Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Corruption and the Rankings?

One of the more interesting things about the publication of the QS and Times Higher Education world rankings is the reaction of university heads to minor rises or falls. Often they -- or their advisors --  display a thorough ignorance of basic procedures which are explained quite clearly by the rankers.

The Director of the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur, Indranil Manna, is reported to have said 

' “The standard of teaching, research and job placement are not the criteria for the ranking instead it is based on the paying capabilities of the institutions. An amount of one lakh and fifty thousand dollars needs to be paid to get a good ranking in such lists,” he claimed.
“These global rankings are more of a business rather than based on academic performance of institutions,” he said.'


"On IIT-Kanpur ranking at 295 in the 'QS World University Rankings', Manna said the institute was placed on the position based on old information provided on the its website.
“The ranking should have been after a team would have come to IIT-Kanpur and seen how the institute works. There have been so many students of IIT-Kanpur who have achieved so much on the world stage,” he said."

The Director should know that QS does not directly measure the standard of teaching or job placement and makes no claim to do so. Research, however, is measured by a reputation survey and by citations per faculty. Neither of these are very satisfactory but they are certainly criteria for the ranking. As for QS using old information from the IIT website, that is the Institute's fault for not keeping its site up to date, not QS's.

I am not a fan of QS but the claim about paying one and a half lakh dollars for a good ranking is way over the top and I suspect in a few days there will be a statement about a misunderstanding by a junior reporter.

I have a feeling that the Director has been getting mixed up with the QS Stars program.

What should be really frightening to Indian educators and students  is that the Director is apparently on a five member.committee appointed to "understand the methodology of the ranking agencies".

Not a very good start.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Reactions to the QS Rankings

Once again the publication of the QS rankings has led to a mixed chorus of triumph, lamentation and soul searching. In most cases there is a plea for more money to prevent national champions from falling further or to maintain their high position. Some commentators offered implausible reasons for changes, although I suspect that in some cases, ascent or descent may be due at least in part to the academic and employer surveys.

Richard Adams of the Guardian reported that:

"Cambridge has slipped down an authoritative list of international university rankings in a league table of top universities published on Tuesday.

It was ousted from second place in the QS World University Rankings by Harvard University; both were behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the list of the world's leading universities."

He reports that:

'John O'Leary, member of the QS global academic advisory board, said: "The UK invests below the OECD average in higher education, so it is unrealistic to expect its universities to continue to punch above their weight indefinitely.

"The current success of leading institutions shows how vital it is that the government matches the investments being made by other countries in order to maintain their world-class status." '

The Philippine Daily Inquirer noted:

"The country’s leading universities remain highly regarded in international academic circles, but most of them slipped in the latest ranking of the world’s top 800 universities by the ratings firm Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).

The University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and the University of Santo Tomas dropped in the 2013 QS World University Rankings, while De La Salle University maintained its place from last year. "

According to the Beirut Daily Star, cited in edarabia:

"Of the 11 Middle Eastern institutions on the list, the American University in Cairo was the only one to make an improvement from last year’s listing, jumping from 392nd to 348th.

AUB held steady at 250th in the world, while universities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar precipitously fell from their spots at the middle and bottom of the international listing.

The reason for the decline was due to years’ worth of political instability and unrest, a researcher at the group said.

“Middle Eastern institutions are producing less widely cited research than in previous years, which may be related to unrest in the region,” said Ben Sowter, a researcher with the ranking organization."

This is not very plausible. If a university produces less research in 2012, that will probably mean that publication will start to decline two years later and citations in another two years and that will not have an impact on the rankings until 2016 or 2017. If the short-lived Arab spring had any effect on university rankings, it was probably more likely because of its impact on international perceptions reflected in the academic and employer surveys. Notice that universities in politically stable Arab countries fell while the American University in Cairo rose.

Meanwhile, Lucy Townend from the Manawatu Standard in New Zealand reports that:

"New Zealand universities' slide down world rankings has tertiary education leaders uneasy - saying Government investment in the sector is falling short of what's needed for them to keep up.
But Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce refutes any funding shortfalls, and says the rankings reflect the increased competitiveness of the international university market. "

heraldscotland proclaims that:

"SCOTLAND has three universities ranked in the top 100 in the world, according to a new international league table.
The top Scottish institution is Edinburgh, which came 17th overall and fifth in the UK after climbing four places from last year.
The second ranked institution was Glasgow University, which came 51st after a rise of three places.
St Andrews took 83rd place after climbing 10 places in the rankings."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The QS Rankings

The QS World University Rankings top 200 have just been published. The top 800 will be released later today.

The top ten are:

1.  MIT
2.  Harvard
3.  Cambridge
4.  University College London
5.  Imperial College London
6.  Oxford
7.  Stanford
8. Yale
9. Chicago
10. Caltech