German rectors rate their rankings

May 21, 2004

German university rectors are confident that the interactive rankings produced by the national weekly magazine Stern offer a better model than counterparts in the UK and the US.

League tables are compiled by the German Centre for Higher Education Development and published by the CHE and Stern .

Christiane Ebel-Gabriel, spokesperson for the rectors' and university association HRK, said that "different views of quality" were demonstrated in the CHE/ Stern ranking, helping the student as consumer to "learn how to ask questions" about their prospective courses.

The annual ranking is available online as a search tool that provides a qualitative assessment of individual disciplines according to student and staff opinions, duration of studies, failure rates and links to industry, among other criteria.

"The ranking results promote the decision-making process," Ms Ebel-Gabriel told The Times Higher . "Most German universities are already trying to create certain profiles based on their strengths."

She added that although the Stern rankings were good, "no one in higher education would be ecstatic about a single ranking system. That's why the HRK supports a variety of listings."

This spring's results for the CHE ranking project had received a lot of very positive coverage in the regional press, said Petra Giebisch, a spokeswoman for the project.

She said that university personnel and administrators fully supported the ranking system as the results had a positive effect on student numbers in faculties that scored well. For example, there is an increased number of applicants in departments judged to offer the best courses in psychology, medicine, pharmacy, biology, veterinary science, biotechnology and chemistry.

All of these subjects are still administered centrally by a national enrolment centre, while the rest of the disciplines have a mostly open-enrolment procedure run by individual institutions.

"But we don't award a 'best place' ranking order. It is about individual values and not about assessing whole universities."


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