European Union university ranking plan: the sector holds its breath

Latest news on the most eagerly awaited league table

A post just over a year ago noted the development of a new EU ranking method. Now University World News carries a piece about the European Union defying criticism of its university ranking plan. Speaking at a rankings event in April Jordi Curell, director of lifelong learning, higher education and international affairs, did accept that not everyone was wildly enthisastic about the U-Multirank non-league table. But he did attempt to defend the idea:

“Rankings which are carefully thought out are the only transparency tools which can give a comparative picture of higher education institutions at a national, European and global level,” he told the symposium.

In March the UK House of Lords’ European Union committee called the initiative a waste of money. Its report argued that U-Multirank brought nothing new to a market already crowded by other international ranking systems, such as those developed by China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Times Higher Education magazine and QS.

But Brussels plans to plough ahead regardless.

Earlier this year the Commission announced that it would spend €4 million (US$5.2 million) testing its new ranking method and invited HEIs to tender for the work with the results due at the end of next year.

Curell told the symposium that generally, a reluctance to support rankings had evolved. But while they might not reflect the full diversity of reality, rankings shape the perception of that reality.

He advised representatives of higher education institutions present at the event to try to influence how rankings develop rather than opposing the trend.

This final point is a good one: universities do have to engage with the rankings. Although you don’t have to express support for them in order to do so. However, I’m still not clear why U-Multirank, a league table which will not be a league table, is necessary. We’ll have to wait and see.

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