What are rankings?
University rankings come in different shapes and sizes. The expert group’s advice focuses specifically on league tables. These are rankings that try to capture a university’s performance in an overall score of accomplishments in research, education and impact. In doing so, they claim to reflect the overall performance of a university. However, there is no universally accepted criterion to quantify a university’s overall performance. In addition, league tables emphasise research achievements, which are largely determined by the number of publications and citations.
Universities believe it is important to perform well in these international rankings, as many students, scientists, businesses and governments use them. However, the methods by which these league tables are drawn up and the value assigned to them is at odds with the principles of the Recognition & Rewards programme. As part of this programme, institutions actually want to give more weight to different qualities in science, rather than looking at a single quantitative dimension to measure quality. UNL therefore asked an expert group for advice on how universities can best deal with the league tables in relation to Recognition & Rewards.
What will change?
The expert group has indicated that the use of league tables can undermine Recognition & Rewards. It offered a number of recommendations at the institutional, national and international levels. In the coming period, Dutch universities will work together to implement these recommendations. Universities will make changes regarding the use of league tables at both the national and institutional levels. For example, universities will contribute to alternatives to league tables, such as multidimensional rankings. They will also no longer use the league tables for internal evaluations or budget allocations. In addition, the data supplied to league tables will be made public. At the national level, UNL will work to increase awareness about the limitations of league tables. It will also try to discourage the use of league tables by the government.
Furthermore, UNL will engage with international partners to bring about change at the European level as well. As a first step, UNL has taken the initiative to explore a joint guideline with European university umbrella organisation EUA and experts from Germany, France, the Republic of Ireland, Poland and the UK.
The expert group’s advice focuses specifically on league tables. There are many more rankings. These include topical rankings, subject rankings, regional rankings and rankings for universities that have existed for less than 50 years. The advice limits itself to league tables because they serve the largest group and unfairly claim to capture the performance of universities in one-dimensional rankings.