The CHE ExcellenceRanking provides information on master's and PhD-programmes, research performance and international orientation for a selected group of European Universities
The data gathering took place in two phases. In the first phase, about 60 departments from each subject area were selected out of all European departments offering the respective subject. For this, a number of different criteria were used: publications, citations, student mobility, teaching staff mobility, the presence of an Erasmus-Mundus Master's course, outstanding researchers (only natural sciences), Marie Curie projects (only natural sciences), ERC grants (only natural sciences), book citations (only economics, psychology, political science). For an outstanding performance in each criterion, a "star" could be gained. At least two stars in publications and citations or three stars altogether were necessary to be included in the ranking (i.e. the "ExcellenceGroup").
In a second phase, the departments were asked to give information on their master's and PhD programmes and a number of other aspects, e.g., the number of staff and students and special features of their departments. They were also asked to list and give a short description of all research teams located within the department.
Furthermore, the departments were asked to organize a student survey (master's and PhD levels), i.e., send out the access codes to an online-questionnaire, the results of which are presented in the ranking as additional information.
The research fields
In the first phase in 2007, the analysis was conducted for the research fields of Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics. In 2009, the fields of Political Science, Economics and Psychology were added to the ranking, and in 2010, new data for the natural sciences were published.
What is special about the CHE ExcellenceRanking?
Detailed analysis rather than a general ranking The results of the research are deliberately not added together to give a total number of points. The reason for this is that there is simply no "best" higher education institution for a single discipline, let alone for all disciplines. Instead of crowning an overall winner, we offer a multidimensional ranking.
"Stars" instead of ranking positions
The CHE ExcellenceRanking does not define "rank positions" for individual HEIs as other rankings do, but rather, assigns "stars" to the departments that do particularly well in the respective indicator. When allocating rank positions, there is the danger of accidental fluctuations resulting in seeming differences that might wrongly be interpreted as real differences. If HEIs are close to each other in the ranking positions, there is also the risk that minimal differences translate into many ranking positions. For example, the differences between an HEI with a rank of 10 and an HEI with a rank of 20 might in fact be very minimal.
Relevance of disciplines
The CHE ExcellenceRanking is exclusively about disciplines. HEIs are not identical and "the" best HEI does not exist. The performances of the HEIs in the individual disciplines, subjects and faculties differ too widely. An aggregate for an entire HEI offers no useful information to feed into the decision-making process of potential students who study a specific subject. It also blurs the differences between the disciplines of a given HEI, differences based on explicit profile decisions. The individual rankings will therefore always be compiled in relation to specific disciplines.
Diversity of methods
Rankings are meant to offer a differentiated impression of an HEI from different perspectives. Besides facts about disciplines and study programmes, students´ views are also part of the ranking. Some of the data are not yet available in a standard form for all countries, so no comparison was made in these cases. The data collected will, however, be provided as additional information. Detailed information about the method of this survey can be found in the CHE working paper No 137 " Identifying the Best: The CHE ExcellenceRanking 2010".
Selective search for research groups is possible
Beside "ranked" criteria, the CHE ExcellenceRanking provides additional information which is not ranked. This includesthe size of faculties, conditions of admission and other details about the academic programme. Characteristic of this ranking is the possibility to search for specific research groups. Each faculty was asked to refer their research groups and to assign one or more field categories. By selecting the field category, all teams can be found which are in this category.