Magdalene and Churchill triumph in new college rankings

Elsa Maishman 16 July 2015

Trinity College has topped the Tompkins Table, the annual academic ranking of Cambridge colleges, for the fifth year in a row, while Magdalene caused a stir by rising from tenth to second place and Churchill achieved the best results in the history of the college.

Speaking to The Independent, Dr Stuart Martin, senior tutor and admissions tutor at Magdalene described this result as ''fantastic''. Several Magdalene students were similarly pleased, with one second-year declaring: "While I'm dubious of the Tompkins Table, any news about Magdalene that doesn't involve jelly wrestling, arm bands or white tie balls is more than welcome from my perspective.'' 33.1% of Magdalene students gained a First, nonetheless leaving Trinity in a comfortable first place with 41%. 

In third place, Churchill has achieved the best set of undergraduate examination results in the College's history, with over 31.7% of students having been awarded a First and over 90% graduating with a First or 2.i.

The Tompkins table was first created in 1981 when Peter Tompkins was still a third-year mathematics undergraduate at Trinity. It allocates five points for a First, three points for a 2.i, two points for a 2.ii and one point for a Third. The scores in each subject are then weighted to a common average, to avoid the bias towards colleges with higher proportions of students entered for subjects with higher average grades. Every college is then ranked, by comparing their total points to what they would have got if every student had been awarded a First. 

The table, though widely accepted as the best indication of academic ranking between colleges, has been criticised for inaccurate over-simplification, as well as overemphasis on academic results. Both mature colleges and female colleges tend to perform relatively poorly. Charlotte Furniss-Roe, second-year student at Murray Edwards, commented that ''the main thing the Tompkins table tells me is that teaching across colleges should be more standardised. It fosters an atmosphere of pitting them against each other while still maintaining that educational standards are the same. Furthermore, this encourages students who are already applying to the top University in the country to apply to its top colleges too, increasing the inequality of applicants across colleges.''

The percentage of Firsts can be seen below, with 2014 results in brackets:

1. (1) Trinity 41.0% (firsts)

2. (10) Magdalene 33.1%

3. (6) Churchill 31.7%

4. (5) Emmanuel 30.3%

5. (2) Pembroke 31.6%

6. (12) Peterhouse 30.3%

7. (7) Queens' 28.8%

8. (3) Trinity Hall 28.8%

9. (11) Downing 27.5%

10. (16) St John's 28.1%

11. (4) Jesus 27.4%

12. (13) Selwyn 25.5%

13. (21) St Catharine's 25.1%

14. (9) Christ's 23.8%

15. (8) Clare 26.0%

16. (20) Robinson 24.8%

17. (17) Sidney Sussex 21.6%

18. (14) King's 26.3%

19. (15) Gonville & Caius 22.8%

20. (19) Fitzwilliam 22.8%

21. (22) Newnham 19.3%

22. (18) Corpus Christi 21.1%

23. (26) Murray Edwards 16.6%

24. (23) Girton 16.6%

25. (27) Hughes Hall 15.9%

26. (25) Wolfson 18.1%

27. (24) Homerton 13.0%

28. (28) St Edmund's 18.5%

29. (29) Lucy Cavendish 9.1%