Rankings do not say everything about the quality of universities

Rankings do not say everything about the quality of universities

. A setback for those who value university rankings: Dutch universities are “stagnant” in a list of 2,000 institutions published on Monday.

Despite the rise of six universities out of 14, one is still stagnant and seven are declining, in a ranking Center for World University Rankings (CWUR). This is mainly due to a decrease in measured educational achievements. The University of Utrecht comes first (72nd), followed by the University of Amsterdam (80th).

The annual list of CWUR, an organization based in the UAE, is one of the least known global rankings of universities. Notable among them are the QS Ranking, Times Higher Education Ranking, Shanghai Ranking, and CWUR List Based on Information from public sources, including employment and graduate scholarships.

Universities use such lists For its reputation and publicity When they score well – to attract students and teachers. recently revealed De Volkskrant That Saudi King Saud University is making lucrative offers to scholars for higher scores in the prestigious Shanghai Ranking.

Not only the Netherlands is under pressure in the new assessment by CWUR, all of Europe and the United States are “struggling” with strong, well-funded competition, especially from China. Roughly eighty percent of American universities fall behind, although the top ten remains entirely Anglo-Saxon, with Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Cambridge and Oxford leading. Among the 314 Chinese universities on the list, 69 percent are up.

Independent expert group

Such rankings are controversial because, according to critics, they give a limited and mainly quantitative picture of universities. At the beginning of last year, the Association of Dutch Universities (UNL) decided to commission an independent ‘group of experts’ to investigate its meaning and the way institutions deal with it. The seven-member group’s final advice will be published in June, according to UNL, with a response from the joint institutions.

All of Europe and the United States are “struggling” with strong competition, especially from China

The assessment of the rolls is part of an ongoing ‘recognition and recognition’ program established in 2020 by universities, medical centres, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). In this programme, organizations wish to explore a different, broader method of scientific evaluation. These include an increased focus on quality and less on quantity production, greater recognition of individual achievements (in addition to those in group projects), and the promotion of ‘quality leadership’, accessibility, and transparency (open science). Taken together, this should lead to a “cultural change” in the appreciation of scientific work.

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Not a reliable measure

According to the 2022 Annual Report of ‘Recognition and Values’, the reason for studying the international rankings is the conclusion of an academic working group that the lists ‘are not a reliable measure of quality’, but ‘influence the policy universities play a role in attracting (international) students and scholars . The quantitative nature of the lists “interferes” with the cultural change the program aims to bring about, according to the annual report.

In April last year, the Appreciation Program led to concerned parliamentary questions about its potential negative effects on the international standing of Dutch universities. The Advisory Council on Science, Technology and Innovation (AWTI) told the House of Representatives that these concerns are unfounded and that the Netherlands is an international leader with a different, broader method of scientific assessment.

In an interim recommendation at the end of last year, the panel of experts examining the lists stated that it did not expect the new approach to have a significant impact on the international position of Dutch universities.

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