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Online programmes and green campuses: What next?

While many long-standing rankings have already become an established part of the higher education landscape, different kinds of activities are being explored for ever more ranking exercises. For example, U.S. News & World Report is now focused on online learning, and in January published its first-ever guide to online degree programmes in five different disciplines: business, nursing, education, engineering and computer information technology. Unlike the magazine's well-known annual rankings of residential colleges, U.S. News produced “honour rolls” highlighting colleges that consistently performed well across the ranking criteria, such as student services, student engagement and faculty credentials for colleges with bachelor's programmes, plus admissions selectivity for programmes at the master's level. The innovations introduced by this new ranking exercise were appreciated by some, however, U.S. News was particularly criticised for having developed the exact ranking methodology only after the survey data were collected. 

The purposes for ranking are also diversifying. In Indonesia, for example, efforts have been made to rank universities worldwide based on the current conditions and policies that relate to green campus initiatives and sustainability. The aim is to draw the attention of university leaders and stakeholders to combating global climate change, as well as encouraging energy and water conservation, waste recycling, and green transportation. Thousands of universities around the world were invited to take part in this ranking exercise by Universitas Indonesia. The institutions were asked to provide data on a set of criteria, such as the size of the university, the campus location and the amount of green space; energy use, transportation issues, water use, recycling and waste treatment, as well as the steps taken towards establishing green policies and sustainability management. Overall, 178 universities have been ranked according to “a single score that reflects the efforts being made by the institution to implement environmentally friendly and sustainable policies and programmes”. Despite its important purpose, issues of data collection and methodology represent two major challenges facing the rankers. 

U.S. News UI GreenMetric World University Ranking