Phil Baty and Jonathan Adams: Rankings Reflection


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Phil Baty. Editor, Times Higher Education world university rankings and Jonathan Adams, Director, research evalution, Thomas Reuters give an insider's account of the development of the new and improved methodology for the world university rankings.

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  • Good morning. I’m delighted to be here in such esteemed company and in such an amazing venue. I’ve got to be honest, university rankings are perhaps not the most exciting issue that has been addressed in this fantastic lecture theatre – during its exalted history, or even during the course of today, after that excellent speech by Robert Zimmer. But rankings have certainly generated their fair share of both heat and light. Last November, Times Higher Education did an extraordinary thing. Some might say it was a foolish thing. Others thought we were brave. After six years of publishing a well known and well established global rankings table, we decided to start all over again – a new data provider, an entirely new database of global institutions, a new mission, a new methodology. A New Start. Today, with Jonathan Adams of Thomson Reuters, I am going to briefly explain WHY we started again. HOW we went about developing an entirely new way of benchmarking universities, and WHY we think we are close to establishing the most sophisticated and relevant global ranking system in the world. We think, with your continued engagement and input, will become accepted as the gold standard global ranking system.
  • First, very briefly, let me introduce my magazine. This is Times Higher Education. Founded in 1971 as a tabloid newspaper – previously known as the Times Higher Education Supplement. We re-launched in 2008 as a weekly magazine, and become simply Times Higher Education – THE for short. We come out every Thursday, all through the year, but we also have a daily news and jobs website. We have around 100,000 unique visitors a week – around half from outside the UK. We had around one million visits in 24 hours on 16 th September – rankings day.
  • And this is our parent company – TSL Education Ltd, based not far from here, in Bloomsbury. You’ll see from the slide that all of our businesses are in education. Our mission is to put the top people and top jobs together, across all areas of education. TES centenary this year – 100 years in the business. Through our publications and websites, our mission is to provide authorative, robust and trusted information for all those in education. Our world rankings must meet those standards. As experts in education, we know that universities are too complex, and do too many amazing, intangible things, to be reduced to a relatively crude set of numbers. So why do we rank at all?
  • Well first of all, higher education is rapidly globalising. SLIDE We believe strongly that rankings, despite their limitations, help us understand this process.
  • And rankings do serve a valid purpose. This slide shows a series of quotes from the US Institute of Higher Education policy on the influence of rankings. QUOTE Love them or hate them, rankings are here to stay.
  • And that same IHEP report also highlighted the influence and power of rankings.
  • Here’s Ben Wildavsky. I think that the key point from this is “Refined and improved”.
  • So this is the position we were in, at the end of last year. This was the mission as laid out by my esteemed editor, Ann Mroz. I usually make a joke here about how no matter where I go around the world, Ann is always there, looming large and looking down on me! Well she can look down on me in person today!
  • So to deliver on this mission, we brought in Thomson Reuters, the world’s leading research data specialist. A new brand was born. For us, it is a perfect partnership. Thomson Reuters brings exceptional expertise with data, especially with citations data. We bring 40 years of getting under the skin of the higher education world. And with Thomson Reuters, we also got Jonathan Adams. He truly is a world leading expert – Australia, REF, Europe. He’ll explain in much more detail how they went about their extremely demanding task in a minute.
  • So one of the first things Thomson Reuters did is carry out a survey to find out what people thought of rankings, what they wanted from rankings. Interesting findings. The survey also provided detailed feedback on indicators and proxies that were valued
  • Times Higher Education also convened a special editorial board meeting – with some of the sector’s leading figures, to delve into the issue. Then we established a platform group, to scrutinise our proposals in very great deal.
  • Thank you Jonathan. So this is where we ended up. Times Higher Education takes full responsibility for the final methodology. 13 indicators, across five broad areas of a university’s activity, covering the three core missions of every university: Teaching, research and knowledge transfer. New teaching section – proxies, but help us get a sense of the learning environment. Reputation reduced to 35 per cent. New income measures – no more than 10 per cent. Research 60 per cent. We are very proud of it, but we also know it is a work in progress.
  • There’s not time today, but here is a brief summary the results. Key themes: US dominance the overwhelming story – 72 institutions in the top 200, all five of the top five places. UK firmly holding on as the world’s second strongest higher education nation, but new methodology paints a less rosy picture than in the past. Asia rising. Strong showing for smaller research-intensives – quality not quantity, as Jonathan discussed. Strong showing for science and technology institutions. Income. More normalisation needed?
  • Very quickly – and we’ll make these slides available to delegates – here’s a run down of country strength, compared against OECD data on the national spend on tertiary education. If there’s one quick conclusion from that, it is that money talks!
  • You can find out much more, and dig much deeper into our data, on our fully interactive website
  • And you can get even deeper into the results with our IPhone App. The app allows the user to filter the results against cost of living and tuition fees and other criteria, and it includes data on 400 institutions. But for me, the crucial feature is that you can manipulate our weightings. I think it is a crucial part of the rankers role to be as transparent and accountable as possible, so we want to give the user as much power as possible.
  • But to make sure we’re as accountable as it is possible to be, we need constant criticism and input. Only with the engagement of the higher education sector will we achieve a tool that is as rigorous and as transparent and as useful as the sector needs and deserves. So please use the sites and tools above to make sure you have your say and tell us what you think.
  • Phil Baty and Jonathan Adams: Rankings Reflection

    1. 1. THE WORLD UNIVERSITY RANKINGS Royal Institution, London. 30 September, 2010 Phil Baty Editor Times Higher Education World University Rankings
    2. 2. About Times Higher Education The weekly magazine for all higher education professionals
    3. 3. About TSL Education Times Educational Supplement (TES) Times Higher Education (THE) TES Prime TSL Events TES Hirewire THE HireWire
    4. 4. Why Rank? Rapid globalisation of higher education <ul><li>There are almost 3 million students enrolled in higher education outside their country of origin, a 53 per cent increase since 1999 </li></ul><ul><li>Universities now have 162 satellite campuses outside their home countries, an increase of 43 per cent in just the past three years </li></ul><ul><li>Around 20 per cent of all academics working in the UK are appointed from overseas </li></ul><ul><li>Sir Drummond Bone said: “World class research is inherently international” </li></ul>
    5. 5. Why Rank? Rankings have a useful function <ul><li>“ Rankings often serve in place of formal accreditation systems in countries where such accountability measures do not exist.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Prompt change in areas that directly improve student learning experiences” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Encourage institutions to move beyond their internal conversations to participate in broader national and international discussions.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Foster collaboration, such as research partnerships, student and faculty exchange programmes.” </li></ul><ul><li>US Institute for Higher Education Policy, May 2009 </li></ul>
    6. 6. Why Rank? “ The term world class universities has begun to appear in higher education discussions, in institutional mission statements, and government education policy worldwide” “ Many staffing and organisational decisions at institutions worldwide have been affected by ranking-related goals and outcomes.” “ Rankings play an important role in persuading the Government and universities to rethink core national values” US Institute for Higher Education Policy
    7. 7. The WUR became massively influential “ Rankings are an unmistakable reflection of global academic competition… they seem destined to be a fixture on the global education scene for years to come… As they are refined and improved they can and should play an important role in helping universities get better.” Ben Wildavsky , The Great Brain Race (Princeton University Press, May 2010)
    8. 8. Times Higher Education’s responsibility “ The responsibility weighs heavily on our shoulders. We are very much aware that national policies and multimillion-pound decisions are influenced by the rankings…. We feel we have a duty to improve how we compile them. “ We believe universities deserve a rigorous, robust and transparent set of rankings – a serious tool for the sector, not just an annual curiosity.” Ann Mroz , Editor, Times Higher Education, November 2009
    9. 9. The development of a new world ranking system In November 2009 we signed a deal with Thomson Reuters , to work with us to develop and fuel a new and improved global ranking for the future.
    10. 10. Thomson Reuters’ stakeholder survey. Key findings: * About 40 per cent globally said rankings were ‘extremely/very useful’ and a further 45 per cent said they were ‘somewhat useful’ * But methodologies were perceived unfavorably by many and there was widespread concern about data quality * 74 percent of respondents believe that institutions manipulate their data to move up in rankings.
    11. 11. The development of a new world ranking system Consultative meetings. Key points: * Previous exercise (2004-2009) relied too heavily on subjective opinion (50 per cent of weighting) * Previous exercise’s use of citations data biased against fields with lower average citations * SSR too crude as proxy for teaching quality
    12. 12. The development of a new world ranking system So after ten months of consultation, with more than 300 posts on our open website forums, advice from a platform group of 50 leading experts in 15 countries across every continent. What was the result? Over to Jonathan Adams…
    14. 14. THOMSON REUTERS RECOGNISES THE COMPLEXITY OF UNIVERSITY MISSIONS Our Research Footprint® draws on multiple indicators, subject diversity and peer group comparisons
    15. 15. WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL UNIVERSITY? It depends on your perspective The analysts and the experienced manager The prospective student
    17. 17. NEW STATESMAN, 17 th September 2010 ‘The reality of university rankings’ <ul><li>World University Rankings </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cambridge and Oxford joint 6 th globally </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>UCL 22 nd and 4 th in the UK, Durham 10 th in the UK </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Shanghai Jiao Tong </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cambridge 5 th , Oxford 10 th globally </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>UCL 21 st and 3 rd in the UK, Durham in 15-19 th UK band </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Times and Guardian </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Oxford best in the UK </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Durham above UCL </li></ul></ul><ul><li>These rankings are not all doing the same thing </li></ul>
    18. 18. KEY CHANGES IN TIMES HIGHER’S ‘WORLD UNIVERSITY RANKINGS’ <ul><li>A more rounded picture than given by ‘research power’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Research achievement is primary, but we need balance and quality, not volume </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Resources </li></ul><ul><li>Scale </li></ul><ul><li>Accounting for subject factors </li></ul><ul><li>Accounting for international factors </li></ul><ul><li>We have made major changes and we will build on these in 2011 </li></ul>
    21. 21. The 2010-11 methodology
    22. 22. THE World University Rankings 2010-11: Results
    23. 23. THE World University Rankings 2010-11: Results
    24. 24. Rankings website:
    25. 25. THE World University Rankings: IPhone App
    26. 26. Over to you • Visit the Global Institutional Profiles Project website: • See the results in full, with our interactive tables: * Join our rankings Facebook group. • Keep up to date with all the rankings news on Twitter: @THEWorldUniRank
    27. 27. Thank you. Stay in touch. Phil Baty Times Higher Education T. 020 3194 3298 E.