Sunday, 5 October 2014

True Lies about Universities Rankings

Singapore University NTU has secured top placing as the world's best young universities, according to London-based Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), one of three major international university ranking systems. So, what exactly does QS Ranking mean? And of what value to Anyone is this latest NTU “achievement”?
An Eminent Professor has called the QS rankings “a Fraud on the public.” Another Eminent Professor said: “QS simply doesn’t do as good a job as the other rankers that are using multiple indicators”. 

In fact, the United Nations Education agency, UNESCO, has challenged the validity and reliability of University Rankings such as QS Ranking:

“Global university rankings fail to capture either the meaning or driverse qualities of a university or the characteristics of universities in a way that values and respects their educational and social purposes, missions and goals. At present, these rankings are of dubious value, are underpinned by questionable social science, arbitrarily privilege particular indicators, and use shallow proxies as correlates of quality.”

UNESCO’s found it “difficult to argue that the benefits offered by the information they provide, given the lack of transparency that we have observed, are greater than the ‘unwanted consequences of rankings’. For there is a danger that time invested by universities in collecting and using data and statistics in order to improve their performance in the rankings may detract from efforts to progress in other areas such as teaching and learning or community involvement”.

In essence. QS Ranking basically contains serious fundamental conceptual and methodological flaws to render QS Rankings practically useless, irrelevant and immaterial for any serious educational policy purpose.  Under scrutiny, the QS Ranking Methodology failed to withstand the penetrative professional scrutiny of the Academics and Research Institutions who now use the spurious Rankings to position themselves in spite of the lack of validity and reliability of their measures.

The QS World University Ranking Methodology 2014 involved 5 Criteria: Academic Reputation (40%), Employer Reputation (10%), Faculty/Student Ratio (20%), Citations per Faculty (20%), International Students Ratio (5%) and International Staff Ratio (5%).

It is highly questionable whether these 5 Criteria actually indicate or measure University Excellence to any extent. No study on their validity and reliability has been produced by the Ranking organisations themselves.  At best, these Criteria are just “popular” notions imagined by the Rankers themselves and have no true bearings on University learning impact on their students.

In fact, QS rankers themselves were surprised at "the extent to which governments and university leaders use the rankings to set strategic targets. We at QS think this is wrong. Rankings are a relative measure".  It is just plain mindless stupidity, I may add. Even QS cautions against using QS Rankings beyond its simple methodology and purpose “to serve the student consumer.” Adding: “We did not come about it from the point of view of an academic exercise with metrics”.

Too much time has been obsessively invested by NTU and NUS in collecting and using data and statistics in order to improve their ranking performance on a bogus ranking standard of dubious excellence. Universities should deploy their energies and efforts to progress in key areas such as teaching, learning, innovations and community involvement. The Presidents and Management of our Universities, and the Ministry of Education, should be more concerned about innovative ways to enhance our universities’ contributions to society through their students. This is the Real payback for the millions of public fund spent on our Universities. 

 

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