New rules for Times university rankings

I think academics all know about this already, but I wonder do the policy makers?

I have no idea if Irish universities are going to do better or worse this autumn, but if they do worse, then people will need to remember that the ranking procedure has changed.

10 thoughts on “New rules for Times university rankings”

  1. @ Kevin
    Our Lords and Masters in UCD like to cite the Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings because the heavy bias in favour of Science and Technology. I reckon our Government masters like it also because it reflects their preferences too. As for Trinity, the Shanghai Jiao Tong index gives brownie points for Nobel Laureates (even dead ones!), so there is something in it for you guys as well.

    I think that Trinity might suffer if the THES reduces the subjective/reputational component from 40% to 20%. Trinity (aka the University of Dublin) has a much more prestigious-sounding title than UCDD (stet).

    We warn our First Year students that GDP is not a measure of welfare. Maybe someone should warn policy-makers about the subjective and arbitrary nature of rankings. Clearly if the THES changes the weightings, then the statement that some institutions may “improve” or “disimprove” is totally meaningless. Only if the criteria are stable can changes in ranking mean anything

    Question: how many universities worldwide have aspirations or even official goals as per their strategic plans to be in the top 100 of one of these rankings? At a rough guess I would say well over 1,000. So there are going to be a lot of “failures” around.

  2. @ JS

    Its not just the ranking but the cost of the ranking in cost per institution, or extra effort/cost in the attempt to reach the ranking.

    Tis grand spending others money!

  3. “if they do worse, then people will need to remember that the ranking procedure has changed.”

    But not if they do better?!

  4. @James Conran
    Your ask “if they do worse, then people will need to remember that the ranking procedure has changed.”
    But not if they do better?!”

    Yes of course, the argument holds either way, and I never intended to imply that it didn’t.

    It strikes me that Goodhart’s Law is relevant here: once Universities change their behaviour in pursuit of higher rankings, the meaning of the ranking changes.

  5. What can Trinity realistically expect given its funding is under so much pressure?

    “big names with big reputations that lack world-class research output and influence to match will suffer in comparison with previous exercises. Conversely, unsung heroes have a better chance of recognition.”

  6. Sounds like a move in the right direction by the THES.

    @Den
    TCD has gone from 87th place in 2004 to 43rd in 2009.
    UCD has made equally impressive strides.

    I somehow doubt there was a major shift in the reputation of either university during this time.

    Every major ranking places TCD ahead of UCD. I’m skeptical that UCD will overtake TCD.

    Both are fine institutions and I sincerely hope all Irish universities benefit from this new change. Rankings are somewhat important for attracting foreign talent to a country.

  7. @John sheehan

    If these ranking were as good at measuring quality as GDP is at measuring welfare I think they would be a very useful guide

  8. Only morons think these rankings are of any consequence. We might as well be talking about the “best person” rankings.

  9. @Ernie Ball

    Only morons think these rankings are of any consequence. We might as well be talking about the “best person” rankings.

    Indeed. Do these vanity contests confuse cause and effect? It is no coincidence surely that the leading performers are in countries with established trading and manufacturing traditions. Wealthy countries do better. The argument that they are important to foreign investment seems tenuous at best – at worst it is propaganda deployed to soak up even more public funding. Ireland attracted buckets of FDI all through the 80s without so much as a mumour about university rankings. It was and is still down to tax incentives. Multinationals investing in SE Asia, do they reach for a table of university rankings when deciding where to go?

Comments are closed.