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Notes (and some critique) from the world of rankings…

Several developments related to rankings activity have come out of the United Kingdom, France and the United States in March. Early this month, London-based Times Higher Education (THE) released a stand-alone ranking of institutions that focuses exclusively on the question of reputation. This new ranking has been developed on the basis of two of the 13 indicators already used by the THE World University Rankings 2010-2011.  The very notion of ranking by reputation is, of course, open to critique. Confidence in such an exercise is not aided by the fact that, although THE reports that they invited 13 388 experienced academics to participate in the survey, it does not provide information on the response rate on which the findings were built. The added value of such an exercise is another open question, considering the clustering of many of the ‘usual suspects’ in the top slots.

Across the Channel in France, MINES ParisTech released its 5th “International Ranking of Higher Education Institutions”, a global ranking using alumni CEOs employed by Fortune Global 500 companies as the single indicator. Challenges are evident in this exercise, as well. Most notably, the use of alumni CEOs as an indicator of teaching quality of an institution disregards the bias towards institutions with a strong business school. And, similar to the THE rankings, little significant difference between institutions ranked below the few top institutions (the top three, in this case) is shown in the scores.

Finally, in the United States, US News and World Report announced on 18 March that it had removed from its website the most recent version of “some of the specialty rankings of engineering schools”. These results had been published as part of the 2012 edition of its annual ranking of such programmes, but “several database errors” had subsequently been discovered—if not specifically described. The 2012 data were replaced with last year’s ranking information. The problem apparently affected 11 of the 12 engineering specialties included in the US News rankings exercise. As a result, “only the computer engineering rankings are new for the 2012 edition”. US News noted that although the changes were not significant and have a marginal impact on readers, they recognised a “one- or two-place change can be important to the institutions involved”.

Travel down the quixotic road of rankings continues…

THE World Reputation Rankings

MINES International Professional Ranking of HEIs

US News and World Report