University rankings are a real buzz area in higher education at the moment, with universities clamouring to move into the top X, governments giving extra funding to support universities that they feel can achieve this mission and enhance the country’s prestige, and students and researchers using the outcomes of rankings exercises to shape their choices and opinions about higher education.
My point here is not to discuss the advantages and disadvantages that this quantification of quality brings to our understanding of higher education (that can wait for another blog post another day!) but to alert fellow Central Asia followers to the publication of a new list from QS that covers ‘Emerging Europe and Central Asia’.
The headlines are that Russian universities perform extremely well, with Lomonosov Moscow State heading the pack. Turkish and Kazakh institutions also feature strongly, with Al-Farabi National University the top ranked Kazakh university at number 21. CA-News focusses on the less good outcomes of Kazakh universities this year compared to last [ru] (when the ranking was of 100 universities; this year it runs to 150). Other Central Asian countries barely feature, with just Kyrgyzstan’s American University of Central Asia enters at the 101-110 group.
This is the second year that this ranking has been run, building on a pilot study run in 2014. The rankings cover 20 countries that can be broadly defined as having shared a socialist past – and the ranking organiser QS makes the point that this shared heritage provides for interesting comparisons.
QS believes that this grouping is significant in three areas:
- For institutions – some of whom may feature in the QS World Rankings but many of whom do not, and thus a more specific focus enables a celebration of their achievements;
- For the study of global trends in higher education – the way that these universities are internationalising is noted (and commended), as is the growing competitiveness of universities in this region;
- For students – recognising high levels of mobility within the region, particularly from former Soviet countries to Russia, the rankings offer a tool for informed decision making.
The supplement to the online rankings discusses these points in more detail and is worth reading. It’s also worth investigating the methodology used, which has been adapted from the World University Rankings with different measures of research excellence and two new indicators covering universities’ web presence and a count of the number of staff with a PhD. Again, this isn’t the time for an analysis but I do have some questions about the rationale underpinning this revised methodology.