Evaluation Needs and University Rankings: Uneasy Mutual Dependence

Evaluation Needs and University Rankings: Uneasy Mutual Dependence 2017-12-18T13:35:37+00:00

Emergence university rankings, especially the international ones, should be seen in context of profound transformations in higher education and research reflected by such trends as massification, diversification, pressure on public funding, competition at national and international level. In addition, academic research is rightly seen as indispensable factor in “knowledge-based economy” and major contributor to technological innovation and social progress. It is therefore not surprising to observe that higher education and research is under pressure from various parts of society [general public, politicians, corporate sector, media and academia, etc.] to demonstrate their inner working and give evidence of performance going beyond self-declaration.

The number and type of instruments for analysis and evaluation of higher education and research is quite limited. The main one being accreditation, peer-review, benchmarking, awards, and ranking. All of them rely, even if in a different degree and form, on quantitative measurements. As evaluation can produce tensions, use of metrics-based instruments can provide transparent and reliable lenses that allow filtering out non-academic elements in the process. Undoubtedly, university rankings are data-driven evaluation. This possesses a challenge to those who produce rankings in seeking and collecting reliable data while users of rankings are confronted with appropriate interpretation of information presented in rankings.

Despite divergent views about university rankings [sometimes referred as ‘love-hate relationship’] number and types of them has increased and become a durable fixture in the marketplace for information. They have proven to be an important ingredient of policy making, marketing, providing additional rationale for selection and allocation of funding for research, seeking partnership, etc.

This presentation is looking closer at methodology and indicators used in major university rankings, especially those used for assessing research productivity and quality. In addition to analyzing various types and reach of rankings [international, regional and national], this presentation will look at the measures aimed the improvement of validity of university rankings undertaken by IREG Observatory on Ranking and Academic Excellence.

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