Asia adds new perspective to survey

Region accounts for a third of responses informing revamped THE World University Rankings. Phil Baty reports

May 10, 2010

Almost a third of responses to the worldwide academic opinion survey that will inform the 2010 Times Higher Education World University Rankings have come from Asia, it was revealed this week.

Research analysis firm Thomson Reuters, which is supplying all the data for the 2010 world university rankings, announced that it had received an “overwhelming number” of responses to its first academic reputation survey.

Although it did not disclose detailed figures, the company said that responses had been collected from “every corner of the world” and that it had achieved “an excellent breadth of results across different subject areas”.

“Thousands of responses were received in six subject areas: engineering and technology; physical sciences; life sciences; clinical, pre-clinical and health; social sciences; and arts and humanities,” the company said. “Nearly one-third of these responses came from Asia, including strong representation from China and Japan.”

The survey represents the biggest and most ambitious project to measure universities’ academic reputation ever undertaken for the THE world rankings.

THE announced in November last year that it had ended its partnership with the data company QS, which supplied and analysed the data for the rankings from 2004 to 2009.

The magazine is no longer using its old rankings methodology and is instead developing a new, more rigorous and transparent one in consultation with Thomson Reuters, its academic board and its readers.

The reputation survey was the most heavily criticised element of the old rankings. In the previous THE-QS methodology, its results were worth 40 per cent of an institution’s overall score, but the response rates were small. In 2009, about 3,500 people responded, added to responses in 2007 and 2008 to give a total sample size of 9,386.

International response rates were also low. In 2008, just 236 responses were collected from India, 228 from Indonesia, 201 from the Philippines, 180 from Malaysia and only 116 from China.

Ann Mroz, editor of Times Higher Education, said: “This new survey is much bigger and more sophisticated than any survey carried out for our world rankings in the past.”

For the revamped 2010 survey, academics around the world were carefully selected to take part in the invitation-only survey. The pool of academic participants was drawn largely from Thomson Reuters’ internal databases. Those who were invited to take part were chosen to ensure a statistically representative picture of the global academic workforce and balanced coverage by discipline.

The survey’s regional circulation followed the United Nations’ percentage estimates of academic researchers by geographical region.

In a major new development, the survey has been gathering opinions on the standards of both research and teaching, raising the prospect of the first worldwide reputation-based measure of teaching quality in higher education.

The new survey was issued in seven languages: Japanese, Chinese, German, Spanish, European Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese and English.

Jonathan Adams, director of research evaluation at Thomson Reuters, said: “We’re particularly pleased with the number of responses from the Asia-Pacific region.

“As other surveys have been criticised for over-representing North America and Europe, we took particular care to better balance regional representation.”

He went on: “Interestingly, country affiliation did not always predict language usage. For example, many US-based participants took the survey in Chinese – illustrating a highly mobile global academic community.”

Thomson Reuters said it would continue to analyse and release detailed results of the academic reputation survey in the coming months.

BLOB For more information on Thomson Reuters’ Global Institutional Profiles Project, visit:

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