NUI Galway president describes university ranking systems as ‘dangerous’
Dublin City University president also expresses reservations
NUI Galway president Jim Browne.
These services rely heavily on opinion, and only a limited range of metrics based on hard data, said Dr Jim Browne. He was commenting yesterday after the publication of the latest university ranking from Times Higher Education.
Galway’s position on the league table rose 22 places, and it also climbed in QS ranking published three weeks ago. NUI Galway was the only Irish university to see upward movement on both rankings.
However, Dr Browne remains highly cautious about the results. “I don’t want to dismiss them, there is some value in them, but they are dangerous.” While some hard data was used, such as research income per academic or publications or citations, a great deal of weight was given to reputation and this was an arbitrary measure.
The specifics are compared but then the quality of teaching is driven almost completely by opinion, Dr Browne said. The quality of research was also in part measured by opinion.
“It depends on who votes and how many vote. I have mixed feelings about them, I am critical of them, but as far as they are based on evidence I would be open to them.”
Prof Brian MacCraith, president of Dublin City University, also has reservations, particularly if they depend on subjective criteria such as reputation. “There is a very large amount of the ranking dependent on reputation. The Irish universities tend to do poorly in that. The big brand universities do well.”
The Times Higher Education ranking left DCU out of the top 400, yet the QS puts it in the 300s, and the university is ranked 40th in the top world universities aged under 50 years. “Where there are hard metrics based on data we are very happy with those. But the rankings don’t look at wider issues, for example participation rates, social inclusion, engagement with the wider society.”
University College Dublin performed well, moving up 26 places to 161. And while its metrics for publications, citations impact and international co-authored research were all up, the reputational aspects of the rankings pull it back.
Dr Hugh Brady, president of UCD, believes that while the rankings may be flawed, they do offer a system of measuring quality across some standard criteria such as citation impact and international co-authorship.