It's a useful piece, but I think it is a bit over-ambitious, attempting to summarizing the top qualities of too many places, and inevitably showing stronger knowledge of some departments than of others. Lancaster and Sheffield are mentioned repeatedly, and rightly so because they are fine insitutions, but others are rather cursorily passed over. It's good to see my former institution, Birmingham, getting a few mentions, but it's perverse not to say anything special about Oxford (or even Cambridge for that matter) other than to list them where they have to.
Update (Saturday 2 February): it seems that this Independent article is seriously oudated, and the new date on the article is misleading. Nathan MacDonals helpfully emails (excerpted):
A close analysis of the article shows it to be a slightly dated composition. The future tense in "Lancaster will also be offering a new BA course for 2004" suggests the article was composed in 2003. The five centres at Sheffield no longer correspond to the centres that are on their website, and the asking grades are also out of date (many, e.g. Durham and Manchester) are now considerably higher. In addition the 'where's best for teaching' that is deemed fascinating by Jim West relies on QAA and TQA data, which could go back up to 6-7 years before the article. Robert Segal has been in Aberdeen (not Lancaster) since 2006, and David Clines is Emeritus, so I hopeI should have realized. Another clue is that the article sings the praises of Hugh McLeod who moved from the Theology department to the History department while I was still there. All in all, the article is of even more limited usefulness than I'd first realized.
no young readers of the Independent expect to receive too much tuition from him.
No doubt it will have some value for those outside the UK. Though they might also want to note that Westcott is no longer at Cambridge and Robertson Smith has been removed from his chair at Aberdeen.