(Original post by 0404343m)
More recruiters than you think. Currently, all the available figures on graduate employment show that it doesn't follow the league tables in the slightest. Graduates of a university in 1999 ranked 15th are no less employable in 2009 if it was 35th, the only correlation seems to be towards recruiters who target certain institutions for certain degrees (Strathclyde or Southampton Engineering, for instance), London universities do well in London (and with varying degrees of success elsewhere), Oxbridge does well just about everywhere, Scottish ancients dominate Scotland, older universities attached to cities (Liverpool, Birmingham) also remain solid, etc. There is nothing to say that Exeter jumping from 40th around six years ago to 9th now will have any noticeable effect on the graduate recruiters who responded, or from the figures showing where those in grad employment attended league tables, or TSR's daft tiering system of 'prestige', is useful beyond anything other than influencing 17 year olds in where to apply. Even then, its not all that effective (St Andrews applications jumped on the back of William, the league table surge followed, and Birmingham has remained relatively constant whether 16th or 26th), so it can be overstated the effect all of this is having.
My advice is to go and look at the university, compare environments and courses, and see what you think yourself. By all means ask employers- but expect the biases as mentioned above. No one will be utterly impartial, but similarly, the league tables are highly flawed. A university with a private/well off student background like Bristol, using indicators which show like these students drop out less, get better degrees, have better school grades etc, is worth a significant premium in a table, as these are the things that are scored on. The course might not be any different, the employability may be virtually identical, but by one being more fashionable (and fashions change) than the other, it makes it harder to get into, the better students then aspire to go there, the league table rank improves, and the vicious circle continues. Madness.
While all of this may well be true, the fact of the matter is that students follow trends, and definitely look at and utilise university league tables. If a university such as Durham/Edinburgh etc falls from the top 10 down into the 30s or 40s in the league tables, it will surely become less attractive to brighter students who do place an emphasis on university prestige. If when I had been choosing my university I saw that Durham was 35th, I'd have wondered to myself "hmm, maybe this university is on the decline, perhaps I should look elsewhere". I'm not saying all students have this attitude, but many do - and if this is the case, universities who slip down the rankings will attract fewer quality candidates than the universities which are placed consistently higher.
Half of the top 10 aren't even RG...