We saw friends at the weekend and Bill asked which university Perran had put first and which second. I told him Bristol first and Manchester second, but that he had agonised over it for a long time. Bill said, “Well, from all the league tables, that’s clearly the right way round.”
I went home and checked the Guardian League Table (probably the best known) and saw that Bristol does currently top Manchester.
Yet my approach had been quite different – Perran and I had chatted to youngsters we knew who were at those universities, quizzed friends of friends who were academics in Maths and Philosophy as to what they thought of the respective departments, and finally visited the cities and met the staff and students.
We had cultivated a rich garden of anecdotes, impressions and opinions. Yet if we had gone by the league tables we would have come to the same conclusion, but more quickly.
The only justification for bypassing the league tables is that maths and philosophy is a hybrid subject which doesn’t have its own table. Even so…
“For Heaven’s Sake. Why didn’t I just look at the league tables?”
“It’s okay, Mum,” said Carenza, “Perran and I did that before we applied. That was the first thing we did. But all the other stuff helped us to make sure we’d got the right place for us.”