The Student Room Group

Should I consider prestige/ranking when choosing a course?

I’m a year 12 student working at AAB and targeted A*A*A. I want to do English (and possibly creative writing) at uni.

I think I’m expected to aim for Russell Group unis, and some of them seem like I’d like them. I’m afraid of people thinking I’m a failure/making a mistake for not taking the opportunity to go to a Russell Group uni if I’m able to.

I think I like the idea of smaller unis such as Aberystwyth, but I’ll probably pick a uni course based on the modules over this. I might also consider unis with links to the publishing industry, as I have an interest in going into the publishing industry.

Should I consider prestige/ranking? Feel free to ask follow-up questions to better answer me.
Original post by bowlingforsoph
Should I consider prestige/ranking? Feel free to ask follow-up questions to better answer me.


Only hot-housed TSR children put 'prestige' front and centre of their considerations when deciding which university is best for them to go to. For sensible students, 'Prestige' should be left where it belongs - on the bottom of a pressure cooker - and you should make your choice based on course and your priorities.

UEA has the most celebrated creative writing course in the UK in their postgrad MA course, and has done for years. The BA (code W8Q3) isn't to be sniffed at either. UEA isn't Rus(s)e(l)l group, never has been and has no intention of being. This should be illustrative of my point.
Depends what you want to do afterwards, basically.

If you want to be an investment banker then yes, you need to go to a target uni and those are the ones conventionally considered most "prestigious". If you don't do that, you most likely will struggle to get interviews in that field.

If you want to work in any generalist grad scheme outside of investment banking and management consulting, then it doesn't really matter if you go to a Russell Group uni or otherwise "prestigious" uni by and large, compared to what relevant work experience you get in the course.

If you want to become a writer then, a degree isn't even necessary so really whatever floats your boat.

If you want to go into academia, it's complicated and there are a lot of indirect factors, but the answer is "maybe". This is less to do with prestige and more to do with the fact unis conventionally considered "prestigious" also tend to be research focused and therefore may be more likely to be able to give you opportunities to explore research early and often in your undergraduate career. Also they are more likely to be able to offer niche subjects which are quite important for research in some areas that aren't widely available (e.g. Old English and other philological options if you want to go into medieval studies). Of course in certain areas there are very strong research groups in non-RG unis (not that familiar with English, but for example I gather Essex is quite strong in politics research, and SOAS is often among the best if not the best in Asian/Middle Eastern/African focused areas), so it is very dependent on your interests.
Original post by Reality Check
Only hot-housed TSR children put 'prestige' front and centre of their considerations when deciding which university is best for them to go to. For sensible students, 'Prestige' should be left where it belongs - on the bottom of a pressure cooker - and you should make your choice based on course and your priorities.

UEA has the most celebrated creative writing course in the UK in their postgrad MA course, and has done for years. The BA (code W8Q3) isn't to be sniffed at either. UEA isn't Rus(s)e(l)l group, never has been and has no intention of being. This should be illustrative of my point.


PRSOM :u:
I might be marking myself out as a hothoused child but my experience since graduating has been that it's surprising how much that uni "brand" does matter. It's ridiculous but many people will make a judgment about how smart you are based on where you went.

If you want to keep your options open - eg you think you might want a job in law or a big corporate - then I would say keep your options open and go for a more prestigious institution.

That said, UEA is the best for creative writing and newer unis do have the edge when it comes to courses that prepare you for a specific job. Depends what you want.

Good luck!
(edited 1 year ago)
Original post by 7sisters
I might be marking myself out as a hothoused child but my experience since graduating has been that it's surprising how much that uni "brand" does matter. It's ridiculous but many people will make a judgment about how smart you are based on where you went.

If you want to keep your options open - eg you think you might want a job in law or a big corporate - then I would say keep your options open and go for a more prestigious institution.

That said, UEA is the best for creative writing and newer unis do have the edge when it comes to courses that prepare you for a specific job. Depends what you want.

Good luck!

In your experience, what unis have sufficient "brand" for students to be considered smart? Does this only apply to law / big corporations?
Obviously nearly every university in the top half or so of uk rankings has its own unique selling point and will be worth going to if u like the course, but cambridge (and I guess oxford too) are prestigious for a reason. If you've gone there and done well it's a good indicator you work very hard. But so much of whether you get in or not, or even whether you apply at all, is just down to family/school encouragement or lack thereof and knowledge of the admissions process
Original post by penguingirl18
In your experience, what unis have sufficient "brand" for students to be considered smart? Does this only apply to law / big corporations?

This is just my opinion but basically I was the first person in my family to go to uni and so I went for the one I thought would be most fun (Manchester).

Like @bowlingforsoph I had the grades to apply for Oxbridge but for various reasons I didn't think that would be a good option for me. Later, I kinda regretted it because I ended up working somewhere nearly everyone was Oxbridge!

In my view this type of snobbery is particularly prevalent in the law and the Civil Service. Although they are trying to work on diversity, the senior people in those sectors are still very old school and will judge you on your degree and what you got in your A levels basically for ever, regardless of how much experience you get.

Senior people in the media are almost exclusively Oxbridge or Russell Group (exception being technical bits like production). Same for publishing. Milkround recruiters are going to focus more on those older / Russell Group unis as well.

From having worked in a range of sectors I don't think it matters in tech, hospitality, construction, graphic design, really any "trade" where the better courses are likely to be at newer institutions.

I really hope this is changing because it's terrible for diversity but if I was making that decision now, or advising my child, I would go for the most prestigious institution I could get into because it could very well open doors.
Original post by 7sisters
I might be marking myself out as a hothoused child but my experience since graduating has been that it's surprising how much that uni "brand" does matter. It's ridiculous but many people will make a judgment about how smart you are based on where you went.

If you want to keep your options open - eg you think you might want a job in law or a big corporate - then I would say keep your options open and go for a more prestigious institution.

That said, UEA is the best for creative writing and newer unis do have the edge when it comes to courses that prepare you for a specific job. Depends what you want.

Good luck!

I think it used to matter a lot and it still matters a bit. The trouble though, if you take a historical view, is that responding to the boom in numbers going to university since the mid-1990s by targeting only graduates from fewer "prestige" universities hasn't yielded any discernible competitive advantage. There's also a growing awareness that narrowing the recruitment focus in this way is discriminatory in terms of race, age and class (working class, mature and ethnic minority students are all statistically more likely to go to the university closest to where they live than the general student population).

So, yes, at the moment where you went to university still matters. It used to matter at my firm (an investment bank) until quite recently. Old attitudes will probably persist here and there but we don't target particular universities any more because it doesn't yield results.
Original post by AW_1983
I think it used to matter a lot and it still matters a bit. The trouble though, if you take a historical view, is that responding to the boom in numbers going to university since the mid-1990s by targeting only graduates from fewer "prestige" universities hasn't yielded any discernible competitive advantage. There's also a growing awareness that narrowing the recruitment focus in this way is discriminatory in terms of race, age and class (working class, mature and ethnic minority students are all statistically more likely to go to the university closest to where they live than the general student population).

So, yes, at the moment where you went to university still matters. It used to matter at my firm (an investment bank) until quite recently. Old attitudes will probably persist here and there but we don't target particular universities any more because it doesn't yield results.

That's really encouraging - maybe I'm just getting old!

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