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For the second year in a row, Lancaster University has been ranked by The Guardian as the 10th best university in the country, proving quite clearly that last year’s position wasn’t a mere fluke. In this year’s ranking, we now sit above UCL, Edinburgh, Manchester, and even LSE. It’s fascinating how a little-known university in the north-west of England is consistently managing to perform so well.
Back in the 1950s, when plans to build a university were first discussed, the location was very much a hot topic. The largest neighbouring universities were Glasgow and Liverpool, and the authorities quite liked the idea of shoving one between the two. Blackpool was tipped as an early potential location, but the small historic town of Lancaster was where this new campus was to be built.
And I think that’s part of the issue here. We consider Lancaster to be a small historic town, and I often feel that current students have a tendency to undersell the University and its obvious success. The town is now much more than it once was, and the University has significantly helped raise its profile. Likewise, any attempts to better the University, whether through its facilities or branding, are often cast aside as trying to “be like Oxbridge”, when I would instead argue that Lancaster University is now a prestigious university in its own right. For sake of argument, the controversial ‘shield’ has been around since the University’s creation, and it was altered just slightly for the new logo. It might be reminiscent of Oxbridge, but I certainly would not criticise the University for trying to better itself or its image.
Understandably, the problem is that sixth formers outside of the immediate area have never heard of the place, and it is that attitude that is brought to campus when they enrol. It is often reported that prospective students see Lancaster for the first time when they open UCAS and begin looking for courses. Once they have visited campus, though, and actually researched the University, they are hooked.
Lancaster is very much performing at a similar standard to its fellow top-10 placeholders, yet students still feel like the University is cheating somehow. It’s an interesting attitude that people have towards an institution they should be proud of, and I’m curious as to whether this is the case at other universities. We’re ranked in the top 10 in the UK, the top 1% worldwide, and our research is world-leading. It’s time that the students of Lancaster were proud of their university, rather than damning it and accusing it of impostering its fellow institutions. Personally, I just think that’s just how competition works.