That made me laugh as well. But then again his job as Rector is to 'sell' the university, even if it involves gross exaggeration.
The research vs education bit is well highlighted, especially when one considers the Guardian ranking of Imperial which hovers closer to 10th not 3rd/4th, because they weigh research far less than teaching relative to the Times. Coupled with the fact Imperial's research output is the highest in the country, it makes one wonder how bad the teaching standard has to be to drag it down to 10th?
Even though I graduate this year, and even if the fees weren't going up, I'd still discourage everyone I know from coming to Imperial. If you can get into Imperial, you can get into Oxbridge. Take a year out and try again and get a real university education.
"Does O'Nions really believe the college offers excellence of education? Is he sure he isn't conflating research and teaching in his mind again."
Are you sure you aren't conflating teaching with education?
"...because they weigh research far less than teaching relative to the Times."
Not just the Times, but nearly every other university ranking and the world in general.
I don't see what the problem is with giving a much greater weighting/priority to research than teaching. For a university teaching is clearly a lesser priority so I don't see why people should be moaning about that. Would people want it the other way round??
Given that the fees are set to affect undergraduates, I would assume that the undergraduates are moaning about paying more for low quality undergraduate teaching because the research quality of a University only tangentially affects them.
If a University would prefer to treat itself as a research institution that is fine. But it should not hold up the pretence of an "excellent" undergraduate education.