After the recent announcement of Keble’s collections reform, I am convinced that the Norrington Table should be scrapped.
This ridiculous rankings chart, which will inevitably fluctuate every year on the basis of just a handful of results, does not do students justice. A quick glance at the Table since 2000 demonstrates how inconsistent college rankings are.
I write not as a Keble student, but as a Mansfielder. Mansfield college illustrates these fluctuation very well. Until last year, it was known to some as the college that was 29th out of 30 in the Norrington Table. This year, however, the college came 12th. I was very pleased with this achievement; but the reality, especially in a small college like Mansfield, is probably that two or three extra students got firsts than in the previous year.
Given this variation in the table, I was surprised to learn that in a recent meeting, tutors raised the question of how students could be made to work hard enough to ensure their college was near the top of the Norrington Table.
This is an astonishing attitude on a number of levels. For one, students don’t need to be ‘made to work hard’ for their finals – we know full well that these degrees are our future and that, without 2.1s in them, entering employment will be considerably more difficult. One only needs to walk through any library in Oxford in the middle of Trinity to witness how hard finalists work. Furthermore, the difference between a 2.1 (three points in the Norrington) and a First (five points) amounts to more than just working harder – in arts subjects at least. Some students will work incredibly hard and miss out on the First, whilst others will do the same amount of work (or even less) but get the right exam questions.
Ultimately, the question raised in this meeting encapsulates everything that is wrong with the Table. No tutor should be asking what is necessary to boost their college’s place in a set of rankings. Rather, tutors should be asking how they can most effectively help students fulfil their potential, guide them through what is actually an immensely stressful process and best prepare them for their future.
We didn’t go through the lengthy application process, work on countless essays or problem sheets and accumulate thousands of pounds of debt in the process, to be statistics for a table. We deserve to be seen as thinking people who need to gain the best education possible in order to be helpful, responsible and intelligent citizens. If the Norrington Table is abolished, perhaps this will once again be the focus of tutors.