University rankings: Practical/Hands-On pathway


We have reached the final stage in our rankings journey. Our previous articles in this series have discussed university rankings and how they are relevant to Computer Science and Information Technology degrees. We have also discussed the different types of degrees, programs, and student profiles. Our last article detailed the Scientific/Research pathway, the path for those looking to delve deeper into their discipline and specialize in one aspect of their field. Our final article will discuss the Practical/Hands-On pathway, an avenue taken by those who wish to master their craft through hands on, practical work.

What is a Practical/Hands-On pathway

A practical/hands-on approach to learning provides ‘hands-on’ instructional activities and allows students to learn by doing. The definition of ‘hands-on’ or ‘practical training’ means that your training or studies will take place in a simulated work environment that allows each student to gain experience performing tasks, making decisions, and using equipment that would otherwise be used in the profession in which you are training. So, if you’re interested in doing more than just research, listening to lectures, or writing essays, you are in the right place. A Practical/Hands-on pathway will automatically guarantee you practical training. For example, you could go on placements, take a year in the industry, or work practically in the classroom.

Cybernews Academy Note: Your course will primarily be practical, but most courses interweave practical elements of computer science with the fundamentals of the discipline. You will be expected to research and work theoretically at some course stages.

Know your path: Practical/Hands-On pathway

If you want a hands-on approach to learning and enjoy a mix of practical and theoretical work, then a practical pathway may be right for you.

Here, you will find some leading indicators that will help you understand what your prospective course may offer.

  • Subject-Specific Rankings
  • Regional Rankings
  • Student Satisfaction Rankings
  • International Rankings
  • Employability Rankings

When searching for a practical course, looking at practical indicators for a degree is best. What are practical indicators, you may ask– well, practical indicators tend to explore how the university functions, as opposed to what research they are carrying out and how they carry out this research. Think of it more as delving into what your university experience will be like.

Here are some of the main providers that look at university rankings practically.

  • The Guardian University Rankings
  • QS Subject Rankings
  • The Complete University Rankings

Cybernews Academy Note: What to look out for - explore what kind of practical approach learning opportunities your chosen university offers - for example, project-based assignments, internships, and experiential learning opportunities. Make sure you are looking at the right university rankings for you. A hands-on approach will require you to look at student satisfaction, student-to-staff ratio, career prospects, and more. This criterion will help you get more out of your university experience.

The Guardian University Guide Rankings

If you’re looking for a more practical approach to learning, check out The Guardian University Rankings. This ranking system focuses on functional elements of university life. This guide focuses on universities across the UK.

Here are some of the criteria The Guardian looks at when ranking universities:

Student satisfaction8%
Student-to-Staff Ratio15%
Spend per Student5%
Entry Standards15%
Value Added15%
Career Prospects15%
Continuation15%

Cybernews Academy Note: Unlike Shanghai Rankings and U.S. News and World Report Rankings, The Guardian looks at practical learning elements that will benefit you at university. Some examples of practical indicators are student-to-staff ratio, career prospects, spending per student, and student satisfaction. The only indicator that could fall under research is the continuation indicator, which shows how many undergraduate students enroll in postgraduate degree programs. This is considered research because this is a highly academic ranking, as postgraduate studies are often research-based.

Terminology explained

Let’s break these categories down even further:

  • Student Satisfaction- Student satisfaction is an umbrella term for discussing facets of university life. Teaching satisfaction, course satisfaction, and feedback satisfaction.
  • Support Services- This category looks specifically at what services are available to students. This may be disability services, tutor and mentor support, financial aid, counseling, and career services.
  • Spend per Student- This is the amount of money that the university can spend per student that attends that university. If the amount is higher than other uni’s, this will ensure a productive and enriching university experience. However, never simply base your decision on the financial aspects alone.
  • Completion Rates- Otherwise known as graduation rates, completion rates measure the percentage of first-year students (full-time) who acquire a bachelor’s degree within four or six years. This critical benchmark assesses how many graduates graduate within the expected timeframe.
  • Continuation measures how many students continue studying after completing their undergraduate studies.

Cybernews Academy Note: The Guardian University Rankings exclusively ranks UK universities. If you are looking for universities outside the UK, The Guardian Rankings won’t apply. If you plan on going down the practical route, The Guardian University Rankings judge universities on a practical basis. If you want a personal touch, try focusing on the student-to-staff ratio. If you are looking for a university with the best resources and student environment available, you will need to look at spending per student.

The Complete University Rankings

The Complete University Rankings focus on measuring the practical aspects of universities across the UK. This table assesses a range of criteria that combine theoretical and practical learning approaches.

Here are some of the criteria that The Complete University rank by:

Entry standards1.0
Student Satisfaction1.5
Research Quality1.0
Graduate Prospects- on track0.67
Student-Staff-Ratio1.0
Academic Services Spend0.5
Continuation1.0

Terminology explained

Let’s break this criterion down even further:

  • Academic Service Spending- This indicator accounts for the amount of money a university spends per student on educational facilities, research centers, and libraries. The higher the spending means that academic facilities may be better, ultimately benefiting the student. That’s you.
  • Facilities Spending- Facility spending is the amount the university can spend on facilities per student. Facilities spending encompasses a broader range of characteristics that make up student life. Spending measures the available non–academic facilities, including sports facilities, libraries, student health facilities, extra-curricular activities, and much more.
  • Continuation- Continuation measures how many students continue studying after completing their undergraduate studies
  • Student-to-Staff Ratio- Staff-to-student ratio analyzes how many lecturers, course leaders, and mentors there are to accommodate students. Suppose the staff-to-student ratio is equal or there are higher amounts of staff-to-students. In that case, this will ensure that your studies are adequately supported throughout your time at university.
  • Graduate Prospects: This pertains to the likelihood of students obtaining employment after graduating with their first degree. This is based on statistics from previous students and how they placed regarding employment in their course.

QS Subject Rankings

QS World University Rankings by Subject are compiled annually to help prospective students identify the leading universities in a particular subject, so if you are looking for a specific course and want to find which university is best for your particular subject.

This ranking system is very unique as it applies to both pathways. However, we have placed it in the practical pathway due to its similar weighting of academic reputation (research) and employer reputation (practical.) This means that these programs have been measured on a balanced basis. Therefore, checking this ranking will clearly indicate how your subject compares to others.

Here we have the breakdown for QS subject rankings by faculty area:

Academic Reputation40%
Employer Reputation30%
Citations per Paper 10%
H-Index10%
IRN10%

Terminology explained

Let’s break down some of the indicators we haven’t seen before

  • Employer Reputation takes into account the importance of employability. QS notes that most undergraduate students leave university for employment after their first degree.’ So, employer and university reputation is crucial to smoothing the transition from academic to professional life. If your university has a good reputation with employers, you may be more likely to get employed.
  • H-Index measures productivity and the impact of published works by a scientist or scholar. This is based on scientists' most cited papers and the number of citations that they have received from other publications.

Cybernews Academy Note: if you want to look specifically at a discipline you are considering studying at university, QS subject rankings might be the right system. This measures universities worldwide and highlights which universities are ranked highest based on the subject. QS rankings look at research elements of the university. You can see that the indicator weighting is different between disciplines. For example, half of the weighting for Social Sciences and management courses is focused on Academic Reputation. This will show how well academic assessors and other governing bodies regard the university. QS subject rankings also look at research and practical elements of the university. The research elements will look at teaching and research, whereas practical aspects will encompass employability, academic development, and internationalization.

The practical/hands-on pathway is an avenue taken by those who are experiential learners, ones who work better by doing rather than listening to lecturers and reading research papers. This degree pathway, provides a gateway into practical work and often revolves around placements and internships to help you gain the practical experience you need to break into the industry post-graduation. We at Cybernews Academy have detailed the different university rankings providers that are applicable to this practical/hands-on pathway. Through this guide you should be able to assess universities based on what indicators are most relevant. Ensure you look at the practical aspects of a university, what it offers, and how this could benefit your overall learning experience