North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has declared that Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang must become a world-class institution. No doubt there will be chuckles at Oxford, Anglia Ruskin University, the University of Iceland and the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, but it could be surprisingly easy if being world class means getting a high place in the rankings. After all, there are now quite a few places appearing in the various global and regional tables that would have been just as surprising a few years ago.
First, I should mention that there already is a ranking in which Kim Il-sung University is listed: a ranking of international influence as measured by Google's ranking of search results where the institution is 254th.
Here is my plan for North Korean universities to become world class in just a few years.
1. Offer adjunct professorships to 150 researchers and ask them to put the university as a secondary affiliation. Maybe they can come and visit Pyongyang sometimes, but that is not really necessary. In a little while they will be producing 150 papers or more a year with the university name on, eventually one thousand over a five-year period, which will meet the threshold for inclusion in the Times Higher Education or THE World University Rankings.
2. Make sure that one or two of those adjunct professors are involved in multi-author, multi-cited projects (but make sure there are less than 1,000 authors) with multiple citations. Medicine is probably a better bet than physics at the moment. This will get a good score in the THE citations indicator.
3. Make sure that research funds to the university go through something with the word ‘industry’ in it. That way the university will go to the top of the THE Industry Income: Innovation indicator.
4. Don't forget the other rankings. Give the university a boost in the QS world rankings by drafting lots of research assistants who will count in the student-faculty ratio indicator.
5. Start a branch campus somewhere and get a high score in the international indicators that nearly everybody has nowadays. If the branch is in the United States, go for Princeton Review's top party school.
6. Send a few hundred closely supervised graduate students abroad and tell them they know what to do for the QS reputation survey. When they come back as faculty with a co-authored article or two tell them they know what to do for the THE survey.
7. When Kim Il-sung University is a rising star of the university world, try hosting a summit to rise even higher. Better make sure that hotel is finished though.
Richard Holmes is editor of University Ranking Watch blog. This blog was first published on University Ranking Watch.
N Korean leader says university must be ‘world class’
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