Rankings Abroad: Watch out for the Sin Bin

This piece in the CHE covered the increasing importance of international rankings systems to universities around the world (including the US).

Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s “Academic Ranking of World Universities,” assigns scores to institutions on the basis of four factors: quality of education, quality of faculty, research output, and per capita performance. . . .Quality of faculty counts the number of staff members who have won . . . awards as well as the number of “highly cited researchers” in 21 fields. . . . The “Times Higher Education-Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings” is more heavily focused on reviews by academics, which account for 40 percent of an institution’s score. A survey of employers contributes 10 percent. The rankings also consider the faculty-student ratio, the proportion of international faculty members and international students, and the number of citations per faculty member.

Germany reached a recent decision on dividing nearly two billion euros among designated universities largely on the basis of how strong they were in research. In France, a central goal of a new law intended to shake up the higher-education system is increased collaboration among institutions involved in scientific research.

Meanwhile, rankings appear to be shaping secondary schools abroad as well; Neal Lawson reports that in Britain, “private companies will run ‘sin bin’ schools for excluded pupils and . . . more parents are using lawyers to secure school places.” Lawson worries that rankings-mania will make education “a positional good – one that is valued only because it gives one child a better education than another.”

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