Everybody loves a good list, and that’s especially true when it comes to ranking the world’s universities. Whether it’s the Times Higher Education‘s rankings in the UK, US News & World Report’s annual list in America, or the ARWU in China, academics everywhere are always tempted to glance at where their institution falls in the charts.
Unless you’re at Harvard, which seems to be at the top of all the charts this year, you probably don’t care too much. Nor should you, says the European University Association, a Brussels-based organisation representing European higher education. A new EUA report criticises the increasing proliferation of university rankings and warns that they could be doing as much harm as good. In particular, the association warns, the rankings overemphasize research and underemphasize teaching. They also only analyze a few hundred of the thousands of universities around the world, leaving out whole regions.
The solution? Rather paradoxically the report’s big call seems to be for still more rankings. In particular, it says that universities that are not now ranked should be, that new national rankings should be made in which university performance is “normalized” against the number of inhabitants, and that additional national data should be provided to improve rankings.
Perhaps in the Internet age it’s just unrealistic to hope that the top ten list will ever disappear.