ESU agrees with EUA on shallowness of university rankings

BRUSSELS - The European Students Union (ESU) is pleased to see that the first review of major international university rankings from the European University Association (EUA), published on 17 June in Brussels, finally confirms what university rankings really are: shallow and useless.

“Current rankings are not more than a shallow snapshot that has little to do with quality of education.  Rankings are rarely useful in providing a sound basis for student choices. We welcome the fact that EUA has taken up the role to inform about how rankings really work,” said Allan Päll, Vice-Chairperson of ESU.

The EUA report finds that rankings reflect an oversimplified picture of reality. It addresses the most popular global university rankings and analyses the metholodogy behind the rankings. The report states that due the nature of the rankings, around 97% of the universities will never be able to make it to any ranking. International rankings only cover a very small percentage of the world’s estimated 17,000 universities, somewhere between 1% and 3% (200-500 universities), and completely ignore the rest.

Päll continued: “A lot has been said about rankings being a transparency tool. However, it has been argued for a long time that when it comes to the methodology, rankings often tend to be shrouded in mystery. The EUA report now confirms this.

Fundamental problem

Although ESU has taken note of the attempts to improve the rankings by including more dimensions like teaching and learning, it thinks that the fundamental problem is that rankings tend to reduce everything to numbers thus failing to reflect in reality what students should know when they make choices about higher education.

Päll concluded: “Current league table rankings are simply made for something else. Leaders should stop claiming it is important mainly for providing more transparency for students as they actually only are misleading in many regards as the EUA report shows.”

ESU thinks that more comparative descriptive information is needed for student choice and wants to see a tool which gives a much more adequate picture of what a student can actually expect in quality in terms of actual learning and engagement expected from a student.

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 Published: 17 June 2011

For more information, please contact:

Allan Päll, ESU Vice-Chairperson: +32479591499 or allan@esu-online.org 
Marianne Slegers, ESU Communications Manager: +32473669894 or marianne@esu-online.org

Annex: EUA report on rankings “Global university rankings and their impact”