U-Multirank, the EU-funded university ranking tool launched last year, released its edition May 2014
The second edition of U-Multirank is more comprehensive than last year’s, with data from over 1 200 higher education institutions, up from 850 in 2014. It also offers more fields of study across which users may compare universities (psychology, computer science and medicine being the most recent additions). In addition, 17 “readymade rankings” –up from three last year –offer users a quick glimpse on a specific aspect of university performance (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe
edition February 2015).
Yet the ranking tool still shows many of the same problems that plagued its first version. Out of the 1 200 higher education institutions included, ‘only’ 670 “fully participated,”
while the rest of the data was collected from international bibliometric and patent data bases (as well as student surveys). This meant that almost half the universities were excluded from comparison on some of the indicators, i.e. those requiring data supplied by the universities themselves. For better or worse, the fate of U-Multirank will be decided by universities’ willingness to fully take part in it. Until the great majority of higher education institutions can be compared on similar grounds, it is difficult to imagine how the ranking system could provide the full picture it promises. Deterred by concerns about its validity and reliability, as by the amount of work the data collection process requires, many universities are still holding back from participating, waiting for U-Multirank to find its feet. Others may have a different reason to abstain: High achievers in other/”traditional” rankings may be apprehensive of U-Multirank’s ‘relativising’ approach as a threat to their prized status, were the ranking to become widely accepted. For them, the concerns being presently raised about U-Multirank’s validity may provide a good pretext not to nurture what could, in time, turn against them.
Speculations aside, this particular ranking system cannot succeed with only partial support. Will the number of institutions choosing to believe in U-Multirank reach a critical mass this year? And will the ranking system become the independent non-profit organisation it wishes to be, after the European Commission’s funding runs out in 2017? These are questions that only the universities can answer.
U-Multirank press release
L’etudiant.fr (in French)