New approach to international higher education rankings

New approach to international higher education rankings

Traditional global rankings are designed to compare all higher education institutions (HEIs) by a given set of indicators, producing a composite score and ranking institutions in a nominal order. Some argue that this approach is not transparent and does not fairly compare institutions to other institutions of a similar profile. A new approach to the international ranking of higher education institutions has emerged. Can it provide fair comparisons in this increasingly competitive market?

U-Multirank is a new multidimensional, user-driven approach to the international ranking of higher education institutions. This approach combines a wide range of dimensions to assess HEIs: teaching and learning, research, knowledge transfer, international orientation and regional engagement. Based on empirical data, U-Multirank compares institutions with similar institutional profiles and allows users to develop personalised rankings by selecting indicators in terms of their own preferences.

With the new ranking, it is hoped that HEIs will have a fair chance at being recognised in the areas in which they excel, and students, parents and other stakeholders will be able to see where an HEI is strong and where it needs to develop when compared to other similar institutions.

Differences between traditional rankings and U-Multirank

While traditional rankings focus heavily on reputation and the traditional emphasis of research excellence, U-Multirank seeks to go the extra mile by also comparing universities in teaching and learning, knowledge transfer, international orientation and regional engagement. Part of the ranking’s objective is to move beyond standard rankings and become a tool for users to make better informed decisions. The idea is to create personalised rankings that fit stakeholders’ needs by comparing like with like institutions. In this sense, U-Multirank would be more fairly considered a comparison tool rather than a ranking, since it does not produce league tables, but by keeping the word ranking in the name, the question is posed: “is comparing universities of similar profiles to each other not the more accurate approach to global rankings?”

How does U-Multirank work?

U-Multirank presents performance profiles for universities across the five dimensions using a broad range of performance indicators. It provides these performance profiles at two levels: for the institution as a whole; and at the level of different disciplinary fields (initially mechanical and electrical engineering, business and physics). In future years, further disciplinary fields will be added at an equal interval.

A key feature of the U-Multirank web tool is that it enables users to specify the type of institutions they wish to compare (in terms of the activities they are engaged in). This ensures that institutional comparisons are ‘like with like’ and not ‘apples and oranges’. Users can then decide which areas of performance to include in the comparison of the selected group of universities.

EAIE conference participants who are interested in learning more about this new ranking can attend session 8.11 at 11.00 on Friday morning.