What can we learn from the Norrington Table?

Age surpasses wealth and the PPEists struggle, in Cherwell's analysis of this year's Norrington Table

Head of the river and top of the Norrington – Oriel really have it all this year.

But there is something else remarkable about Oriel’s accession, besides that it gives the proprietors of Oxford’s most famous statue yet more reason to gloat: it marks the first time in fifteen years – since Balliol took the crown in 2001 – that the college at the top of the Norrington Table is not one of Oxford’s five richest undergraduate colleges.

After all, what is it that the Norrington Table really measures? Cherwell runs you through the trends and factoids in this year’s academic rankings.

Where the fun goes to die

Poor Merton – if only one more finalist had earned a 1st instead of a 2.1, they would be back on top, having dropped down nearly to the bottom of last year’s rankings. Still, that would have placed them nowhere near their record score of 77.7% back in 2007/8. Rounding out the top five are Magdalen, University, and Trinity.

Better luck next time

Pembroke dons must be breathing a sigh of relief. After last year’s humiliation of losing by 3.1 percentage points – the same amount separating 12th-place Oriel and 29th-place St Edmund Hall – they are replaced by Queen’s at the foot of the Norrington. Mansfield and a few of the ‘St’s – Anne’s, Hilda’s, and Peter’s – will be providing company at the bottom of the Table.

I knew I should’ve read maths…

No, the maths students assure you, horror in their eyes, you do not wish you were reading maths. But is there truth to the claim that it’s easier to get a first in the sciences than humanities? The statistics from 2015’s Gazette would certainly seem to suggest so: 38% of mathematical, physical and life scientists graduating last year managed a first, whilst only 30% of humanities students, 29% of medical scientists, and 26% of social scientists managed the same. Moral of the story? Yet another reason not to read PPE, whose 22% first rate was easily the lowest of any of Oxford’s popular courses.

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The tyranny of wealth? Of popularity?

Actually, not so much. Of Oxford’s ten richest undergraduate colleges, only three (Merton, Magdalen, and Univ) break the top ten Norrington performers – whilst two (Christ Church and and Queen’s) can be found in the bottom third of the Table. On the other hand, six of Oxford’s poorest undergraduate colleges can be found in the bottom ten, so the data cuts both ways.

Equally murky is the debate over whether oversubscribed colleges tend to outperform: six of Oxford’s ten colleges with the lowest percentage of direct applicants accepted made the Norrington top ten – which almost has you wondering about the four that didn’t: are their tutors sure they’re accepting the right applicants?

With age, wisdom

The old adage: Wisdom before beauty. Except Oxford’s oldest colleges also tend to be its most beautiful. They are also its best academic performers. Wealth might not be a determining factor, but how about date of foundation? Six of Oxford’s oldest colleges – all founded before 1500 – made the top third of the Norrington. Meanwhile, eight of Oxford’s nine latest additions (St Catherine’s aside) – none older than a spry 140 years –  placed in the bottom half of the Table.