Do university collaborations make a difference?

The UK is home to a number of the top global universities. Each of these universities offers a distinctive experience. With competition for places, it is common for groups of UK universities to collaborate to raise their profile. Students often ask do these university collaborations make a difference? This article looks at the issues.

Individual universities such as St Andrews, Bath and Lancaster attract global recognition for research and quality. All three offer promote their substantial facilities, positive student satisfaction and research excellence. Each campus is located in a distinctive part of the UK, so a student has lots to compare if they are looking for a postgraduate provider.

Special interest groups

Other groups of UK universities combine to share a set of common goals. One such partnership is the Russell Group. This comprises 24 universities that are separated by location, and they attract a lot of media interest. This helps to draw attention, and in turn makes them very attractive to international students.

The group explains that ‘our research-intensive, world-class universities play an important part in the intellectual life of the UK and have huge social, economic and cultural impacts locally, across the UK and around the globe’.

How do you rank universities?

Measuring the quality and reputation of a university is not simple. This is because a lot of factors contribute to the experience of studying, teaching, or researching at a university. Each year a set of published ranking scales compares all the major global universities.

This gives an overall assessment of quality according to a set criteria. These include: -

  • QS World University Rankings
  • ARWU/ Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities
  • Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings.
  • Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Our article explains how these rankings work. The ‘reputation’ of a university can be affected by a number of factors, so it’s not reasonable to compare any one university against another.

The question remains however, whether the collective aims of a ‘special interest group’ is achievable. Is this the experience shared among all students equally? If so, can say with certainty if university collaborations make a difference?

How can I get a masters from a highly ranked university?

Competition for places is always strong. However individual universities set their own admissions criteria. This means every applicant is appraised on their individual performance and not on other factors such as nationality or previous higher education experience.

Entry requirements:

Each course has a specific set of entry requirements. Usually, the admissions team expect a student has completed their undergraduate degree in the same subject. They also expect they have achieved a pass with a good score, such as a minimum 2:1. If you have international qualifications these will be checked to ensure they are at an equivalent UK standard.

The UK has a national agency that compares international qualifications. You can check your status in advance by contacting UK ENIC. This is especially important at masters level. If you have been working for a while and achieved your qualifications a while ago then its is a good idea to find out what you require to be considered for admission.

English language and visa requirements:

You will require a visa to study in the UK and you must be able to demonstrate a good grasp of the English language. The better your English skills in reading, writing and speaking the more you will enjoy your study experience. Some universities offer pre-masters study sessions to prepare you for your degree. These additional programmes are delivered over a period of weeks in the summer before the semester commences.

Financial support:

There are two main costs of postgraduate study. These are tuition fees and living expenses. Fees can be very expensive for international students so you should think carefully about where you will find the funds to secure your place.

Living costs vary greatly from one UK city to another. For example, London is a very expensive city to live and study in. However, cities outside the capital such as Belfast can be much more affordable.

Do university collaborations make a difference to research investment?

A major advantage of their ranking and reputation is that it helps universities attract significant research investment. This support is shared equitably among students by means of additional bursaries and scholarships.

These are offered by research councils and charities such as Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust. Universities are the main beneficiaries of research collaboration with these organisations.

In addition, universities attract individual legacy donations from wealthy individuals. These donations exist to support research and teaching in specific subjects, or in recognition of students from specific backgrounds and nationalities.

The important detail is that research projects are awarded to a research facility or department. If that organisation is part of a special interest group does that have any bearing on the quality of the research or the experience of the student.

The societal impact of universities

Another key fact is the UK includes many of the best publicly funded universities in the world. Our universities operate within a framework that allows managerial autonomy within a state supported model.

Each university has individual strengths and characteristics, and these are separate from any particular administrative grouping or location. Four of the top 6 oldest UK universities are in Scotland.

Individual universities perform a unique function within local communities as drivers of social mobility. As students achieve academic success, universities attract significant investment through taxation as well as research. In turn, universities provide direct and indirect employment opportunities for hundreds of companies employing thousands of individuals.

Final thoughts

Students decide on a number of reasons to study at a particular university. Students aspire to study at top Universities, including the Russell Group Universities. At the end of the day there are over 100 alternative UK universities you can apply to. There is little doubt that top universities have an excellent reputation, so in answer to the question do university collaborations make a difference, they can, but only in some situations. They are not the only indicator that matters.

All UK public universities are accessible. Provided you achieve the required admissions standard there is no barrier to entry. If you are looking for a traditional or more modern masters experience, then there are plenty of UK universities that can meet your needs.

Search for the right course on Masters Compare or if you require funding look through the opportunities available on Postgraduate Studentships. Subscribe to our regular newsletter for the latest news and funding offers.