Age matters

For university rankings, at least

QS Intelligence unit has a diverting posting on the influence of age on university “performance”

As this post puts it, the world is changing, fast and HE is part of it

In Saudi Arabia there are 28 universities, 22 of which were founded after the turn of the millenia. Economies worldwide are turning to the ever enticing notion of creating a “knowledge economy”. I read somewhere that we have generated more written content since 2003 than the in the whole of human history until that point.

In that environment – whilst rankings such as ours may treat all institutions equally – the reality is that date of establishment clearly has a part to play in the current success profile of universities. In broad terms, universities over 100 years old, and perhaps those over 50, have already reached their “terminal velocity” – the combination of reputation, government funding, scale of operation, organisational culture, international mix and alumni profile have reached a degree of equilibrium which makes radical shifts in performance – as measured by rankings or otherwise – exceedingly difficult to impose.

It is undoubtedly the case that radical changes in rankings are going to be difficult to achieve, particularly in the international QS table. But should the tables adjust for age to allow rapidly improved performance to outweigh historical achievement? Should longevity be discounted to enable us to compare Al-Jouf University with Oxford? I’m not certain what that would prove. Age does matter.

One alternative approach might be this:

We have begun some work on developing an adjustment algorithm for our rankings tables which can potentially help identify universities that are ahead of where we might expect them to be for their given age.

Still not quite clear how this would look but is an interesting idea nevertheless.

One thought on “Age matters

  1. Hi Paul – it’s always nice to find when people are actually reading (and referencing) our blog. For clarity – we will not be adjusting our main table for age. That would be crazy – clearly, as you put it, age matters and performance on most metrics are best taken at face value. However what would be interesting would be to provide some sort of barometer for younger universities to understand whether or not they are on the right track – and if so, whether they are above or below the curve.

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