Butler tops new college academic rankings system

By Max Kendix & Elizabeth McBride

Josephine Butler College has come out top of Palatinate‘s new academic college system: the Evans Table.

The system awards nine points for a first, four for a 2:1, one for a 2:2, and none for a Third or below. This number is then divided by the maximum possible score for each to award a college’s annual ‘Evans score’, named after the late former Sunday Times and Palatinate Editor Sir Harold Evans.

The system is based loosely on Oxford’s Norrington Table and Cambridge’s Tompkins Table of college rankings. The differences between colleges at Durham is significantly smaller than at Oxbridge.

 This may be for a few reasons: Durham has around half the number of colleges, and correspondingly an average of 270 students graduating per college in 2021, compared to around 100 at Oxford.

Significantly, as teaching at Durham University takes place centrally, not in college, admissions are decided centrally, and only then are offer holders allocated a college, taking into account their application preferences. At Oxbridge, colleges manage the admissions process first.

Palatinate revealed last month that University College has consistently topped applicants’ preferred college, though the majority of students put in an open application, without specifying a college. Last year, Durham switched from a single preference system for college choice, allowing applicants to rank their preferences instead.

Colleges’ Evans Scores over the last five academic years

The below come from data obtained by Palatinate in a Freedom of Information request to Durham University. Following Higher Education Statistics Agency guidelines, the data points (for a college’s annual results for any particular degree classification) sent were rounded to the nearest five. The true numbers, therefore, will likely differ slightly from these results.

Any data points with fewer than two students were rounded to zero, and excluded from these calculations. John Snow and Stephenson College have been excluded entirely this year: both were previously located at Queen’s Campus in Stockton, where Durham students could study degrees in the School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health.

The department completed its transition to Newcastle University in August 2018, and due to the differences in degrees offered before 2018, and the phased move to Durham City by both colleges, they proved to be statistical anomalies.

Results improved dramatically in 2020 and 2021 as the University introduced online exams and policies to mitigate against the effects of Covid-19. But grades have been consistently increasing over time, even without the pandemic’s repercussions.

Palatinate revealed last year that the proportion of first-class Durham degrees awarded to graduates has doubled over the last 10 years. In 2020, 95% of Durham graduates received a 2:1 or a First.

Image: International Office, Durham University via Flickr

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