The Most Powerful Dutch Universities

Dutch newspaper the 'Volkskrant' has published its annual list of the 200 most influential Dutch people. The list portrays the Dutch 'old boys network' that rules the Netherlands through its interpersonal networks and interlocking boards and directorates. Clearly, the strength of weak ties at work; but how are these ties connected to the Dutch universities? Topping the list this year was Alexander Rinnooy Kan, Chairman of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER). His current profile lists chairmanships/memberships of a wide variety of boards and councils, ranging from multinationals to business…Read more …

International Rankings: A Self-fulfilling Nightmare?

In the latest issue of the American Journal of Sociology, Wendy Nelson Espeland (Northwestern University) and Michael Sauder (University of Iowa) present an impressive paper on Rankings and Reactivity: How Public Measures Recreate Social Worlds. The paper shows how the rise of public measures change social behaviour by looking at the law school rankings of the US News and World Report (USNWR). It struck me how many of their findings and arguments can be applied to international rankings as well. In some cases, their arguments might even be stronger for international rankings and…Read more …

Rankings and Policy

Here's a typical example of how international university rankings directly influence university policies. This is a newspaper article about a national university, reported in a major national newspaper somewhere in the world: "The university has started recruiting international undergraduate students in an effort to boost its image on a global scale. About 300 international students from various countries registered at the university here yesterday. The Minister for Higher Education said recruiting international students was to improve its rank in world university rankings, such as the Times Higher Education Supplement’s (THES) World University Rankings."…Read more …

World Class Universities

Robert Birnbaum, professor of higher education at the University of Maryland and author of some very interesting books on higher education (How Colleges Work; Management Fads in Higher Education) has written an interesting (and amusing) article in International Higher Education (the Quarterly of the Center for International Higher Education (CIHE) in Boston College). Birnbaum is worried about the World Class University ranking crisis. Universities around the world are either proclaiming that they have attained or try to achieve this mythical status. But actually, we have no clue what it means. Philip Altbach, leader…Read more …

Blame it on the rankings

Serious critique on rankings and league tables. This time not about the flawed methodologies and inaccuracies in the data collection, but on the detrimental effects of rankings. They 'erode academic vigour' and they 'threaten the country's prosperity'.In the Guardian, Geoffrey Alderman argues that the league tables lead to grade inflation and a lowering of standards in order for universities to appear high in the rankings:"How has British higher education got itself into this mess? Part of the answer lies in the league-table culture that now permeates the sector. The more firsts and upper…Read more …

Higher Education and Statistics

The OECD has issued its latest Factbook. The OECD factbook 2007 contains a large amount of indicators on issues ranging from economics to the environment and from population to health. And of course on higher education. Some time ago I've been critical about the presentation of some of the OECD higher education statistics, but I must admit that they do a great job in collecting them. The OECD is without doubt the best source for cross-national statistics in the fields of higher education and science & innovation.But of course you can do a…Read more …

QS and Flawed Rankings

It's a fact! Rankings are getting more and more important. In a recent article in Inside Higher-ed I found out that they are even explicitly included in the performance criteria for some university presidents. In this case it was the Arizona State University president who would get an extra 60,000 US$ bonus if his university would improve its ranking in the U.S. News & World Report. But in the US, resistance against this ranking is gradually growing. For the rest of the world it is probably the ranking of the Times Higher Education…Read more …

Ivy League CEOs

The blog of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) has a post that plugs into an earlier article from Time: "Where the Fortune 50 CEOs Went to College". Here it was concluded that an elite career doesn’t always stem from an elite education.CCAP conducted a deeper study of this topic. They tracked down the CEOs for the top 100 Fortune companies for the years 2006, 1980 and 1955. Together, this represents roughly three different generations of business leaders. From there, they researched where these CEOs completed their undergraduate and graduate work,…Read more …

The Ivy League Liga: Round 2

2006 has been somewhat of a revolutionary year for German higher education. The system where all universities were considered of equal quality and therefore were subjected to equal treatment by the government, experienced quite a stir.German Minister of Research and Education Annette Schavan announced in October last year that the Ludwig-Maximilian University (Munchen) and the Technical University of Munchen and the University of Karlsruhe became Germany's first 'elite universities'. The three institutions are the biggest winners in Germany's 'excellence initiative'. This was established to improve the country's chronically under-funded universities (and its decreasing…Read more …

Prestigious Universities & Quality Education

Harvard, Princeton, London School of Economics. Prestigious universities with reputable academics and therefore a popular destination for students seeking high quality education. These universities score high on most rankings both internationally (THES rankings or the Shanghai Jiao Tong World Universities Ranking) and domestic (US News & World Report in the US and the Good Universities Guide in the UK). But... does that mean that students will get their high quality education?The cover of Time (USA) and an op-ed piece for the Times Higher Education Supplement (UK) by Erik Ringmar seem to question this.…Read more …

Multidimensional Carnegie Classification

Today, the The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has presented its new classification of U.S. colleges and universities. The main differences at the research-end is a change from two types of research universities (intensive and extensive) to three types:Research Universities (very high research activity) Research Universities (high research activity) Doctoral/Research UniversitiesOther changes in the classification are discussed here at Inside HigherEd and in this pdf-document of the Foundation. According to Carnegie President Lee S. Shulman, the classification has become more multidimensional as a response to the increasingly complex higher education sector:"The…Read more …

Rank the Rankings

University Rankings are popular. And some of them are quite influential, even though their methodologies leave a lot to be desired. A good example of this influence is for instance the fact that in Malaysia, Ministers and even the Prime Minister have reacted to the Times Higher Education Supplement ranking of universities (very well reported on in this blog, here and here and here, and many more posts)The Education Policy Institute now has a report on these league tables (a sort of ranking of rankings). Surprisingly (or not?), they point to the German…Read more …

Globalisation: 99 Definitions & Perspectives

While I was looking for a file in my computer I stumbled upon an old document. It's a file with a list of different perspectives and definitions of globalisation that I assembled for my doctoral research some years ago. I thought it might be of useful for students and scholars that are trying to grasp the possible meanings of the term. It is a list of 99 (give or take a few) views from different disciplines and different sectors. Most are from academics, ranging from anthropologists to economists and from philosophers to business…Read more …

THES leak

The official top 200 of the world's universities (according to the Times Higher Education Supplement) will be published tomorrow. But a privileged copy is already available at this blog. For an analysis of the new list, have a look at this weblog.My observations? My current university (University of Sydney) ranked 38th, slightly up from last years position of 40th. Australia ranked third in terms of the amount of universities in the top 200 with 17 universities. Not surprisingly, the US and the UK ranked 1st and 2nd.My 'other' home country the Netherlands ranked…Read more …

Knowledge production shifts

I know. A lot can be said against the use of university rankings and even more against their methodologies. That said….the Times Higher education Supplement published their annual ranking of technology universities and institutions last Friday. The ranking is based on peer review assessment and on the number of citations per paper. They created 3 lists: one for technology universities, one for non-university institutions in science and one for non-university institutions in technology. Below are some of the results. In my view there are two important observations:- The stable high positions of Asian…Read more …