Friday, March 14, 2014

Annals of Gaming: Does Size Matter?

Bloomberg's Oliver Staley has an excellent story focusing on a particular method to get ahead in global university league tables: merging universities, with examples from France and Finland. This discussion has some relevance to India since there have been suggestions that all the IITs put together might get the 'IIT System' to break into the top 100 in the rank lists.

Nations Chasing Harvard Merge Colleges to Ascend Rankings:

Twenty colleges and research institutes are combining to create Universite Paris-Saclay, soon to be one of France’s largest universities, at a cost of about 6.5 billion euros ($9 billion). It’s France’s bid to crack the top of rankings that increasingly dominate international higher education.

“Our ambition is to be among the top 10” in the rankings compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said Dominique Vernay, chairman of the foundation creating Paris-Saclay. “The first goal is to be the top university in continental Europe.”

Countries from Finland to Portugal are shaping their higher education policies based on outside rankings, eager for the validation and attention the annual lists bestow, even while they are criticized as flawed or misleading. Because bigger is perceived as better in these lists, governments are merging campuses in hopes of attracting research money and higher caliber faculty and students.

The high-stakes pursuit of bragging rights is distorting universities’ missions, favoring research over teaching and science over the humanities, said Ellen Hazelkorn, director of the Higher Education Policy Research Unit at the Dublin Institute of Technology.

Construction cranes stand on Electricite de France SA's (EDF) new research and... Read More “It’s all about national prestige,” said Hazelkorn, who has written widely about rankings. “Rankings are less about students and more about geopolitics.”