Watch University Challenge to pick a uni, say researchers

Graduate earnings are more closely linked to their university's number of appearances on University Challenge than to official government data

People often ask if university degrees have the same value they once did. Best not consult government figures about how lucrative a course at a certain university could prove to be – but pay attention to how many of its alumni appeared on University Challenge.

Researchers at the University of Surrey have found that graduates’ incomes at age 29 showed a stronger link with their university’s appearances on the BBC quiz programme in the past 25 years than with Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) data.

Under TEF assessment, universities are awarded either gold, silver or bronze status to indicate their standard of teaching.

The method has attracted controversy in the past, with doubt cast on how accurately it measures the quality of education.

The metrics are based on student feedback on the quality of the teaching they have received, the employment or academic status of graduates, and dropout rates.

Professor Marco Mongiello, who worked on the study, said the team found no correlation between TEF gold and silver ratings with higher earnings.

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And colleague Dr Katarzyna Zdunczyk went so far as to say that “parents and sixth-formers would be better off if they simply went for universities that appear more often on University Challenge.”

“By relying on superficial measures of student experience and outcomes, TEF misinforms potential students about what matters when choosing a higher education institution.”

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