THE World University Rankings

February 4, 2010

Why are European taxpayers paying EUR1.1 million (£950,000) for the development of a new set of university performance measures when there are already two "globally recognised" rankings produced by Times Higher Education and Shanghai Jiao Tong University?

This was the question posed by Private Eye last week, highlighting the activities of the European Commission-funded Consortium for Higher Education and Research Performance Assessment (CHERPA).

The project is "most admirable", the satirical magazine commented. "It is, of course, entirely coincidental that the THE consistently ranks American and UK institutions as being the best in the world, while the only European universities ever to feature in the Jiao Tong top 20 are Oxford and Cambridge."

We are slightly less cynical, but Private Eye does make a serious point about the independence of the different rankings systems springing up.

While I am sure CHERPA will strive to be fully independent, it is a group made up exclusively of European universities, and was set up in direct response to Europe's poor showing in the current rankings, so some suspicion is inevitable.

More serious, and entertaining, questions have been asked over other rankings. Russia's RatER raised eyebrows for putting Moscow State University in fifth place, ahead of Harvard and Cambridge, and a ranking from France's Mines ParisTech has been ridiculed for putting five French universities into the top 20.

But these concerns give THE great confidence - as an independent magazine we are free from the influence of any institution or authority.

We are accountable only to our readers - an increasingly international community of thousands of academics and university administrators.

Phil Baty is editor, Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

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