The University of Manchester

I’m not sure why, but I have always been rather proud of having attended the University of Manchester (which has since joined with UMIST).  I guess it is because I have not attended any well-known school or worked for any company with a household name (with the exception of Marconi, which became famous during my brief tenure for the most spectacular corporate collapse in British history), yet everybody knows Manchester if not specifically its university.

Out here in the UAE, your alma mater is quite important.  In order to be granted a work permit for most positions, especially technical ones such as an engineer, it is necessary to have a degree in a relevant subject.  As part of the vetting process, you must get your degree certificate attested first by the British Council and then by the UAE authorities, who check it against a list of recognised institutions before stamping it with their approval.  As you can imagine, people show up here with all sorts of degrees and diplomas from the Kanchenjunga College of Higher Education in Darjeeling or The Billabong University of Western Australia and have awful trouble getting their qualifications recognised by the UAE authorities, who will not issue a work permit until they are satisfied they are not bringing in a fuckwit.  Unsurprisingly, the University of Manchester is recognised without hesitation, which makes things a lot easier when first arriving.

So it is with some degree of pride that I see the University of Manchester is ranked No. 58 in the Newsweek Top 100 Global Universities, and 8th amongst the British universities.  I am sure the university’s position has been boosted by the merger with UMIST, which I thought was a thoroughly sensible move in an attempt to position itself in the global higher education marketplace which the current Labour government and many other British universities seem determined to abandon.  Notably absent from the list are Durham University and St. Andrews, which I always thought ranked pretty highly.  I am pleased to see Manchester beat Nottingham (78th), which leaves Bristol (49th) as the target to surpass in the future.

Whatever the significance of the list and Manchester’s position, it is as good a reason as any to wear my university tie to work each week.

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11 Responses to The University of Manchester

  1. Umbongo says:

    Sorry to disappoint you Tim but any list which has, for instance, Yale and any of the campuses of the University of California (as well as a slew of other undistinguished US universities) anywhere near the top 1,000 (let alone the top 100) must be seriously deficient. Do you seriously believe that Cornell is “superior” to UCL or (that most academic and genuinely distinguished of American universities) Chicago? Or that the University of Minnesota is better than LSE – puhleeease!! The list is nonsense on stilts although I agree with you that Manchester is a great university: one of my sons went there after all.

  2. Tim Newman says:

    Oh, I’m sure the list is as dubious as those which I was presented with when I went to the university open days, which by sheer coincidence all had the particular university I was visiting ranked top in the country for engineering.

    But at least Manchester makes the list, which is more than my sister is able to say about Durham. :) And it gives me an excuse to write about the university and my warm feelings towards it.

  3. Nathan says:

    Umbongo, according to the methodology of this list, at least, Minnesota is better than LSE.

    I think that they have some pretty good measures in there and then some pretty silly ones. I think it’s absolutely impossible to say which universities are best in terms of what students will take away from them. Hell, on that measure, I think my alma mater, the University of Oregon, is just about as good as any medium sized university.

    But when it comes to best in terms of research produced, I think that is a pretty easy to measure (and figures in greatly to what students can potentially take away from their experience). Many US state universities produce far more research than schools with greater name recognition, and this list reflects that. I don’t know, for example, that my current university, the University of Washington (Seattle), is necessarily #22 worldwide, but it certainly is a superb university that well deserves being considered one of our “public ivies.”

    But then again, I don’t know why “international students” figures into this list. My alma mater was swarming with international students, but it didn’t really add anything to the university except funds to help subsidize my resident tuition. Many were there simply for English classes.

  4. Umbongo says:


    Generally agree: the problem is the criteria which underlie the list. Actually the problem is in the very concept of a list of this type; it’s difficult to quantify what is, after all, a qualitative and – to an extent – subjective measure. Accordingly, the easily quantitative measures are given enormous weight even if, as a result, the list they produce is largely rubbish. Even so, I would be the last to say that the second rank of US universities don’t deserve some recognition as places of learning. Clearly thay are infinitely superior (in both material facilities and standard of faculty) to the technical colleges which were rebranded as “universities” in the UK about 10 years ago. Tim’s alma mater and mine (LSE), for that matter, are up there with the best even if their places on the various lists published annually are highly variable.

  5. Larry Barrow says:


    “Get outta Dodge.” Now I know you’re ready for Sakhalin. When all you have left to write about is University rankings and wearing your school tie, it’s time to go.

    How does UT rank on your list? Don’t answer that until you’ve received your last paycheck from your current employer, ha ha.

    “May the wind be always at your back.”

    Leisure Suit Larry

  6. Tim Newman says:

    Careful Larry, or I’ll post a link to your class of ’63 picture on Okinawa!!

  7. Tatyana says:

    Yeah, I agree with Larry (whatever the suit): I come here in hopes of reading your take on recent Romanian oil platform expropriation, to put it mildly – and I have to listen to childish “my bigger than yours” bragging?

    Can’t wait for your arrival into the country of free speach, Russia. May be then you could excersize your god-given right to badmouth the place of residence – or the previous one- to your heart’s content.

  8. dearieme says:

    When I wanted an NZ visa recently, I had to send them a photocopy of my degree certificate. They had the bloody cheek to phone and complain that it was in Latin. I mean, really!

  9. Tim Newman says:

    That’s an interesting comment, Tatyana.

    I doubt if you are aware of this, but the education system in the UK has for the past decade or more steadily slipped into a mindset that elitism is bad, high achievements are bad if not sufficiently inclusive or certain groups of people, and rivalry between schools and individuals is bad. Instead, successive governments and teaching unions have installed a mindset whereby everyone has a right to achieve good grades, everyone is equal, and dismal performance for all is better than brilliant performance for some.

    Unfortunately, these attitudes have infected not just the schools – which are churning out thousands of kids each year with multiple A grades who are also functionally illiterate and innumerate – but the universities too. No longer are universities allowed to advertise themselves as elite centres of learning, they must instead reach out to anyone – regardless of ability – who the government deems to be deserving of a higher eductation. The net result is that British universities are rapidly declining in quality whilst much of the world is either maintaining their standards or improving them. British universities have long struggled to compete with the top American universities to attract the best foreign students or largest research grants, and this is only going to get worse.

    Fortunately, some British universities have recognised that they need to maintain standards, and Manchester University is one of them. The only way they can maintain these standards is by installing a culture of academic excellence and a feeling of pride amongst its students which will help them rise above the sea of mediocracy which effects most of their British counterparts. Other British universities have also realised this, and are doing their best to position themselves to remain relevant in the world’s higher education market.

    Now you might be confused as to why I care, but being a Brit I have a strong interest in seeing the educational establishments in my country become as strong as possible and not slip further down the slope of socialised education where everyone is equally thick. And I believe that the spirit of competition whereby each school, college, and university strives to be the best and encourages its students to feel pride at having attended their establishment is by far the best way to achieve this aim.

    So I make no apologies for bragging about having attended a university which I hope will go from strength to strength in an effort to retain some degree of educational excellence within the UK system, as I believe an almuni’s bragging is the best thing I can do to help this process along. Short of donating a new engineering wing, of course.

  10. Larry Barrow says:

    So this was the direction of your thought, when you sounded off about Manchester? I’m a bit parocial, when it comes to the dumbing down of the educational system. It seems that England and the U.S are on the same path.

    This is a heavy topic and worthy of more discussion. A University degree isn’t as impressive as it used to be. Take for example, Prez Bush. I find it incredible that people call him a moron, even though he has a degree from Yale and a Masters from Harvard. In a different age it would have been unthinkable to queston these credentials. In this brave new world it’s likely that a PC correct individual from a favored socio-economic group could achieve the same degrees by just going along with the program.

    We are living in an incredible age. A good example, which would mirror the Universities is the U.S. military. Look at all the medals they hand out. My Son Joe who has been in the USAF for 6 years has more ribbons than WWII Vets, my Father and his three brothers combined. Joe has spent his entire career behind a computer. On the job people get “outstanding” yearly reviews, just for showing up on time.

  11. Tim Newman says:

    You’ve got it in one, Larry. These days, thanks to a government policy of trying to get everyone through higher education regardless of ability, everyone has a degree to the point that they don’t mean half what they used to. Most degrees these days are worthless, a complete waste of time and money. The comparison with the medals is a good one.

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