atans1

The truth about university rankings

In Uncategorized on 08/10/2014 at 4:51 am

Some time back there was a spate of articles in our constructive, nation-building media telling us how well our unis (SMU excluded) are doing in global rankings. This is a yearly occurence as the league tables are published around this time, the traditional start of the university yr.

I’ve always wondered how the various league tables are compiled. Recently I found out.

How does a university get to the top of the rankings? And why does such a small group of institutions seem to have an iron grip on the top places?

The biggest single factor in the QS rankings is academic reputation. This is calculated by surveying more than 60,000 academics around the world about their opinion on the merits of institutions other than their own.

Ben Sowter, managing director of the QS, says this means that universities with an established name and a strong brand are likely to do better.

The next biggest factor – “citations per faculty” – looks at the strength of research in universities, calculated in terms of the number of times research work is cited by other researchers.

The ratio of academic staff to students represents another big chunk of how the rankings are decided.

Big brands

These three elements, reputation, research citations and staff ratios, account for four-fifths of the rankings. And there are also marks for being more international, in terms of academic staff and students.

As a template for success, it means that the winners are likely to be large, prestigious, research-intensive universities, with strong science departments and lots of international collaborations.

Is that a fair way to rank universities? It makes no reference to the quality of teaching or the abilities of students?

“We don’t take an exhaustive view of what universities are doing,” says Mr Sowter.

“It’s always going to be a blunt instrument,” which he says is both the strength and weakness of such lists.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-29086590

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  1. Students & parents in US are now using Uni rankings based on median graduate pay and tuition cost, to get the most bang for the buck. Many in the top 10 Unis are surprisingly not those ivy league types and cost much less. The US are practical angmohs who want to make sure that their degrees can eat and can eat well. This has been the trend especially since 2008/2009 GFC.

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