University rankings have been the source of much dispute. Their methodologies, if not their very existence, have been challenged by many, especially by those that come out at the bottom of the table. To counter the loss of international students that base their study decisions on league tables, the French Senate has proposed to develop a European university ranking system as an alternative to the dominant Shanghai ranking
, which "only imperfectly reflects reality". In the 2007 edition of this well-known ranking, the best French institution was ranked 39th (Paris VI). Europe-wide, only Cambridge and Oxford and Oxford made it to the top ten, whereas American institutions were again highly represented among the top 100. The Senate therefore argues that the Shanghai ranking favours Anglophone countries. Valerie Pécresse, the French Minister for Higher Education and Research, will table this issue at a meeting with her European counterparts in November 2008. The Senate’s rapporteur, Joël Bourdin, seems even more eager. Doubting that an EU effort could be launched in the short term, he pushes for France to take the lead and to already create its own ranking system.
As imminent as the implications of the current ranking landscape on student recruitment may be, it would be equally regrettable to see national “à la carte actions” blur the impact of a common European approach. One step in the right direction has already been taken by the CHE Excellence Ranking
(see ACA Newsletter - Education Europe December 2007
), which could lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive supranational approach.
Report by French Senate
CHE Excellence Ranking