February 2015

No. 8869: Subject Specific League Tables and Students' Application Decisions

Arnaud Chevalier, Xiaoxuan Jia

published in: Manchester School, 2016, 84, 600-620

Do applicants to higher education rely on expert judgement about the quality of the course when applying? Using application data across UK universities over a period of 8 years, we investigate how league tables affect prospective students' application decisions. We use subject specific ranking rather than the commonly used institution level ranking. We find that a one standard deviation change in the subject-level ranking score of an institution is associated with on average a 4.3% increase in application numbers per faculty. This effect is particularly pronounced among faculties with the best scores, and overseas applicants. Limits to the number of applications have increased the preponderance of league tables.