How important is it to be titled the ‘Most Beautiful Campus in the UK’?

Beth Gooding discusses Royal Holloway's title as the 'Most Beautiful Campus in the UK' and how important this really is.

I know I’m not the only one whose phone is often full of artistic snaps of Founders from various angles, nothing quite beats the iconic building of our campus. It looks amazing in all weather, with some people lucky enough to see it surrounded by snow at the end of last term. But are we taking our love of this building and our campus slightly too far?

At the end of 2017 Royal Holloway was named the ‘Most Beautiful University in the UK’, beating both Oxford and Cambridge after an online poll by Holiday Lettings. At the beginning of January, Times Higher Education gifted the campus with the same title. I’m sure most of us would agree that campus is well deserving of this honour but why has it been so glorified by the university, with other rankings being disregarded and ignored?

Last term saw the opening of the Emily Wilding Davidson Building, our grand new library which truly adds to the attractiveness of our campus, but has it added much more than that? Facebook was full of complaints and petitions against the new library, with arguments that there was not enough space, a number of plugs didn’t work, there were no designated silent areas and that it was being used as a concert venue rather than as a study space. The focus of the new library appears to be more on how it looks than how practical it is for students.

Royal Holloway ranks only 197 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 31st in the UK

It seems the university is trying to emphasise the beauty of the campus to divert from its weaknesses in other areas and fall in other rankings. Royal Holloway ranks only 197 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 31st in the UK. In 2011 it ranked 88 in the Times World Rankings and has been falling down the ranks ever since. To have fallen over 100 places in these tables is nothing to be celebrated. This great emphasis and glorifying of becoming the ‘Most Beautiful Campus’ appears to be a distraction from the fall of Royal Holloway through the university tables which judge it on more important matters such as teaching, research and international outlook.

Our place in these rankings should be more important to the university than being the most aesthetically pleasing campus in the UK. Royal Holloway should be striving to become a well-known university based upon more significant matters such as the success of the teaching rather than on a title they can hardly say they have earned. The building of Founders by Thomas Holloway in 1886 remains the main reason Royal Holloway has been titled the ‘Most Beautiful’ and is clearly no reflection on the success and work of the university today. So why do they continue to glorify this and parade the title as if they have worked hard to earn it? Instead they should be focusing upon rankings which hold more value.

While we should enjoy being on one of the most beautiful campuses and taking one too many pictures of Founders, we should remember that this is not the most important ranking for our university to hold and we should be able to take pride in other aspects of the university as well. Royal Holloway needs to focus on not just aesthetics but the success of the university in more important areas.