U-Multirank: The start of multi-dimensional international ranking
Transparency is needed! The European Commission is promoting transparency about the international higher education system. After a feasibility study was successfully completed in 2011, the Commission is now funding a two-year project to implement U-Multirank, a multi-dimensional and user-driven international ranking of higher education institutions. An international consortium of partners from nine countries is running the project together with international stakeholder organisations. The CHE Centre for Higher Education in Gütersloh in Germany and the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) at the University of Twente in the Netherlands are the lead partners in the project.
The Commissioner for Higher Education and Culture, Androulla Vassiliou, said: "This will be a modern and sophisticated ranking, capturing the full diversity of higher education. Existing international rankings still tend to attach too much weight to research reputation. Our multi-dimensional ranking will provide a more accurate and comparable guide to university quality. U-Multirank will help young people make the right study choices and it will motivate institutions to improve their performance across a whole range of activities. It will also be a useful tool for decision-makers, enabling them to be better placed to develop effective higher education strategies for the future.”
The basic characteristics of U-Multirank, which has been developed in close consultation with stakeholders, differ substantially from existing international rankings:
• U-Multirank is multi-dimensional: Firstly, and in contrast to existing global rankings, it is not confined to research; it takes into account different aspects and dimensions of the performance of higher education institutions, such as teaching and learning, research, knowledge transfer, international orientation and regional engagement. Secondly, U-Multirank does not calculate composite overall indicators. There are no theoretical or empirical arguments for assigning pre-defined weights to indicators. U-Multirank leaves the decision about the relevance of indicators to its users who may have different preferences and priorities with regard to indicators.
• U-Multirank is user-driven: Stakeholders have been and will continue to be involved on an on-going basis in the development and further refinement of the system. With the first on-line publication of ranking results in early 2014, users will have the option to select indicators according to their own preferences and thereby compile a personalised ranking.
• U-Multirank takes the importance of providing field-based information seriously. This is the most relevant aspect of rankings for many users (e.g. students and academic staff) who are interested in information about particular academic fields (as e.g. physics). U-Multirank will combine field-based and institutional ranking in a balanced way.
• In contrast to existing global rankings, which are rankings of only one university type, namely the internationally-oriented, (full) research university, U-Multirank will be broader and provide information on institutions with different institutional profiles. U-Multirank will make the diversity of institutional profiles visible. At the same time, it will compare like with like: based on a number of indicators describing institutional profiles, U-Multirank will only compare institutions with a similar profile and similar missions.
• U-Multirank will not provide over-simplified league tables. Institutions will be ranked into a number of different rank groups for each indicator.
An initial pilot ranking covering at least 500 higher education institutions, both inside and outside Europe, and four fields of study (mechanical and electrical engineering, business – the fields included in the feasibility study – and physics) will be published in early 2014. U-Multirank will then be expanded regularly to include more institutions and fields of study.