Thursday, September 2, 2010

PL 65/10: New university ranking system

Filed under: education — plinius @ 6:35 pm

Standardization of subjects, grades and ranking systems is a prominent feature of the global knowledge economy.

Picture from London.

The best universities compete for the best students. At the same time, students compete for access to the best universities. After graduation employers want to avoid long and expensive selection processes to identify suitable recruits to career positions.

Students are evaluated and graded throughout their studies. Therefore it is easier to identify the top-performers among the students. Like screws, batteries and electric sockets, grades and subjects must be standardized in order to work between countries.

Since the higher education market is turning global, the demand for a corresponding grading of universities is increasing. Several different ranking systems compete for public attention. Times Higher Education, which produces World University Rankings, has now revamped its methodology.

THE confirmed this week that it plans to use 13 separate performance indicators to compile the league tables for 2010 and beyond – an increase from just six measures used under the methodology employed between 2004 and 2009. The wide range of individual indicators will be grouped to create four broad overall indicators to produce the final ranking score.

The core aspects that will be assessed are

  • research,
  • economic activity and innovation
  • international diversity
  • a broad “institutional indicator” including data on teaching reputation, institutional income and student and staff numbers.

The old methodology used six indicators.


10% Economic activity/Innovation

  • Research income from industry (scaled against staff numbers)

In future years, it is likely it would include data on

  • the volume of papers co-authored with industrial partners
  • a subjective examination of employers’ perceptions of graduates

10% International diversity

  • Ratio of international to domestic students
  • Ratio of international to domestic staff

(may also include) a measure of research papers co-authored with international partners

25% Institutional indicators

  • Undergraduate entrants (scaled against academic staff numbers)
  • PhDs/undergraduate degrees awarded
  • PhDs awarded (scaled)
  • Reputation survey (teaching)
  • Institutional income (scaled)

55% Research indicators

  • Academic papers (scaled)
  • Citation impact (normalised by subject)
  • Research income (scaled)
  • Research income from public sources/industry
  • Reputation survey (research)

Ann Mroz, editor of Times Higher Education:

Because global rankings have become so extraordinarily influential, I felt I had a responsibility to respond to criticisms of our rankings and to improve them so they can serve as the serious evaluation tool that universities and governments want them to be.

“This draft methodology shows that we are delivering on our promise to produce a more rigorous, sophisticated set of rankings. We have opened the methodology up to wide consultation with world experts, and we will respond to their advice in developing a new system that we believe will make sense to the sector, and will be much more valuable to them as a result.”


The new methodology clearly improves on the old one. But the whole ranking system, with its mix of complex indicators, arbitrary weights, institutional politics and heroic assumptions about the “global playing field”, should be seen as an informal testing ground rather than as an established measuring tool.

The system tells more about the forces shaping the global education system than about the institutions themselves.



The photographer wrote:

  • The photo I have chosen to show you with this short review portray a man outside a pub, a normal scene in London, but if you look closer you would see that there is a little bit of grain.
  • Counting that the photo was taken almost at five in the afternoon, you could see that the quality is not that bad, but giving a deeper look at the EXIF you would see that I shot it at ISO 6400! At f/2.8 and 1/60th of a second the result is absolutely impressive.

The man outside the pub is not a Londoner, however. He is an old friend and colleague of mine – a well-known library teacher from Oslo University College (now retired) – who happened to visit London at the time.


1 Comment »

  1. […] Higher Education introduces new university ranking system – discussed by Plinius: […]

    Pingback by P 130/10: Akademisk torden « Plinius — Friday, September 3, 2010 @ 8:29 am

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