GERMANY: Ranking on the basis of teaching

An online site that allows students to rate the teaching performance of their university lecturers has come up with a ranking of 110 German higher education institutions based on more than 250,000 entries the site has received since it was introduced in 2005. has been given a mixed reception by the academic community but appears to have survived its baptism of fire quite well – despite an enraged lecturer taking court action last summer after being described as a psychopath and his lectures as “the pits”.

Germany’s Fachhochschulen, or universities of applied sciences, do particularly well in the MeinProf ranking, with Aschaffenburg Fachhochschule topping the list. Aschaffenburg also did well in the prestigious Gütersloh-based Centre of Higher Education ranking exercise.

That the Fachhochschulen should score good results is not surprising, given that they were conceived with an emphasis on smaller learning groups and more tightly structured curricula.

But the relatively poor positions attained by well established traditional universities such as Heidelberg (17), Munich (22) and Karlsruhe (71) is noteworthy. What could be reflected is that these institutions, among them some that did particularly well in a recent federal government ranking exercise to earmark institutions for extra funding, can boast top marks in research in some fields while other subjects they teach suffer from overcrowding.

The MeinProf ranking was based on more than 250,000 entries received for 63,000 lectures and 32,000 lecturers. Only those institutions with at least 1,000 entries for their lectures were selected. Criteria for lectures included that the subject matter was easy to understand, there was a fun factor in learning, and availability of material and equipment.

MeinProf was set up by five members of the student IT Consultancy Juniter, itself a member of the student business consultancy Company Consulting Team (CCT) in Berlin. CCT is an initiative launched by a working group of economics engineers at Berlin Technical University.

By the time last summer that a lecturer took legal action for being assessed as a “psychopath” whose lectures were “the pits”, MyProf had already gained so much popularity among students that many of them pledged to chip in to cover its legal expenses.

In the end, the plaintiff failed to press for a declaration of discontinuance, with the judge ruling that lecturers also had to face up to being criticised in public, and that MyProf was not obliged to check site entries in advance.

In contrast, the University of Jena is obviously pleased with its good performance, having scored 9th position. Its rector, Professor Klaus Dicke, stressed that Jena had traditionally been able to boast exceptionally good facilities for students in the natural sciences and medicine.

“The ranking results clearly demonstrate that this also applies to the arts and to social sciences nowadays,” he said.