Issue No:0005 11 November 2007
HE Events Diary

University World News is the first high quality, truly international newspaper dedicated to providing news, features and commentary on higher education issues around the globe. Our network of dozens of correspondents include many of the world's most experienced higher education journalists.

University rankings – in this edition, University World News correspondents and contributors report on the latest rankings and examine their impact on universities.

THES-QS Top 10

1 - Harvard (US)
2 - Cambridge (UK)
3 - Oxford (UK)
4 - Yale (US)
5 - Imperial (UK)
6 - Princeton (US)
7 - Caltech (US)
7 - Chicago (US)
9 - UCL (UK)
10 - MIT (US)

Thanks for your body, here's the bill! See our Uni-Lateral section to find out how a French woman was shocked to be charged for donating her body to science.

SPECIAL REPORT: University rankings

Last week, the Times Higher Education Supplement published its annual top 200 university rankings while Shanghai Jiao Tong University released its top 500 listing in August. League tables of universities have become more numerous and influential as the years go by, yet cross-country and national comparisons between institutions are more controversial than ever.

In this issue of World University News we have an exclusive account of an OECD report that reveals the huge impact rankings are having on universities around the world. We also look at the THES’s own response to criticisms of its methodology, and at reactions to rankings in different countries.

In our features section, Ireland’s Professor Ellen Hazelkorn writes about the OECD report she prepared while Australian academics Paul Taylor and Richard Braddock comment on the two main international rankings and suggest how an ideal system might look. As well, the University of Melbourne’s Simon Marginson describes how rankings capture public attention and shape the behaviour of universities and policy-makers.

OECD: Worldwide ‘obsession’ with league tables
John Walshe
Higher education institutions worldwide are much more concerned about league tables and ranking systems than expected, an OECD investigation has found. “There appears to be a near obsession with the status and trajectory of the top 100,” a report of the investigation states. This despite the fact that there are 17,000 higher education institutions around the globe.
Full report on the University World News site

UK: Few surprises in new THES rankings
Diane Spencer
Higher education institutions in the United Kingdom and the United States again dominate this year’s university world rankings compiled by the Times Higher Education Supplement and publisher QS. Once again Harvard, Oxbridge and Yale top the list.
Full report on the University World News Website

SOUTH AFRICA: Universities set priorities for research
Karen MacGregor
South Africa is among three dozen countries that make it into the top 500 of world university rankings. Unable to compete against the best on Earth across all fields, some local universities are building excellence in a few disciplines where they are able to shine internationally – and thereby attract top researchers and students.
Full report on the University World News site

GERMANY: Ranking universities on teaching
Michael Gardner
An online site that allows students to rate the teaching performance of their university lecturers has come up with a ranking of German higher education institutions based on more than 250,000 entries the site has received since it was introduced in 2005.
Full report on the University World News site

FRANCE: International rankings – must do better
Jane Marshall
France’s higher education and research community greets the publication of successive international academic rankings with a mixture of gloom, indignation and soul-searching, as it sees its universities and elite schools languishing in the middle and lower places – if they appear at all.
Full report on the University World News site

JAPAN: Japan aims for 30 ‘world class’ universities
Charles Jannuzi
Japan’s government is pushing for consolidation and revitalisation of the university system. Of the country’s hundreds of universities, 30 are supposed to emerge through competition as truly ‘world class’ institutions, including five that should attain a top 30 global ranking. And at the pinnacle of this ‘super group’, one university must make it into the global top 10.
Full report on the University World News site

NEWS: Our journalists worldwide report

AUSTRALIA: Resources boom outruns graduate supply
Geoff Maslen
Booming economies around the world are experiencing a desperate shortage of skilled workers. Australia is in a worse position than most because of government failure to provide sufficient university places, according to a report available today exclusively for University World News.
Full story on the University World News website

GREECE: Education funding reduced despite GNP rise
Makki Marseilles
With only a 6% increase in next year’s budget, which the Greek Chancellor will table in Parliament this month, education is once again treated as a poor relation compared with hefty increases for defence (8.3%), health (9.4%) and public order (8.7%).
Full report on the University World News site

EU: European court declares grant rules illegal
Keith Nuthall
The European Court of Justice has declared illegal rules that insist European Union students wanting to study in a foreign EU state must continue a course subject they have already begun in their home country – if they want to receive a grant from the government of the country where they normally live.
Full report on the University World News site

RUSSIA: British Council staff to be evicted
Helen Womack
In what appears to be an escalation of the row between Russia and Britain, Russia has told the British Council that its staff can no longer work on diplomatic premises. Under a 1994 agreement, the UK government-funded council’s mandate is to promote educational, cultural and scientific exchanges.
Full report on the University World News site

FEATURES: Rankings analysis

OECD: Consumer concept becomes a policy instrument
Ellen Hazelkorn
Few people in higher education today are unaware of university rankings. Criticised and lampooned by many, their increasing popularity and notoriety is a reflection of the absence of publically available ‘consumer’ information for students, parents and other stakeholders about higher education institutions.
Professor Hazelkorn comments on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Jiao Tong superior but not ideal
Paul Taylor and Richard Braddock
The Jiao Tong system has to be judged clearly superior to the THES system. In emphasising research it focuses on one of the essential functions of a university and, in contrast to the THES, which gives great weight to peer review, Jiao Tong is concerned with genuine criteria rather than mere symptoms of excellence; it also aims to confine itself to relatively objective criteria indicating demonstrable and measurable differences between universities.
Extract of the Taylor-Braddock paper on the University World News site

AUSTRALIA: Rankings – Where to from here?
Simon Marginson
University rankings are powerful. They compel public attention and shape the behaviour of universities and policy makers. Two decades of the annual US News and World Report rankings have closely influenced American practice. Institutions feel compelled to lift their US News position and this has encouraged, for example, the manipulation of student entry to maximise student scores and refusal rates, and the growth of merit-based student aid at the expense of needs-based aid.
Extract of Marginson’s paper on the University World News site

CHINA: Rankings – Methodologies and Problems
NC Liu and Y Cheng
The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), produced by the Institute of Higher Education at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, has garnered much attention and generated its share controversy. In a paper, “Academic Ranking of World Universities – Methodologies and Problems”, the authors, who are part of the ranking group, explain how ARWU actually ranks institutions for research and academic achievement, and address some of the methodological and technical problems that arise in ranking universities.
Liu and Cheng paper on the ARWU site

UK: Academics call for rankings to be abandoned
In July this year a peer-reviewed scholarly article in the open access journal, BMC Medicine, took a critical look at the most popular world university rankings. The authors, academics based in Greece and the United States, assessed the validity of the two systems and their ranking criteria. They concluded that institutional rankings are misleading and should be abandoned.
Full article on the BMC Medicine site

INTERNATIONAL: More on rankings
The August 2007 Academic Ranking of World Universities, produced by the Institute of Education at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, is available on the institution’s website.
Academic Ranking of World Universities
Wapedia provides a page of links to university and college ranking exercises around the world.
Links on the Wapedia site
In June, reported growing momentum among colleges against participating in some or all portions of the US News and World Report rankings survey. Most of 80 liberal arts college presidents attending an annual meeting of the Annapolis Group stated their intention not to supply statistical data to US News for its survey.
Full report on the site


FRANCE: Linguist to lead francophone agency
Jane Marshall
Bernard Cerquiglini, 60, a professor of linguistics attached to the University of Paris-7, Denis-Diderot, is the new head of the French-speaking University Agency. The agency supports and finances a network of more than 650 international universities and research centres with French-language departments.
Full report on the University World News site


FRANCE: University illegally charges for body donations
Jane Marshall
A French woman who decided to leave her body to medical research was astounded when told by a Paris university that she would have to pay for the privilege
Full report on the University World News site

EUROPE: Hazards of studying abroad
Absent teachers and non-existent courses in Italy, student protests in France that close universities for months, overcrowded courses in Germany, a professor taking bribes for marks in Lithuania and p rostitution to pay for studies in England: these are some experiences of students studying abroad reported by Café Babel in an investigation into “bad universities” in the European Union.
Full report on the Café Babel site


CANADA: Maclean’s new rankings published
Maclean’s magazine has just published its 17th annual ranking of academic excellence at universities around Canada. The aim is “to provide basic, essential information in a comprehensive package to help students choose the university that best suits their needs”. Victoria moved to first place this year from third in 2006. Simon Fraser moved up two spots to second, Waterloo fell one place to third and last year’s top-ranked university, Guelph, came in fourth.
Reports on the Maclean’s site

UK: Bibliometrics could distort assessment
The use of bibliometrics – the number of research papers published and how often they are cited – could end up skewing the data used to judge research quality, an influential report by the vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK has warned. According to Education Guardian, bibliometrics is expected to be central to judging research quality in the UK research assessment exercise in future.
Full report on the Education Guardian site

UAE: More money for education than arms
For the first time in their history, the rich countries of the Arab Gulf are setting aside more money for education than for arms, reports Reuters. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia alone are planning to spend more than $22 billion on ambitious projects to close the knowledge gap with the West, and the other countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council are also spending sizeable sums on education, highlighting a quiet revolution in an area once described as a ‘scientific desert’.
Full report on the Reuters site

VENEZUELA: Gunfire erupts at university
Masked gunmen opened fire on students returning from a march in which tens of thousands of Venezuelans denounced President Hugo Chavez’s attempts to expand his power through constitutional changes, Associated Press reports. Officials said at least eight people were injured, including one by gunfire, at the Central University of Venezuela, the country's largest university. Students protested in at least six other cities, and several turned violent with rock-throwing youths clashing with police shooting plastic bullets at demonstrators.
Full report on the Associated Press site

US: Sending in the class monitor
A professor’s alleged remarks in September set off an investigation at Brandeis University that has left some faculty members sceptical, students divided and the class itself monitored – for the time being – by an administrator, reports Inside Higher Ed. The controversy began in a class on Latin American politics and involves a single words whose connotations have historically caused pain to Mexican Americans: ‘wetback’. But Professor Donald Hindley says the word came during an historical discussion about racism against immigrants.
Full report on the Inside Higher Ed site

MALAYSIA: ‘Apex’ university plan queried
A government plan to designate one or two Malaysian universities as world-class 'apex' institutions recently came under heavy criticism from MPs for being elitist and unattainable, reports The Star Online.
Full report on the Star Online website

INDIA: Summit on global education
The Higher Education Summit 2007, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, was held last week, reports The Times of India. Delegates discussed a range of issues related to Indian higher education including changing agendas, creating an inclusive system, reform, attracting private investment and ensuring quality in distance education.
Full report on The Times of India site
Copyright University World News 2007