Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ranking Tail and Institutional Dogs

Ranking of universities in the US has thrown up several cases of fraudulent reporting by places like George Washington and Claremont McKenna. Others have taken a more strategic route by re-prioritizing their spending to target higher scores in the metrics that matter. I just linked to a Boston Magazine story on Northeastern's efforts to align its priorities with those of US News.

We now have a BBC story about the French government taking this strategic route, which will cost "only" 7.5 billion euros:

As part of a huge government-driven academic and economic project, there will be a new university called Paris-Saclay, with a campus south of the French capital. The project has initial funding of 7.5bn euros (£5.9bn) for an endowment, buildings and transport links.

The French government is bringing together 19 institutions into a single structure, with the aim of building a university of a size and scale that can compete with global giants like Harvard or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Dominique Vernay, the president of this new university, says that within a decade he wants Paris-Saclay to be among the top ranking world universities.

"My goal is to be a top 10 institution," he says. In Europe, he wants Paris-Saclay to be in the "top two or three".

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Sometime ago, we also saw a study that looked at how much it would cost Rochester -- "consistently ranked in the mid-thirties" -- to break into the top 20 in the US News list. It arrived at a figure of 112 million dollars to take care of just two of the metrics -- faculty salary and resources provided to students.


  1. gautam barua said...

    I hope those in Govt and in influential places get to read the North-Eastern ranking gaming article. Is this what Indian Institute's should be doing? When senior academicians say that ranks are important (without qualifications), it makes one sad.

  2. Raj said...

    I don't understand your criticism of the ranking system. It may not be perfect but it is better than not having one and be ignorant of where indian univ/elite institutes compare against the best in the world. If these ranking system are not perfect, why not suggest ways to fine tune it or better yet come up with your own ranking mechanism?
    I wish those in Govt read this 'gaming' article and do something about improving teacher-student ratio and increasing merit based aid/subsidizing fees. Irrespective of how it affects the ranking, that would improve the quality of education.

    As a tax payer and parent, I wish the academics in the elite institutes in this country feel some accountability and show how well they are doing with respect to other elite univs in the world. When I hear 'ranking is irrelevant', I hear sour grapes. And I cringe when I hear Directors of elite institutions explain the the fall in their ranking by saying ' we are the same but others have improved'.