rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Global university rankings

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

The European University Association (EUA) recently released a report they'd commissioned entitled Global University Rankings and Their Impact. The report was written by Andrejs Rauhvargers.

According to the EAU, one of their major motivations in commissioning the report was that their member universities are "often under pressure to appear in the rankings, or to improve their position in one way or another."

Some of the report's findings include the following:

-- Shanghai Jiao Tong University published the first "global university ranking" in 2003. Just eight years later, there are now more than a dozen such rankings.

-- International rankings typically include between 200 and 500 universities, meaning that they only cover between 1% and 3% of the world's 17,000 universities.

-- Most of the rankings "focus predominantly" on research, as opposed to teaching. Likewise, "the importance of links to external stakeholders and environments" is "largely ignored."

-- "Bibliometric indicators" are often used as a gauge for measuring research outcomes. The report argues that this advantages the natural sciences and medicine and disadvantages social sciences and humanities. Likewise, these indicators tend to disadvantage the publication of books and anthologies.

-- The report finds that the indicators advantage English-language universities, as "non-English language work is both published and cited less."

-- The rankings disadvantage universities with specialized mandates, such as those that serve a specific region or that strive to be accessible to older students.

-- The report finds that, "[i]n an attempt to improve their positions in the rankings, universities are strongly tempted to improve their performance specifically in those areas which are measured by ranking indicators."

-- Sometimes universities manipulate data in order to improve their standing (e.g., by merging with other universities and by manipulating student-staff ratios).

I'm not opposed to universities being held accountable to outside bodies. Nor am I opposed to the use of measured outcomes. But given that higher education is about so much more than research, wouldn't it by wise to arrive at the methodology through a consultative process that includes student federations, labour groups and faculty associations? And wouldn't it be good if outcomes included teaching quality, knowledge translation, community engagement and accessibility to vulnerable groups?

I would like to see one of Ontario's political parties adopt just such a proposal in their platform for this October's provincial election campaign. The party in question could propose to spearhead a process that would aim to hold all Ontario universities accountable on outcomes that are agreed upon with key stakeholders, including the Canadian Federation of Students, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Council of Ontario Universities.

Ontario should set an example for the rest of the world to follow.

This article was first posted on The Progressive Economics Forum.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.