A new university ranking, set up with funding from the European Union, is being publicly launched under the Irish EU Presidency in Dublin today (30 January). The new 'multi-dimensional' listing marks a departure from traditional approaches to ranking university performance, most of which focus disproportionately on research excellence. Instead, it will rate universities according to a broader range of factors, in five separate areas: reputation for research, quality of teaching and learning, international orientation, success in knowledge transfer (such as partnerships with business and start-ups), and contribution to regional growth. Some 500 universities from Europe and across the world are expected to sign up to take part in the ranking and the first results will be published in early 2014.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth said: "Universities are one of Europe's most successful inventions, but we cannot rest on our laurels. We need to think and act more strategically to realise the full potential of our universities. To do that, we need better information about what they offer and how well they perform. Existing rankings tend to highlight research achievements above all, but U-Multirank will give students and institutions a clear picture of their performance across a range of important areas. This knowledge will help students to choose the university or college that is best for them. It will also contribute to the modernisation and quality of higher education by enabling universities to identify their strengths or weaknesses and learn from each other's experience; finally, it will give policy makers a more complete view of their higher education systems so that they can strengthen their country's performance as a whole."
The conference launching the ranking will be opened by the Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn. He said: "As higher education becomes ever more crucial to Europe’s social, cultural and economic well-being, the need for quality and diversity in our higher education systems grows greater. The Irish Presidency is strongly committed to helping support the roll-out of this next phase of U-Multirank. I urge higher education institutions to seize this opportunity to participate in building a ranking system which will shine a light on the many positive aspects of higher education activity across Europe for the benefit of students, institutional leaders, policy makers and other stakeholders.”
In addition to providing an authoritative ranking comparing institutions, U-Multirank will also rate universities in four specific subject areas: business studies, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and physics. The list of specific disciplines will be gradually expanded in future years.
An independent consortium will compile the ranking, led by the Centre for Higher Education (CHE) in Germany and the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) in the Netherlands. Partners include the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University (CWTS), information professionals Elsevier, the Bertelsmann Foundation and software firm Folge 3. The consortium will also work with national ranking partners and stakeholder organisations representing students, universities and business to ensure completeness and accuracy.
The new ranking will be impartial, based on measurable criteria and data. Its multi-dimensional approach makes its suitable for any university or college seeking feedback on its performance. Individual users will also be able to obtain a 'personalised' ranking reflecting their particular needs; this will allow them to obtain information on the institutions or disciplines which most interest them and to weight the criteria according to their own preferences.
U-Multirank is the culmination of an initiative which originated at a conference organised under the 2008 French Presidency of the European Union, which called for a new university ranking based on a methodology reflecting a variety of dimensions of excellence in an international context.
The European Commission subsequently commissioned a feasibility study which was carried out by a consortium of higher education and research organisations known as CHERPA and finalised in 2011. The study, based on work with 150 higher education institutions from Europe and around the world, confirmed that both the concept and implementation of a multi-dimensional ranking was realistic. Online survey instruments have been developed to gather the data needed. The consortium will also work with existing national rankings to avoid having to ask the same questions to universities more than once.
U-Multirank will receive a total of €2 million in EU funding from the Lifelong Learning Programme in 2013-14, with the possibility of a further two years of seed-funding in 2015-2016. The goal is for an independent organisation to run the ranking thereafter.