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What’s new in the ranking business?

A number of international and national university rankings were released in the past two months, including Times Higher Education’s (THE) World University (Reputation) Rankings 2012, US News’ 2013 Best Graduate Schools Rankings, and Pakistan’s official national university rankings. The United Nation’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) also released its 2011 rankings of international patent filings by universities and companies around the world. Finally, IREG, the International Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence, has just launched an initiative to create an inventory of national rankings to make information on national-level efforts in this area more publicly accessible.

The THE and US News university rankings have clearly a commercial flavour closely linked to the media industry. Controversies around these rankings may not come as a surprise. It was just as controversial, however, when the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan introduced its own national university rankings by amending the QS world ranking criteria “as per feedback received from the HEIs of the country.” The seemingly refined methodology – which gives, for example, more weight to the number of students enrolled, publications in local journals and funding received from national sources – has aroused heavy criticism by Pakistani institutions for not being in line with “international” standards and practices. Such a criticism may well have been anticipated with the fundamental mismatch of the localised methodology and the international objective of the initiative, which is to “promote a culture among HEIs of Pakistan for participation in the World Rankings.”

The Pakistani HEC’s explicit choice to build its own national ranking off of the QS framework is not a random pick from the basket of global university rankings available today. The fact that QS accepts institutional input in its ranking methodology is a major incentive for the HEC to adapt its methodology, as Pakistani institutions are then “encouraged to submit data for the International QS Ranking”. Rankers may already submit themselves to an international voluntary audit (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, May 2011). However, with the surge of global university rankings and the urge of national governments to push their higher education institutions up the ranking lists, there may soon be a call for a ranking of the rankings, by quality and by reputation, to help national governments make sense of the various ranking exercises “on the market”.

Higher Education Commission, Pakistan Times Higher Education – Top Universities by Reputation 2012  U.S. News – 2013 Best Graduate Schools Rankings World Intellectual Property Organization – Ranking of International Patent Filings  The Observatory of Academic Ranking and Excellence - IREG