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U-Multirank seeks new backers as EU may cut funding

The European Union-backed world university ranking U-Multirank – which claims to have broken the mould of international higher education league tables – has reached a milestone with its latest data release expected to be the last to be fully funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ program.

U-multirankIÉSEG School of Management. French business schools proved particularly popular with globally mobile students and staff, accounting for nine of the top 25 listed institutions for bilateral student mobility. Photo: IÉSEG

The 2017 edition of UMR has 200 more institutions than last year

The 2017 edition of U-Multirank claims to be the largest global university rankings and showcases nearly 1,500 universities from 99 countries. However, the European Commission is considering reducing its financial support of the project and has opened the bidding process of future collaborators.

Joint project leader, Frank Ziegele, said UMR sets itself apart from other university rankings “by discovering hidden gems among the smaller and more specialised institutions of higher education which are often overlooked by traditional league tables with their focus on big comprehensive and research-intensive universities.”

“UMR sets itself apart from other university rankings by discovering hidden gems among the smaller and more specialised institutions of higher education”

This year marks a turning point for the rankings, launched with €4m of Erasmus+ seed-funding four years ago.

The initial tranche enabled a consortium led by the Centre of Higher Education in Germany and the Dutch Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies at the University of Twente and the Centre for Science and Technology Studies in Leiden to develop a new user-friendly multi-dimensional approach to comparing university performance in Europe and around the world.

The European Commission is now considering reducing financial support to half the annual costs, up to a limit of €600,000-a-year, and has called for proposals to take the initiative forward.

Ziegele confirmed that the original consortium had put forth a proposal and hoped to continue developing U-Multirank after winning support from philanthropic foundations to meet the funding required.

A decision is expected from the European Commission in the near future with a spokesman saying: “The initial purpose was to move from 100% direct funding to partial funding and this is work in progress.”

Today, UMR released its top 25 performers in nine of its indicators, including ‘Bilateral student mobility’ – a performance measure unique to the table. It defines student mobility as a composite of international incoming and outgoing exchange students and students on international joint-degree programs.

The results confirm that business studies is the most international academic discipline with business schools or higher education institutions specialised in business and economics comprising half of the top 25.

French business schools proved particularly popular with globally mobile students and staff, with France accounting for nine of the top 25 listed institutions for bilateral student mobility led by IÉSEG School of Management and Toulouse Business School.

German schools of management also stood out in this category, with WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management and Munich Business School performing strongly. So did some of the country’s universities of applied sciences, and overall, German institutions took seven of the top 25 student mobility places.

U-Multirank also listed 25 top performers for global orientation based on international joint publications, which looks at the percentage of a university’s research publications with at least one affiliate author in another country using CWTS/Thomson Reuters – Web of Science Core Collection as the data source.

Here the spread of universities was more international with the top four spots taken by University of Liechtenstein, National University of Mongolia, University of Namibia (UNAM) and King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia.

This year a new UMR ranking for ‘Applied knowledge partnerships’ was produced which highlighted Spain’s University of Deusto and Nuremberg Institute of Technology in Germany among the top performers for transferring academic knowledge and research into practical and commercial benefits.

A second ‘readymade’ ranking for publications spotlights collaborations with industry. The ‘Co-publications with industrial partners’ metric measures publications done with a for-profit business enterprise or private sector R&D unit.

“The initial purpose was to move from 100% direct funding to partial funding and this is work in progress”

The top 25 list is dominated by 16 European and seven Asian institutions including Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Telecom ParisTech and Reutlingen University of Applied Science in Germany.

 The 2017 edition of UMR has 200 more institutions than last year, which, according to Ziegle, is the result of pre-filling questionnaires sent to British and American universities using national data sources IPEDS, the federal data system for US universities, and HESA statistics for UK institutions.

It lists 244 US universities this year, compared with 168 in 2016, and a total of 151 UK institutions are ranked – up from just 48 last year.

China is another country where UMR is making inroads.  Ziegele told The PIE News: “The Chinese government now believes a good higher education system is a diverse one and signed an agreement with us to promote the differentiation of their universities.

“As a pilot, we looked at five or six very different universities, from the research excellent to universities of applied sciences like Hefei.”

UMR intends to expand its work with China’s Higher Education Evaluation Centre (HEEC) and individual universities to demonstrate the different profiles of institutions, Ziegele said.

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