New global university ranking launched – U-Multirank

The latest major global university ranking, U-Multirank, was launched in Brussels earlier this month. With more than 850 higher education institutions of various types from 70 countries compared over 30 indicators – and 5,000 study programmes and 60,000 students surveyed – Europe’s answer to the ‘big three’ rankings says it is also the world’s biggest.

U-Multirank stresses that it is not a typical ranking.

It takes a user-driven, multi-dimensional approach comparing different kinds of institutions across a range of activities and grading them from A for ‘very good’ to E for ‘weak’, rather than producing a global top 100 universities based on composite scores.

Users are encouraged to produce their own rankings, but U-Multirank also generated three ‘readymade’ rankings to illustrate its work in the areas of research, economic involvement and business studies programmes – one of four fields studied in the first ranking exercise.

The first U-Multirank results show that while over 95% of participating institutions achieved an A on at least one measure, only 12% scored a broad range of very good performances – more than 10 A scores. This, it says, has not been shown before in any international ranking.

Something different

“We wanted to try to develop something which is clearly different from existing rankings,” says Professor Frans van Vught of the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies at the University of Twente in The Netherlands.

This was “because of all the criticisms of rankings – particularly league table rankings, which are largely one dimensional and basically focus only on research performance”, he told University World News.

U-Multirank – which is supported by €2 million (US$2.7 million) in seed funding from the European Union from 2013-15 – is led by a consortium headed by Van Vught and Professor Frank Ziegele of the Centre for Higher Education in Germany.

Other partner organisations include the Centre for Science and Technology Studies from Leiden University, Catholic University Leuven, academic publisher Elsevier, the Bertelsmann Foundation, student advice organisation Push and software firm Folge 3.

“The thing we tried to do is develop a tool that is multi-dimensional on the one hand, and not only addresses research performance but also teaching and learning, knowledge transfer, internationalisation and regional engagement.

“So we have a multiple set of dimensions that we look at,” says Van Vught, adding that within the research ‘dimension’ U-Multirank also used new indicators that offered new insights into research performance.

“We also wanted not only to look at institutional performance of the university as a whole but also at the level of fields and disciplines, and study programmes particularly. We’ve looked at four different study programmes and we hope to expand the number over the years.”

This year the fields are business studies, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and physics, and next year psychology, computer science and medicine will be added.

“The approach is also different because it is user-driven. We have a very large number of indicators over those five different dimensions, 30 indicators in total, and these indicators are on a web tool and are available for individual users whoever they are.”

U-Multirank is the first to feature all types of higher education institutions, in order to reflect a diversity of institutions. It includes internationally oriented research universities as well as specialist colleges, regionally orientated institutions and universities of applied sciences.

This, it says, allows users to compare ‘like with like’ across the five dimensions.

Readymade rankings

Among the three ‘readymade’ lists, the Research and Research Linkages ranking most closely mirrors the other three big global rankings in terms of which institutions received A scores – China’s Academic Ranking of World Universities and the Times Higher Education and QS rankings.

It measures research through citation rate, research publications in absolute numbers and ‘size-normalised’ and top cited papers, knowledge transfer through co-publications with industrial partners, international joint publications and regional joint publications.

While the ‘readymade’ lists are not ordinal and each institution is scored on individual indicators, Van Vught says that many of the universities with top scores are the same as those that appear in global league tables – the “usual suspects”, though not in the usual order.

Among the universities that score an ‘A’ for citations and are thus clustered at the ‘top’ of the Research and Research Linkages list are America’s University of California Santa Cruz, Germany’s University of Siegen, America’s MIT, Princeton, University of California Berkeley, Stanford, Chicago, Caltech and Harvard, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The Economic Involvement Ranking measures knowledge transfer and regional engagement through aspects such as co-publication with industrial partners, income from private sources, patents awarded, spin-offs, publications cited in patents, income from professional courses, graduates working in and student internships in the region, and regional joint publication.

Institutions in France, Austria, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Czech and Iceland scored well on measures such as knowledge transfer, including France’s Télécom ParisTech, Austria’s UAS Wiener Neustadt, Sweden’s Lulea University of Technology and Chalmers University of Technology, UAS Osnabrück in Germany, Yokohama National University in Japan, Czech University of West Bohemia, Reykjavik University in Iceland, Japan’s Waseda University and ParisTech.

The Business Studies Programmes Ranking measures teaching and learning through factors such as masters students graduating on time, academic staff with PhDs, masters students’ contact with the work environment and a student survey, and international orientation in terms of the programmes and study abroad opportunities.

Institutions appearing on this list include American David Livingston University of Florida, Germany’s WHU School of Management, Dartmouth College in the US, Zeppelin University in Germany, HEC Paris and ESSEC Business School in Cergy in France, Germany’s EBS University Wiesbaden, the University of Trento in Italy, Reutlingen University in Germany, and the Academy of Business in Dabrowa Górnicza in Poland.

The data

U-Multirank surveyed more than 850 higher education institutions, more than 1,000 faculties and 5,000 study programmes from 70 countries. Students and other stakeholders played a major role, it says, and the ranking has been tested by student organisations.

The information it used was drawn from several sources – data supplied by institutions, data from international bibliometric and patent databases, and surveys of more than 60,000 students at the participating universities.