World in motion: 19 November 2009

November 19, 2009

If there was ever any doubt that world university rankings have become a serious matter for the higher education community, one had only to glance around at the International Conference on World-Class Universities in Shanghai earlier this month.

Among more than 150 delegates, there were representatives from China, Brazil, Russia, India, the UK, the US, Australia and many more. There were vice-chancellors, deans, professors, government advisers and even academics who have made the study of university rankings into a specialist field.

Rankings are no longer just an annual curiosity for students or university marketing departments.

"Preoccupations about university rankings reflect the general recognition that economic growth and global competitiveness are increasingly driven by knowledge," Jamil Salmi, tertiary education co-ordinator at the World Bank, told the conference.

In this context, the news that Times Higher Education has dropped its rankings partnership with QS and is now developing revamped and improved World University Rankings for 2010 was met with much enthusiasm.

The criticism of our old (2004-2009) and now-abandoned methodology was intense. The sternest attacks were reserved for the heavy reliance on a survey of academic opinion - a subjective measure worth 40 per cent of the overall score - especially when the response rate represented only a tiny fraction of the total world academic community.

But there were other concerns, and we are taking them all on board as we develop a new methodology with our new partner Thomson Reuters, our editorial board of experts and you - our readers.

A discussion forum has been launched on our website and we will provide regular updates on our collective thinking in this column and through news items during the year.

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