greenwich (22), Harper Adams University College (22), University of Southampton (22); 10th (jt) University of Abertay Dundee (21); University of Cambridge (21); University of Exeter (21) and University of Glasgow (21).

    • Thanks for the comment. You’re correct – I trusted the table published in the THE. Mea culpa – I had assumed this was a trusted journal!

      However I’m not too concerned about the ranking myself – although I appreciate that the 7 pages devoted to this feature article is likely to mean that the importance of the institutional Web site will be made visible to senior managers. So one might argue that this itself is valuable for institutional Web managers.

      My main interest, however, was in flagging some of the points which were raised in the article.

  2. This is a great post, thanks— and by no means are your conclusions specific to the UK. Here in the US the concerns are quite similar. And though the science of ranking higher educational Web sites has its limits— I’d like to see the criteria that could be achieved by code automation separated from those criteria, like “unique selling point,” that require communicators and subtlety— your conclusions are spot on.

  3. It would be interesting to map the idea of ‘best’ university at different points of the ‘student/customer’ journey. It would also be interesting to see which universities make the mistaken conflation of employ-ability with likely employment and those which position themselves as educators of curious minds.

  4. how come greenwhich is higher then other good universities?

  5. University of Greenwich doing well in education. Their teaching quality is excellent .



  1. Best UK University Web Sites – According to Sixth Formers (via UK Web Focus) | Web Development at Aberystwyth University - [...] This week's issue of the Times Higher Education contains a six page article on "Deciphering the code" which asks "do …
  2. links for 2010-08-25 « Michael Nolan - [...] Best UK University Web Sites – According to Sixth Formers « UK Web Focus Wondering how long I can/should …
  3. Revisiting The THE Table of UK University Web Sites « UK Web Focus - [...] Best UK University Web Sites – According to Sixth Formers [...]
  4. Newsletter for August 2010 « UKOLN Update - [...] Best UK University Web Sites – According to Sixth Formers [...]
  5. Uni Ranking – die Besten Universitäten Europa´s - [...] und wer nun noch mehr rankings haben möchte, dem empfehlen wir den UKwebfocus Blog, der eine Übersicht der Besten …
  6. Mark Greenfield - Higher Education Web Consulting » The Axe Man Commeth Preview #higheredlive - [...] Best UK University Web Sites – According to Sixth Formers [...]
  7. Review of this Blog’s Usage in 2010 « UK Web Focus - [...] Posts HTML5: Are Museum Web Sites Ahead of HE?Link Checking For Old Web SitesBest UK University Web Sites – …
  8. Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)? « UK Web Focus - [...] Best UK University Web Sites – According to Sixth Formers [...]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>