I have been visiting professor at the University of Queensland, Australia, several times in the past few years and have taught in different universities in Europe and elsewhere. I simply do not recognise the system in Australia and its "demise" in comparison to European universities as described in Times Higher Education by Horst Albert Glaser, emeritus professor at a German university and a resident of Adelaide, Australia ("Reality bites Down Under", 26 August).
I know that rankings lists such as the THE World University Rankings can be queried, and indeed we know that THE has been re-evaluating its own criteria for compiling these lists. But the fact is that Australia (population just over 20 million) currently holds six slots in the Top 50 of the 2009 rankings, while Germany (population just over 80 million) holds none. And indeed, there are only four universities from other European Union countries in the Top 50 (excluding those from the UK). Australian universities also hold up pretty well on the citations/staff criterion when compared with their peers on the list.
If I were Professor Glaser, I would be more worried about the performance of his home country than that of his adopted country.
Neil Kay, Economics department, University of Strathclyde.