Meanwhile, back at the Batschool ….


Hello, class. For this afternoon’s lesson we will be looking at statistics, and the analysis of data. Last time we looked at averages. Now we will look at ranges, as measured by the Standard Deviation. Now, who can remember from this morning what a standard deviation is? No, Brown, not deviants. Stop giggling, Peterson. Yes Patel, that’s right, it is a measure of how spread out your data is. If we draw a graph of how often a value occurs and what that value is, we get a curve like this. The Standard Deviation is how wide this curve is. Does anyone remember what this curve is called? No, it is not a boob, Jones. Stop giggling Peterson. Yes, Shah, that’s right, it is the Normal Distribution. The standard deviation is a way to measure how spread out the Normal Distribution is.


Today we are going to use the Standard Deviation to look at some data collected by the Times Higher Education Supplement, on how students ranked the University they went to, which was published on 15th May 2014. This scores Universities not by what sort of research they do, but by whether students who went there thought that the Universities were good places to study.


Yes, Kweon, that is a good question, what do you mean by ‘good’? Well, the THES scored Universities on a lot of things that they thought students might think are important, such as educational aspects like teacher involvement, workload, well-structured courses, and on social aspects like sports facilities, bars and so on. So this is important to you, because most of you will be going to University, providing you can remember to change the name on the ‘personal statement’ that you can download from the web sites we showed you last week to your name. Let’s not have a repeat of Harrison’s mistake from last year. Yes, Barker? Well, we do not say ‘cannot read’ any more, Barker, we say ‘differently literate’, but in any case that is no barrier to going to University in the 21st Century, as many have remedial literacy and numeracy classes. You should pay attention too.


Now, if you were asked about the sports facilities in this school, what might you say? Yes, Beckham, I know you think they are crap, but what about you, Takahashi? Yes, you do not really care, because you spend all your afternoons in the science lab and no doubt will one day own Manchester as a result. So how would you describe them? Quite – you will say ‘OK’ because you do not have a reason to say ‘terrible’: they fulfill all your needs and expectations of sports facilities. OK, yes Taylor he could say “Who gives a fucking crap?” but firstly Mr. Takahashi  does not litter his speech with obscenities and secondly the survey respondents were asked to give a number from 1 to 6, so “Who gives a fucking crap” was not an option.


In general, then, it seems likely that if you do not really care you will give some sort of “’Meh ‘ – not really bothered, OK by me” score like 5. So if all the scores are the same we can suppose that either all Universities are equally terrific in that regard, or that students do not really care and gave them an ‘OK by me’ score. So I measured how spread out the scores for all the various things in THES satisfaction survey by calculating the standard deviation of the scores (stop giggling Peterson), and called this my ‘Care’ score. The smaller it is, the less the students might care about that aspect of University life. This is very easy to do in Excel. Atkinson, do you know what Excel is? No, Atkinson, I am not calling you fat, Excel is a computer programme, it does not mean that I think you are wearing an XL tee-shirt. Yes, Shang? No I did not know you had written a free version of Excel in your spare time. Very good. Unfortunately that is not on the syllabus, so no-one here cares.


Anyway, here are the results .




Average score



Good sports facilities



Good students’ union



Good extracurricular activities/societies



Good accommodation



Good social life



Cheap shop/bar/amenities



Good community atmosphere



I would recommend my university to a friend



Good environment on campus/around university



Centralized/convenient facilities



Good industry connections



Tuition in small groups



High-quality facilities



Good library and library opening hours



Good support/welfare



Well-structured courses



High-quality staff/lectures



Good security



Personal requirements catered for



Helpful/interested staff



Fair workload



Good personal relationships with teaching staff



[These are the real numbers. I am not making this up. Tragically.]



Now, class, what can we learn from this? Yes, Jones? No, Jones, you may not go to the toilet again, even if you do need another joint really badly. Yes, Singh? Good answer, Singh, yes it suggests that students at British Universities do not give a toss about teaching standards, class sizes, workload and so on, what they care about is social life, sports facilities and cheap booze. Yes, Smith? No, this does not mean everyone who goes to University is a wanker, Smith, although if you are speaking about your personal interests then I respect your life choices, of course. Stop giggling Peterson.


Of course, the students mostly have not gone to University before, so maybe they do not know what to expect of University lectures, teachers and so on. But the same is true of sports facilities, on-campus bars and on-campus accommodation. The score contrasts their expectation with the reality, their experiences after the fact with what they wanted, and their expectations of teaching were uniformly “Meh”. Yes, Chen? Correct – well done! This is only an average. There may be a small number of students, those from India or China for example, who go to University for a really good education and care passionately about the quality they receive. But they are swamped by those who do not care about the lectures, workload, teachers etc. because they are spending all their time in the gym or the bar, and they are learning what in educational theory is known as “Sweet F.A.”. (Stop giggling, Peterson.) They are there for ‘The Experience’, ‘A Rite of Passage’, i.e. a 3-year, debt-fueled, government subsidized holiday. And if you work hard at filling in your UCAS forms with appropriate lies, you will be able to do this too!


That is the end of today’s class. For your homework this evening, I want you to interview four taxpayers and ask them if they would like to give you £10,000 each to spend over 3 years doing an average no more than 20 hours of gentle lectures, reading and writing a week[1] and spending the rest of the time in the bar.  Homework, Miller. Work you do at home. We have been over this a hundred times already. Oh, really, Chopra? Well, as your grandparents have already paid that to send your brother to University in England, I guess you know the answer.




[1] The actual amount of time a student spends working on all  University-related work, on courses in the sciences  in some decent UK Universities – see