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Article: “Another Year , Another Methodology: Are Rankings Telling Us Anything New?”

A piece by Ellen Hazelkorn and Andrew Gibson, titled “Another Year, Another Methodology: Are Rankings Telling Us Anything New?” has been published by Boston College’s Centre for International Higher Education, in the International Higher Education, Winter (2016) edition.

It is available at this link, along with other interesting pieces on rankings, the refugee crisis and higher education, corruption and academic culture, and more.

Ireland’s performance in QS World University Ranking, 2010 – 2015

So the QS World University Ranking 2015 is out, and for what it’s worth this is what it looks like for Ireland’s HEIs from 2010 to the present. The QS methodology is heavy on the reputation surveys, clocking in at 50% of the total, over which the institutions have very little influence themselves – and government, the HEA, the IRC, or whoever else has even less. The remaining 50% is down to faculty/student ratio (20%), international staff and student ratio (5% and 5%), and finally citations per faculty at 20%.

Citations is probably the one thing that institutions might be able to do something about more readily than other areas (i.e., it doesn’t require new hires) but note that the bibliometric indicators and databases that are used to calculate such scores are biased against some areas in which Ireland does well (humanities).

QS 2010 - 2015

The University Times in Trinity has some brief coverage, noting the fall over time. What’s probably worth saying here is that in this case, as with the Time Higher Education World University Ranking (previous post), because rankings are zero sum, even if an Irish HEI’s performance stayed the same or even improved, that would not necessarily be sufficient to maintain or improve ranking. What’s key is to improve faster than everybody else. It’s the archetypal Red Queen scenario as per Through the Looking Glass:

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

It’s not enough simply to change or improve, because this is only sufficient for survival. So how do Irish HEIs compete in a world like that?

[Note: Maynooth University is still labelled NUIM as I am slow to change, so apologies to Kildare-based colleagues. For DIT, Maynooth, and UL, their positions reflect the upper value in the bandings which they sit.] 

Time for the state to shift its AHSS on higher education policy?

Brian M. Lucey

Ranking season is upon us with the QS rankings of subject areas (not, as is commonly though, Departments) now revealed. Again we find that despite the hype Irish universities are stronger in Arts and Humanities than in the STEM areas. This is in stark contrast to the financial flows to these areas and in even starker contrast to the government and regulatory thrust. Evidence of sustained internationally recognised quality in the AHSS (arts, humanities and social science) area does not translate into funding, support or recognition. Perhaps its time it did?

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“The obsession with rankings”, presentation to the World Bank, 28/1/15

Presentation given by Prof. Ellen Hazelkorn to the World Bank in Washington, D.C., last week on the 28/1/15: The obsession with rankings in tertiary education – World Bank Presentation. Overview of the most topical issues regarding

  1. Putting rankings into context.
  2. Ranking higher education – advantages and disadvantages.
  3. Do rankings measure what counts?
  4. What does the research tell us?
  5. Implications for policy.
  6. Do’s and don’t’s, specific actions, and alternatives to rankings…

Policy Brief: “Rankings and Quality Assurance: Do Rankings Measure Quality?”

CHEAmediumhorizontalPolicy Brief by Prof. Ellen Hazelkorn on Rankings and Quality Assurance. Produced for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) International Quality Group, Washington D.C.: CIQG Policy Brief No. 4, January 2015

  • The growing influence of academic rankings.
  • What are rankings?
  • Rankings and Quality assurance.
  • What’s next?

Follow CHEA on Twitter: @ciqgnews.

Rankings and the Reshaping of Higher Education – Second edition due March 2015

Rankings Book CoverThe second edition of Prof. Ellen Hazelkorn’s book, Rankings and the Reshaping of Higher Education, is due out in March from Palgrave-Macmillan. Details from the publisher follow (Link to original page):

“Ten years have passed since the first global ranking of universities was published. Since then, university rankings have continued to attract the attention of policymakers and the academy, challenging perceived wisdom about the status and reputation, as well as quality and performance, of higher education institutions. Their impact and influence has impacted and influenced policymakers, students and parents, employers and other stakeholders – in addition to higher education institutions around the world. They are now a significant factor shaping institutional ambition and reputation, and national priorities.

The second edition of Rankings and the Reshaping of Higher Education brings the story of rankings up-to-date. It contains new original research, and extensive analysis of the rankings phenomenon. Ellen Hazelkorn draws together a wealth of international experience to chronicle how rankings are helping reshape higher education in the age of globalization. Written in an easy but authoritative style, this book makes an important contribution to our understanding of rankings and global changes in higher education. It is essential reading for policymakers, institutional leaders, managers, advisors, and scholars.”

  • “Hazelkorn’s work is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding college rankings and the increasing impact they are having in the U.S. and globally.” –
  • “The book makes an important contribution to the understanding of the rankings phenomenon and ultimately stresses that the choice of indicators is crucial and needs to be considered in tandem with their consequences.” – LSE Impact Blog
  • “This book by Hazelkorn marks the legitimisation of rankings as a serious topic of academic research and that this work will provide important documentation which future research will build upon.” – Higher Education
  • “This is a fine study … Hazelkorn’s principles, methods and major conclusions will stand the test of time.” – Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management

Free access to “Arts and Humanities in Higher Education”, for one week…

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 21.53.12Free access for 10 days to Arts and Humanities in Higher Education: an international journal of theory, research and practice to download all articles in the issue, including “Making an impact: New directions for arts and humanities research” by HEPRU’s Ellen Hazelkorn. Also features articles by HERAVALUE colleagues Paul BenneworthMagnus Gulbrandsen, and Siri Aanstad.

Follow the journal on Twitter here: @AHHEresearch.