Auditing University Rankings

Holding league tables to account?

The Chronicle reports that there are to be some new rules to govern university league tables. The proposals were announced recently in Paris at the Unesco Global Forum, “Rankings and Accountability in Higher Education: Uses and Misuses.” This Forum, which gave voice to lots of concerns about ranking methodologies, concluded with the adoption of some “Audit Rules”:

The new Ranking Audit Rules were adopted by the executive committee of the International Ranking Expert Group’s (or IREG’s) Observatory on Ranking and Excellence, which announced that it was working on an evaluation system, or audit, at its meeting last fall in Berlin.


“The purpose of an audit, conducted by independent academic teams, will be to verify if a ranking under review was done professionally, and observes good practices, providing students, their parents and employers with information allowing them to compare and assess programs offered by higher-education institutions,” according to the ranking group’s press release.

Rankings will be reviewed on a voluntary basis and any rankings organization can ask to be audited. Those that pass what the group describes as its “robust evaluation” will be able to certify their ranking system as “IREG approved.” The new audit system, for which the first results will be published this fall, is intended to “enhance the transparency of rankings, give users of rankings a tool to identify trustworthy rankings, and improve the quality of rankings.”

So, will the league table compilers submit themselves to this regime? And will the designation “IREG approved” have any currency?

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