An alternative global ranking of universities?

European project launched to develop a new international league table

Global Higher Ed has a report on the decision by the European Commission to award a million euro tender to develop and test a global ranking of universities to a consortium of institutions:


The successful bid – the CHERPA network (or the Consortium for Higher Education and Research Performance Assessment), is charged with developing a ranking system to overcome what is regarded by the European Commission as the limitations of the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS-Times Higher Education schemes. The final product is to be launched in 2011.

CHERPA is comprised of a consortium of leading institutions in the field within Europe; all have been developing and offering rather different approaches to ranking over the past few years.

But will it fly as an alternative?

IREG, the International Observatory on Rankings, reports the details:

The European ranking system will be independent, “robust” and measure higher education’s core functions of research, teaching and outreach, says the tender’s terms of reference. It will cover all types of higher education institutions in and outside Europe – particularly in North America, Asia and Australia – and will enable comparisons and benchmarking of similar institutions at the institutional and field levels.

The basic approach underlying the project is to compare only institutions which are similar and comparable in terms of their missions and structures. Therefore the project is closely linked to the idea of a European classification (“mapping”) of higher education institutions developed by CHEPS. The feasibility study will include focused rankings on particular aspects of higher education at the institutional level (e.g., internationalization and regional engagement) on the one hand, and two field-based rankings for business and engineering programmes on the other hand.

The project will help institutions better position themselves and improve their development strategies, quality and performance. It will enable stakeholders, especially students, to make informed choices between institutions and programmes – which existing rankings do not do because they focus only on research and entire institutions.

The field-based rankings will each focus on a particular type of institution and will develop and test a set of indicators appropriate to these institutions. The rankings will be multi-dimensional and will – like the CHE ranking – use a grouping approach rather than simplistic league tables. In contrast to existing global rankings, the design will compare not only the research performance of institutions but will include teaching & learning as well as other aspects of university performance.

Will be interesting to see the outputs of this work but it will be a huge challenge for the new model to become a credible alternative to SJTU and THE world rankings.

How many Honorary Degrees?

An honourable business for the President and the frog?

There has been a bit of controversy recently about Barack Obama receiving an Honorary Degree from Notre Dame University and not receiving one from Arizona State.

It’s not entirely clear how many Honorary Degrees the President does have but it certainly isn’t as many as Theodore Hesburgh, formerly President of Notre Dame. He has 150.kermit-barack

According to the Chronicle, Hesburgh is not the only one to achieve such a collection:

His closest competitor for the title of King of Honorary Doctorates is an actual king: Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. In 1997, the king claimed to have 136 honorary degrees, surpassing Father Hesburgh’s total at the time. For his part, Father Hesburgh isn’t particularly impressed with the king. “His degrees are from high schools and dinky little places in Thailand,” says the Roman Catholic priest. He adds, “Thailand is a land of fantasy.” The king of Thailand is, in his own way, a man of genuine accomplishment. He is, after all, the world’s longest-reigning monarch. But sometimes honorary degrees are bestowed upon people whose accomplishments are slightly less stellar. Mike Tyson, Kermit the Frog, and Bruce Willis have all been given honorary degrees. Mike Tyson was a great boxer, Kermit is a hero to millions of kids, and Bruce Willis has been in some action movies — but they’re not exactly Father Hesburgh.

Previously noted here the Italian stance on Honorary Degrees. Perhaps there should be a worldwide cap on numbers or a constraint on awarding Honorary Degrees to muppets? Or better still, just don’t award them at all like LSE, MIT, Cornell and Stanford?

Getting Freshers to read, discuss and engage

THE reports on a really rather creative initiative at St Andrews

Every new student enrolling at the University of St Andrews this autumn will be sent a novel during the summer and will be encouraged to discuss it with other freshers when they arrive on campus in September. The university is distributing Mohsin Hamid’s novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a Man Booker-shortlisted work, to all 1,500 new undergraduates in an initiative to give students a common discussion topic and to focus their energies on broad intellectual debate rather than narrow academic study.

This is a terrific idea. Helps with student induction and orientation in halls and ensures that the residential experience has a learning dimension too. Wish we’d thought of it

The Times: 2010 University League Table

Latest UK university league table has been published by The Times (last year’s ranking in brackets):

1 Oxford (1)
2 Cambridge (2)
3 Imperial College (3)
4 St Andrews (5)
5 University College London (7)
6 Warwick (6)
7 London School of Economics (4)
8 Durham (8)
9 Exeter (13)
10 Bristol (10)
11 York (9)
12 King’s College London (11)
13 Bath (15)
14 Edinburgh (18)
15 Leicester (14)
15 Southampton (16=)
17 Loughborough (12)
18 Sheffield (22)
19 Glasgow (20=)
20 Nottingham (16=)

Not a huge amount of movement since 2009 with the Top 20 largely unchanged although the press release draws attention to some modest changes:

The biggest climbers at the top of the table include Liverpool (up from 34 to 28), Leeds (from 31 to 27), Sheffield (from 22 to 18), Edinburgh (from 18 to 14) and Exeter (from 13 to nine). Lower down the tables, big climbers include Cumbria (from 99 to 83), Hertfordshire (from 79 to 66), York St John (from 91 to 80) and De Montfort (from 77 to 67), Bedfordshire (from 89 to 71), Lincoln (from 103 to 86) and UWIC Cardiff (from 85 to 76)

The strict demarcation line between pre- and post-92 institutions seems to remain as strong as ever though with no newer universities making it into the top 50. A very different picture to the recent Guardian table.