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User-driven HE ranking, U-Multirank, launches

A new global higher education ranking backed by €2 million in European Union funding launches today. As well as assessing the overall performance of 850 universities worldwide, U-Multirank will enable users to create personalised rankings according to their priorities.

One of three ready made rankings made available by U-Multirank

Over 95% of institutions have at least one 'A' score, but just 12% achieve more than 10

“The idea is to avoid simplistic league tables which can result in misleading comparisons between institutions of very different types”

The rankings focus on five areas of assessment: research performance; quality of teaching and learning; international orientation; partnerships with business; and regional involvement.

Within these categories, universities are rated from ‘A’ (very good) to ‘E’ (weak) in 30 individual criteria. The results show that over 95% of institutions have at least one ‘A’ score, but just 12% achieve more than 10.

“The idea is to avoid simplistic league tables which can result in misleading comparisons between institutions of very different types or mask significant differences in quality between courses at the same university,” a spokesperson at U-Multirank said.

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said that U-Multilink’s multi-faceted approach will better enable students to identify the criteria most relevant to them.

“We need many kinds of universities, catering for a wide range of needs; that means strong technical and regional universities just as much as outstanding research universities,” she said. “U-Multirank highlights many excellent performers that do not show up in current, research-focused, global rankings – including more than 300 universities that have never appeared in any world ranking until now.”

Nearly two thirds of the 850 universities included in the rankings are European, while 17% are from North America, 14% from Asia and 7% from Oceania, Latin America and Africa.

The scheme which takes into account feedback from 60,000 students, more than 1,000 faculties and 5,000 study programmes from 70 countries has, however, attracted criticism from the higher education sector.

Last year the League of European Research Universities, which represents 21 leading research-intensive universities, disassociated itself from the project.

Speaking with Times Higher Education, Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of Leru said that U-Multirank is “at best an unjustifiable use of taxpayers’ money and at worst a serious threat to a healthy higher education system”.

“Leru has serious concerns about the lack of reliable, solid and valid data for the chosen indicators in U-Multirank, about the comparability between countries, about the burden put upon universities to collect data and about the lack of ‘reality-checks’ in the process thus far,” he added.

Still, U-Multirank has also been praised by the European Student Union (ESU), whose Vice-Chairperson, Fernando Galán, called it “the first global ranking that includes in a serious manner the teaching and learning dimension”.

“The aim of U-Multirank is to reflect the diversity of higher education and make an information tool based on individual interests or needs”

“The aim of U-Multirank is to reflect the diversity of higher education and make an information tool based on individual interests or needs,” he told The PIE News.

“This can of course be very useful for students when they make their choices, because it enables them to personalise their search much more than ever before both at institutional and field level,” he added.

U-Multirank has  compiled three ‘ready made’ rankings: research and research linkages; economic involvement; and business studies.

The tables reveal significant variation across the different fields and draw attention to institutions who are not normally at the to of other leading rankings. Fifteen US institutions appear in the research rankings’ top 20, headed by the University of California Santa Cruz for example.

Meanwhile, the economic involvement league table is led by Telecom ParisTech in France, UAS Wiener Neustadt in Austria and Lulea University of Technology in Sweden.

The American University of Florida topped this year’s business studies rankings, followed by the WHU School of Management in Germany and Dartmouth College in the US.

The 2014 rankings will also include scores in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and physics, while psychology, computer science and medicine, will be added in 2015.

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