Prejudicial enquiries

March 22, 2012

You say that the Academic Reputation Survey is based on the "considered, expert judgement of senior, published academics" ("Informed opinion at the heart of the matter", Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings' supplement, 15 March). But Malcolm Gladwell, quoted in the same article, is probably correct when he observes that such an exercise is more likely to be a survey of prejudices.

In my university, periodic course reviews require a group of knowledgeable people to spend several days studying documents and interviewing staff and students before coming to a conclusion about the quality of a single course. It is hard to see how the majority of your respondents can have worthwhile insights about whole institutions - or even about teaching in a broad disciplinary field within them - when they may be thousands of miles away, with their primary academic experience gained in a quite different university culture.

Paul Temple, Co-director, Centre for Higher Education Studies, Institute of Education, University of London

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