Academic Ranking of World Universities

Looking Chinese universities from different angles by presenting both the overall and dimensional rankings

Universities generally undertake three primary missions: teaching, research and social service. However, institutions performed unequally on these three missions for various reasons. For example, while research-oriented universities put significant emphasis on elite education, basic research as well as technology innovation, teaching-oriented universities are more concerned about training high-quality employees for the labor market. According to the Berlin Principles on Ranking of Higher Education Institutions, university rankings should recognize the diversity of institutions and take the different missions and goals of institutions into account. As a matter of fact, most of Chinese universities are still teaching-oriented institutions with very limited scale of research and service activities.

To make a comprehensive and balanced comparison of Chinese universities, BCUR provides an overall ranking and rankings by individual indicators. The overall ranking considers all comprehensive research universities that undertake teaching and research. The indicator rankings allow people to know better universities that are not listed in the overall ranking but excel in one particular indicator.

Using indicators that can reflect the core competitiveness of universities

Can sophisticated and multi-functional universities be properly measured or ranked by a single set of figures? Even though the answer is obviously No, the huge market demand has led to the birth and flourish of league tables. However, most readers are only concerned about the ranking results and pay very little attention to the ranking methodology and process, which allows some misleading and irresponsible rankings to be here to stay. Based on the Berlin Principles on Ranking of Higher Education Institutions, “rankings should choose indicators according to their relevance and validity……, and not availability of data. Be clear about why measures were included and what are meant to represent”. Some rankings use rather complex indicator systems but fail to explain why to choose these indicators and what’s the connection among them, which makes the ranking process a “black box” and ranking results hard to understand.

BCUR employs 9 carefully selected indicators to build up its ranking system and provides detailed explanations of each indicator. Among these 9 indicators, there are 2 used for the dimension on teaching and learning, including average score of incoming freshmen in national college entrance exam and employment rate of bachelor degree recipients for measuring the quality of incoming students and education outcome respectively. There are 4 indicators for research, e.g. number of papers in Scopus is for evaluating the scale of research, Field Weighted Citation Impact for the quality of research, World Top 1% Most Cited Paper for the top research products and Most Cited Researchers in China for the top scholars. There are 2 indicators in the dimension of social service: research income from industry is used for measuring universities’ technology service and income from technology transfer for the outcome of technology transfer. The last indicator is International Students as a Percentage of Total Students, which measures internationalization.

With a set of explicit and unambiguous indicators, BCUR is of great help to people’s understanding of universities’ overall performance as well as the strength and weakness of each university.

Ranking universities from the perspectives of consumers and making it a unique tool for market-based evaluation

The higher education system in China is very centralized since the government controls universities and higher education not only through regulations, accreditations and approvals but also via various projects, evaluations and awards, such as Project 211 and Project 985 granted to universities, National Key Disciplines, National Key Laboratories, National Research Bases; Academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering, Chang Jiang Scholars, National Distinguished Teachers to faculty; National Undergraduate Teaching Achievement Award, National Science & Technology Awards, and National Excellent Doctoral Dissertations based on teaching or research performance, etc. Since these projects, evaluation results and awards are all organized by the government, they have certain authority and are available to the public so that have been widely used as indicators in many rankings. However, rankings based on indicators from government-organized evaluations inevitably represent the preference of the government towards different universities so that they cannot provide independent perspective and the value of the results are very limited.

BCUR does not use any indicators originated from government-organized evaluations; instead, it attempts to evaluate universities from the perspectives of consumers, making itself a unique market-based evaluation tool. The 9 indicators used by BCUR were all selected after careful deliberation to reflect the quality of universities from various perspectives of different stakeholders. For example, average score of incoming freshmen in the national college entrance exam reflects the recognition of parents and students towards universities’ reputation in teaching and learning; Employment rate of bachelor degree recipients reflects employers’ perception of universities’ teaching quality; Number of papers published, Field Weighted Citation Impact, World Top 1% Most Cited Paper and Top Cited Researchers in China reflect universities’ influence in the academic community; Research Income from Industry and Income from Technology Transfer reflect industries’ judgments on universities’ capability in technology innovation; International Students as a Percentage of Total Students reflects the international reputation of the university as well as its ability to provide an international learning environment.

Publishing all of the raw data and making the ranking process transparent

An objective, fair and valid ranking depends on a sound ranking methodology, an open and transparent ranking process as well as verifiable data and repeatable ranking results. Mainstream rankings in most countries worldwide tend to provide detailed descriptions of each indicator and data source. Besides the overall ranking results, scores of each indicator are also presented, allowing others to examine universities’ performance in details. Some well-designed rankings even publish the raw data of all evaluated indicators. However, most current domestic rankings in China are not transparent regarding the methodology and are very ambiguous in the description of indicators. They only present overall scores, making it extremely hard for others to verify the results.

BCUR is completely transparent by publishing not only the detailed methodology but also raw data of all indicators.

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