Educación para el futuro: Políticas y prácticas – una visión desde la OCDE

oecd0709.gif Palabras del Secretario General de la OCDE, Angel Gurría, con ocasión de la mesa redonda de Ministros de Educación que tuvo lugar en la UNESCO, 10 octubre 2009.
Education for the future – Promoting changes in policies and practices: the way forward
Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at the Education Ministerial Round Table, UNESCO
10 October 2009 – UNESCO, Paris, France
Director General, Madame Chair, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning:
I am pleased to be part of this session on “How to promote changes in policies and practices”, as this is one of the greatest challenges to improve education and the very essence of OECD work in this field. Thank you very much for the invitation. We have brought with us the ”highlights” of our yearly publication, “Education at a Glance”, as well as some very specific publications on, for example, “Education for students at risk and those with disabilities in the Baltics and South East Europe”, or “Green at Fifteen”.
The current financial and economic crisis is one of the biggest transformations of our lifetime. It is defining a tough new world. Thus, we need to revise our educational policies, to adapt them to such new reality where factors like high unemployment, growing inequalities, stronger competition, fewer jobs, enhanced interdependence, new business ethics, constant innovation and, if we get it right, “green growth” are becoming the new pointers for our societies of the future.
We therefore need to prepare for such a challenging future. This is where education comes in and becomes critical.
1. Rising skills: a first crucial target
We are currently facing the greatest job crisis of our lives. The average unemployment rate in the OECD area could approach 10% by 2010. Youth unemployment has soared to 20-30% in some countries. This figure translates into 57 million people out of a job in the OECD zone. The number of unemployed is even larger in developing countries, and is sometimes hard to track because of the phenomenon of informality.
Education and training are key elements to our response to this crisis. If we want to provide jobseekers with the re-employment assistance they require, and minimise long-term unemployment, we need to emphasize training.
As we documented in the most recent edition (the 29th) of our “Employment OutlooEmployment Outlook”, the job prospects for those with few qualifications are deteriorating rapidly in this crisis environment. Across OECD countries, over 40% of young people who have not completed secondary school are not employed. This is more than the double of the youth unemployment rate. Many of those who become unemployed stay unemployed for a long time. New graduates face serious difficulties in finding jobs and enterprises cut training opportunities in the vocational area. All because of the crisis.
And yet, we have powerful evidence that education is the key to addressing the economic and social challenges of our times, including a way to get out of the crisis faster. We continue to see rising economic and social benefits for those who are skilled, as well as deteriorating opportunities for those without adequate education.
We have made calculation on how worth it is for one to get higher education. It is enormously positive. Actually, there is a considerable earnings premium for people with degrees over their working lives, which averages now $186,000 across OECD countries. Even when you hold such benefits against what governments and individuals spend on education, the net public return from an investment in tertiary education is highly positive. For individuals, it pays to invest in education. You clearly have a very positive costs / benefits ratio.
You can look at the other side of the coin too: the economic loss imposed by poor educational performance might be even greater than the output shortfall in the current economic crisis. For example, if the United States had closed the gap regarding performing education systems such as Finland and Korea, GDP in 2008 could have been $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion higher (equivalent to 9 – 16% of GDP).
There is no doubt that education systems have responded to the rising demand for better skilled people. Indeed, the volume of educational activity has expanded at an unprecedented pace. University graduation rates doubling from 20% in 1995 to almost 40% in 2007, in the OECD area. In China and other emerging markets, the rate of expansion has been even faster.
Producing more of the same qualifications cannot be the answer when the nature of the skills that matter is changing too.
2. Education systems have to put greater emphasis on 21st Century skills
Our economic growth is increasingly driven by innovation, making skills obsolete at a much faster pace than before. This is why Ministers called upon the OECD to develop an Innovation Strategy that looks, among other things, at how education and training can develop the skills that matter for the world to come. They also more recently gave us a mandate to develop a Green Growth Strategy. Innovation and Green Growth clearly go hand in hand.
How can schools and universities prepare people for a world where work can be digitized, automated, outsourced and green?
The response lies in education. The key to success is no longer simply whether you can reproduce something you have learned, but whether you can extrapolate from what you know and apply your knowledge in a novel and changing setting. This shows that if students learn merely to memorise and reproduce knowledge and skills, they risk being prepared for jobs that are in fact disappearing. The problem is that this is precisely what many schools have focussed on for so many decades.
Of course, state-of-the-art skills in a field will always be important. Innovative and productive people generally have specialised skills. But there are other important competencies that education needs to focus on. Let me mention three:
First of all, in our schools, students typically learn individually and thus, at the end of the school year, we certify their individual achievements. But the more globalised and inter dependent the world becomes, the more we need great collaborators and orchestrators, not isolated individuals, no matter how well they do. We need to form people for a more inclusive world: people who can appreciate and build on different values, beliefs, cultures. Inter-personal competencies to produce inclusive solutions will be of growing importance.
Second, the conventional approach in school is often to break problems down into manageable bits and pieces and then teach students how to solve each one of these bits and pieces individually. But in modern economies, we create value by synthesising different fields of knowledge, making connections between ideas that previously seemed unrelated. That requires being familiar with and open and receptive to knowledge in other fields rather than our own field. But apart from Japan and perhaps the Nordic countries in Europe, there are few incentives for teachers to collaborate across disciplines.
Third, if we log on to the Internet today, we can find everything we are looking for. But the more content we can search and access, the more important it is to teach our students to sort and filter information. The search for relevance is very critical in the presence of abundance of information. We also need the capacity to explain content in one area to people working in other areas.
The 21st century schools therefore need to help young individuals to constantly adapt and grow, to develop their capacity and motivation, to expand their horizons and transfer and apply knowledge in novel settings.
This crisis is exposing the gaps in our education system. For example, nowadays people need a much better financial literacy. They need to be able to think in terms of scenarios, weigh risks and probabilities, and assess the short-term and long-term economic impact of today’s decisions.
Our relation to climate change is another example. Technological innovation and well-targeted policy instruments are essential. But ultimately, green growth will rely on people’s behaviour and on their own individual understanding of its social and environmental impact.
We can extend the list further but the point is that, whatever competencies are considered relevant for success in modern societies, our educational policies and our schools need to adapt to them but mostly, to provide them.
One important issue for example is that children nowadays don’t want to become scientists, they prefer to become football players or rock stars. We are running out of vocation, out of the future.
3. The importance of education reform: learning form each other
And thus, we must ask how efficiently are our educational policies adapting to the new global circumstances? Not very well, I should say. This is a key question for the future of our nations.
In OECD countries, political leaders have demonstrated a commitment to reforming education systems. But if we are to keep public policy credible, it is important to make sure that reforms actually do change policies and practices. And here is where we have some worries.
A growing body of evidence and statistics on education systems and outcomes ─ from sources like the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) ─ show that the goals of education reforms are not always materialising. There is a broad consensus on the goals but the degree of execution is not the same. But there are surprising gaps in our knowledge of how to make that happen. The political economy of reforms in the field of education is enormously difficult. Breaking the status quo is not easy.
Overcoming active resistance to change in educational policy is one of our central challenges. We have much to learn from each other to address this challenge.
At the OECD, we have been comparing the effectiveness of our educational policies and reforms for many years. These international comparisons have helped us identify our common challenges and best practices.
We have learned, for example, that teachers and school leaders are still not being systematically prepared to use performance measurement and diagnostic tools to identify students in difficulty and constructively address their learning needs. And they spend too much time in administration issues or in addressing discipline problems of individual students.
But we have also learned that change is possible: by shifting public concern away from the mere control over the resources and content of education toward a focus on outcomes; by moving from “hit and miss” policies to establishing universal high standards; by moving from uniformity to embracing diversity and individualising learning. And we have identified the best practices to produce these changes.
We have seen, for example, good success stories: like the Scottish government’s major reforms, earlier this decade, which started with an overhaul of the teachers training and salaries. Teachers then became advocates and agents of further reform.
We have seen countries like Mexico where the government recently embarked on a series of far-reaching reforms to curriculum, examinations, and teacher training, evaluation and certification, based on OECD benchmarks and exchange of best practices.
We have seen countries like Finland whose reforms focused on teachers’ selection, remuneration and standing in society, with the results that Finland always comes out at the top. There is usually a trade-off between teachers’ pay and the size of the classes, which requires a careful balancing act.
It is no longer enough for national education policy makers to gauge education improvement against their own past outcomes. They have to keep an eye on how much other countries are improving as well. This is the value of multilateral cooperation. This is why these international conferences are so important. This is why we will continue our fruitful collaboration with UNESCO to provide the cross-cutting policy expertise needed to support governments in addressing these challenges.
Dear Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen:
We need to empower the future generations with new tools to produce a better world; to adapt our educational policies to a new, more competitive and globalized reality; to identify our leads and lags, compare our know-how and prepare to learn from each other through enhanced multilateral cooperation. Remember: “In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” May these words by Eric Hoffer stay in our minds as we try to prepare for the future. This is probably an exaggeration, as being learned is of great importance to become a learner.
I will close my speech by thanking Mr Matsura, with whom I had the privilege and satisfaction to work. I am proud of the work we shared with you. Together we have made a difference. I wish you good luck and present you my congratulations.
Thank you very much for your attention.


Política universitaria: una encrucijada estratégica

LogoElMercurio.gif Columna publicada en la página de Educación del diario El Mercurio, 18 octubre 2009.
Palabras claves: rankings universitarios, universidades de clase mundial, financiamiento, Consejo Rectores
Política universitaria: una encrucijada estratégica
El que sea efectivo que el Estado entrega pocos recursos a la educación superior no lleva a concluir que éste deba financiar a unas pocas universidades que quieren convertirse en instituciones de estatus mundial.
José Joaquín Brunner
La reciente aparición del ranking de las 200 “mejores” universidades del mundo que publica anualmente la revista inglesa Times Higher Education -en el cual no aparece ninguna universidad chilena- ha vuelto a activar la demanda por una mayor inversión de recursos fiscales en este sector. En particular, autoridades de algunas de nuestras universidades que aspiran a ser reconocidas internacionalmente insisten en la idea de que sin un mayor apoyo del Estado es imposible que sus instituciones puedan convertirse en entidades de clase mundial.
Este tipo de planteamiento merece ser discutido con atención, incluso si uno es escéptico (como lo soy yo) respecto de la calidad, consistencia, rigurosidad y utilidad de los rankings globales y de la importancia que suele otorgárseles.
Ante todo, porque es efectivo que el presupuesto nacional destina una cantidad reducida de recursos a la educación superior y la investigación académica; de hecho, una de las más bajas entre los países con un nivel de desarrollo similar al nuestro. Sin embargo, de allí no se sigue, automáticamente, que el gobierno deba invertir en unas pocas universidades que anhelan alcanzar un estatus internacional.
Más bien, una estrategia equilibrada para el desarrollo de la educación nacional debiera impulsar, con prioridad máxima, un sustancial y rápido incremento de la subvención escolar para los niveles básico y medio, sin disminuir el esfuerzo que se viene haciendo para extender la cobertura y calidad de la educación preescolar y la atención temprana de niñas y niños. De esto depende en gran medida la posibilidad de hacer retroceder las desigualdades sociales.
En el nivel de la educación terciaria, en tanto, el Estado debe preocuparse principalmente de financiar becas para jóvenes talentosos provenientes de familias de menores ingresos y créditos para todos aquellos jóvenes y adultos que no están en condiciones de financiar sus estudios superiores.
Sólo después de satisfacer estas necesidades fundamentales, la política pública podría con legitimidad y eficacia atender a las necesidades de las instituciones de educación superior, a condición de que éstas cumplan con los estándares de la acreditación y se sujeten a reglas más rigurosas de información al público.
Al efecto, todas las universidades acreditadas y dispuestas a informar con transparencia debieran conformar una agrupación que pueda interactuar con el Gobierno y participar en la definición de las políticas para el sector.
El Consejo de Rectores hace rato dejó de cumplir esta misión. Todas esas universidades debieran estar facultadas además para postular competitivamente a convenios de desempeño y para obtener recursos basales (AFD) en caso de que sus proyectos resulten seleccionados por una instancia independiente. Asimismo, para competir por fondos destinados al mejoramiento de la calidad docente y el fortalecimiento de las capacidades de investigación académica. Sólo de esta forma se podría nivelar el campo de juego para todas las instituciones sin discriminación.
Por el contrario, no tiene sentido aspirar a que el país cuente mañana con una o dos universidades de aquellas llamadas equívocamente de clase mundial, cuyo costo de desarrollo y mantención resulta prohibitivo y que terminarían sirviendo apenas a una fracción ultra-minoritaria de estudiantes, la mayoría proveniente, inevitablemente, de hogares dotados de un alto capital económico, social y cultural.
Una estrategia tal llevaría nada más que a reeditar las tradiciones elitistas que en el pasado caracterizaron el desarrollo de la educación chilena, y cuyos negativos efectos -en términos de segmentación escolar, privilegios estamentales y jerarquías no meritocráticas, patrocinadas estatalmente- perduran hasta hoy.
Recursos asociados
¿Para qué sirven los rankings de universidades?, 17 octubre 2009
A propósitio de rankings universitarios, 9 octubre 2009
Ranking inglés 2009 de las mejores universidades del mundo, 8 octubre 2009
Universidades de Clase Mundial: nuevo libro de Jamil Salmi, 5 abril 2009

Primer Congreso de Investigación en Educación Superior

Organizado por el Programa Anillo (SOC01-Conicyt) de Políticas en Educación Superior, que cuenta con la participación de las Universidades Alberto hurtado, de Talca, Nacional Andrés Bello y Diego Portales, se realizará el próximo día martes 20 de octubre el Primer Congreso de Investigación en Educación Superior.
Tendrá lugar el Campus Santiago de la Universidad de Talca, Québec 415, esquina Condell 188, Providencia – Santiago.
Ver aquí el Programa.

¿Para qué sirven los rankings de universidades?

anillo.jpg Apareció en Boletín Nº 6 del Programa Anillo(SOC01) de Políticas en Educación Superior, dedicado esta vez al tema de los rankings de universidades. Fue editado por Judith Scheele con la colaboración de Felipe Salazar, ambos del Centro de Políticas Comparadas de Educación de la UDP.
Algunas de las preguntas que busca responder son:
¿Para qué sirven los rankings de universidades?
¿Cuáles son los rankings más importantes?
¿Cuáles son los argumentos críticos respecto a los rankings?
¿Cuáles son los parámetros en que se basan los rankings de universidades?
¿Qué estándares internacionales existen acerca del ranking de instituciones de educación superior?
¿Cómo se puede mejorar la calidad y fiabilidad de los rankings?
Bajar el Boletín aquípdfIcon_24.png266 KB
Ver números anteriores aquí.
Los rankings son un fenómeno relativamente nuevo en la educación superior. Fueron introducidos hace un cuarto de siglo en los Estados Unidos por la revista US News and World Report con el objetivo de proporcionar información clara y práctica sobre las diferencias de calidad y prestigio entre las instituciones de educación superior (IES) a los futuros estudiantes y otros actores interesados.
En virtud del rápido crecimiento en el número y variedad de IES, los rankings se han popularizado durante las dos últimas décadas, convirtiéndose en un mecanismo universal para el fomento de la transparencia y la accountability de las universidades. Dado que la elección de una universidad es una decisión crucial para los estudiantes y sus familias, y que ella implica una significativa inversión de recursos, los rankings satisfacen una necesidad importante, proporcionando datos comparables que ayudan a los estudiantes a elegir la institución que mejor se adecúa a sus preferencias.
A pesar de la popularidad de los rankings existe un fuerte debate sobre su uso. Varios académicos y, sobre todo, instituciones, cuestionan la calidad y la fiabilidad de los rankings. Basan sus críticas en el hecho de que los productores de rankings seleccionan y ponderan los indicadores de manera subjetiva (y “arbitraria” en la opinión de los críticos), mostrando los resultados como una clasificación objetiva. Asimismo, ponen en duda la verificabilidad de los datos utilizados para elaborar los rankings. A menudo los rankings se construyen sobre la base de datos entregados por las propias universidades sin control ulterior o en base a los resultados de encuestas entre instituciones pares, lo que les resta confiabilidad y los vuelve susceptibles de manipulación.
Vista la popularidad y la rápida expansión del número de rankings de universidades, es necesario evaluar su calidad e impacto en la educación superior. Existen varias maneras de mejorar la calidad de los rankings y de hacer su uso menos polémico. La introducción de nuevas formas de ranking y mecanismos para controlar la fiabilidad de los datos, satisfaría gran parte de las exigencias de los críticos.

Políticas de Educación Superior: Tendencias Internacionales

Presentación sobre el tópico de las tendencias internacionales en la educación superior empleada como base para una clase dentro del módulo ofrecido por el Programa Anillo(SOC01) de Investigación sobre Políticas de Educación Superior para alumnos de maestría de la Universidad Católica Silva Henríquez, 14 octubre 2009.
Bajar la presentación aquípdfIcon_24.png 2,9 MB

A propósitio de rankings universitarios

ellen_hazelkorn.jpg A propósito del ranking 2009 del Times Higher Education que mostrábamos ayer, vale la pena leer el siguiente artícula de Ellen Hazelkorn, de marzo pasado, en que aborda la fascinación u obsesión que se ha ido instalando en el mundo en relación con las world calss universities. Hazelkorn es Directora de Investigación y Decana de la Escuela de Graduados del Dublin Institute of Technology, Irlanda. Es uademás una reputada investigadora de la educación superior.
The problem with university rankings
Ellen Hazelkorn
Universities that do well in the rankings often see rising student applications
Our obsession with top-rated universities is denying us a ‘world-class’ global higher education system, says Ellen Hazelkorn.
Few people in higher education (HE) are unaware of university rankings. They measure a university’s ability to attract talent and produce new knowledge — usually using the number of publications or citations to determine research quality.
The US News and World Report (USNWR) began providing information about US universities in 1983. Since then, national rankings have been created in over 40 countries. Global rankings may be more recent but they have become more influential; the Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities (SJT) began in 2003, followed by Webometrics and Times Higher Education QS World University Ranking (THE–QS) in 2004, the Taiwan Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for Research Universities in 2007, and USNWR’s World’s Best Colleges and Universities in 2008 (which uses Times QS data). The European Union has announced a ‘new multi-dimensional university ranking system with global outreach’ to be piloted in 2010.
Race for the top
Despite over 17,000 HE institutions worldwide, there is a near-obsession with the status of the top 100 universities. None of these are in Africa or South America.
Rankings were initially aimed at undergraduate students and their parents. Indeed, international research shows that high achieving students believe a high university rank carries special benefits, positively affecting their career opportunities and quality of life. Universities that do well in the rankings often see rising student applications while those going lower can suffer a decline.
Yet rankings today influence the opinions and decisions of a wide range of stakeholders. And universities themselves use rankings in many ways, some positive and some perverse.
Who uses rankings?
Rankings affect universities’ decisions about their international partnerships. Such partnerships have become strategically important for research, academic programmes, and student/faculty exchanges. According to an international survey, 57 per cent of respondents said their institute’s ranking was influencing whether researchers in other HE institutions partnered with them, and 34 per cent said they felt rankings were influencing whether academic or professional organisations would accept their membership.
Universities are also using rankings internally to inform decisions about which institutions to partner with. For example, Ian Gow, former provost of The University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China has suggested that government authorities are urging local institutions to limit partnerships to the top 20 foreign institutions. Academics elsewhere have also confirmed they are unlikely to consider research partnerships with a lower ranked university unless the person or team is exceptional. This could pose significant disadvantages to new HE institutions, or institutions in developing countries.
Donors also refer to rankings when considering which university offers the best brand image and return-on-investment. Deutsche Telecom admits it used rankings to influence its decision about professorial chairs, while Boeing said it will be using performance data to determine “which colleges…share in the US$100 million that [it] spends…on course work and supplemental training.”
Universities are setting priorities and allocating resources to academic disciplines and research fields which can help improve their rank. Many governments use rankings when deciding resource allocation and institutional accreditation.
Rankings can also affect students seeking government sponsorship to study abroad — in Mongolia and Qatar, scholarships are restricted to students admitted to highly ranked international universities.
And they can decide whether governments recognise foreign qualifications — Macedonia automatically recognises qualifications from the top 500 universities listed in the THE–QS, SJT or USNWR.
Employers are another group who often use rankings to measure probable graduate success, making them less likely to recruit graduates from universities that are not well placed.
Unintended effects
Because of these effects, not being ranked can mean a university becomes invisible to international PhD students, ‘world-class’ researchers, academic partners, philanthropists and donors.
Rankings based on citations best record the bio-sciences, making the arts, humanities and social sciences vulnerable. Professional disciplines, such as engineering, business and education, which do not have a strong tradition of peer-reviewed publications, are also under pressure.
Rankings have placed a new premium on status and reputation, with a strong bias towards long-established and well-endowed institutions, usually with medical schools, in developed countries. This system makes it impossible for developing country universities to compete with the big players in the United States or Europe. The gap between elite and mass education and between universities in the developed and developing world is likely to widen.
One particular problem is that rankings perpetuate a single definition of quality at a time when HE institutions, and their missions, are diversifying. By focusing primarily on research intensity, other dimensions, such as teaching and learning, community engagement, third mission and innovation, and social and economic impact are ignored.
In addition, HE institutions are complex organisations with strengths and weaknesses across various departments and activities. Excellence can be defined differently depending upon the criteria or indicators/weightings which are used. By aggregating the score across the various indicators, rankings reduce the complexity of higher education to a single digit score, and exaggerate differences.
Despite these criticisms, governments such as China, India, Japan and Korea are looking to build their own world-class universities.
World class
Of course, rankings can help to reform and modernise higher education, encouraging universities to professionalise services and management, and improve the quality of their programmes and facilities for students and faculty.
But rather than concentrating resources in a small number of elite universities, the aim should be a world-class HE system. Governments should aim to develop a diverse range of universities each with specialist world-class expertise, to attract high-achieving students and high-skilled labour. Building such a world-class HE system would enable countries to mobilise and leverage the potential of the whole system for the benefit of society at large.
Ellen Hazelkorn is Director of Research and Enterprise, and Dean of the Graduate Research School at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland.She also leads the Higher Education Policy Research Unit.

Ranking inglés 2009 de las mejores universidades del mundo

THE.bmp Sólo una universidad latinoamericana –la Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) se cuenta entre las 200 top del ranking del Times Higher Education dado a conocer hoy. Durante el último año, sin embargo, cayó 40 lugares, quedando en el lugar 190 este año.
Brasil y Argentina, los otros países latinoamericanos que el año pasado anotaban una de sus universidades en la tabla de las 200 de calidad mundial, desaparecen.
Las dos universidades chilenas –la UCH y la PUC– no aparecen entre las 200 primeras sino bastante más abajo, y ambas pierden posiciones con respec to al año 2008.
Las universidades de Estados Unidos mantienen su pedominio pero en descenso, mientras ascienden las universidades de países asiáticos.
En Europa se mantiene el liderazgo de las universidades del Reino Unido seguidas de las universidades Holandesas (11 entre las 200 top del mundo) y Alemania (10).
Australia mantiene también su participación con 9 universidades, al igual que Nueva Zelanda con 3.
Ver listado de las 200 mejores universidades y sus puntajes aquí
Ver listado de las 50 mehjores en:
— Ciencias sociales aquí
— Artes y humanidades aquí
— Ciencias naturales aquí
— Ciencias de la vida y biomédicas aquí
— Ingenierías y tecnoklogías de información aquí
Principales aspectos y metodología
World University Rankings 2009
Rankings 09: Talking points
8 October 2009
By Phil Baty
The World University Rankings are compiled using a mixture of quantitative indicators and informed opinion
What makes a world-class university? When Times Higher Education asked the leaders of top-ranked institutions this question last year, one response stood out for its inspirational qualities.
Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, said that his institution was “driven by a singular focus on the value of open, rigorous and intense inquiry. Everything about the university that we recognise as distinctive flows from this.”
He said that Chicago believed that “argumentation rather than deference is the route to clarity”, that “arguments stand or fall on their merits” and that the university recognised that “our contributions to society rest on the power of our ideas and the openness of our environment to developing and testing ideas”.
His answer prompted much praise. One Times Higher Education reader said that Zimmer’s “glorious affirmation” was “marvellously refreshing” and had “brought joy to my heart, tears to my eyes and a renewed sense of commitment to the life of the mind”.
But glorious as Zimmer’s statement was, it also served to highlight the problem faced by the increasing number of people and organisations now in the business of ranking higher education institutions: how on earth do you measure such intangible things?
The short answer, of course, is that you cannot. What you can do, however, and what we have sought to do with these rankings, is to try to capture the more tangible and measurable elements that make a modern, world-class university.
When Times Higher Education first conceived its annual World University Rankings with QS in 2004, we identified “four pillars” that supported the foundations of a leading international institution. They are hardly controversial: high-quality research; high-quality teaching; high graduate employability; and an “international outlook”.
Much more controversial are the measurements we chose for our rankings, and the balance between quantitative and qualitative measures.
To judge research excellence, we examine citations – how many times an academic’s published work is cited.
We calculate this element – worth 20 per cent of the overall score – by taking the total number of citations for all papers published from the institution, and then dividing the figure by the number of full-time equivalent staff at the institution. This gives a sense of the density of research excellence on a campus.
Our proxy for teaching excellence is a simple measure of staff-to-student ratio. It is not perfect, but it is based on data that can be collected for all institutions, often via national bodies, and compared fairly. Our assumption is that it tells us something meaningful about the quality of the student experience. At the most basic level, it at least gives a sense as to whether an institution has enough teaching staff to give students the attention they require. This measure is worth 20 per cent of the overall score.
To get a sense of a university’s international outlook, we measure the proportion of overseas staff a university has on its books (making up 5 per cent of the total score) and the proportion of international students it has attracted (making up another 5 per cent). This gives an impression of how attractive an institution is around the world, and suggests how much the institution has embraced the globalisation agenda.
But 50 per cent of the final score is made up from qualitative data from surveys of informed people – university academics and graduate employers.
The fundamental tenet of this ranking, as we have said in previous years, is that academics know best when it comes to identifying the best institutions.
So the biggest part of the ranking score – worth 40 per cent – is based on the result of an academic peer review survey. We consult academics around the world, from lecturers to university presidents, and ask them to name up to 30 institutions they regard as being the best in the world in their field.
Responses over the past three years are aggregated, although only the most recent response from anyone who has responded more than once is used. For our 2009 tables, we have drawn on responses from 9,386 people. With each person nominating an average of 13 institutions, this means that we can draw on about 120,000 data points.
The ranking also includes the results of an employer survey of 3,281 major graduate employers, making up 10 per cent of the overall result.
Rankings 09: Asia advances
8 October 2009
By Phil Baty
America’s superpower status is slipping as other countries’ efforts to join the global elite begin to pay dividends. Phil Baty reports
The US domination of the top ranks of global higher education is not as strong as it has been in previous years. The Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings 2009 show that institutions in Asian countries such as Hong Kong and Japan are growing in stature.
Although Harvard University is still ranked number one in the table of the world’s top 200 universities – for the sixth consecutive year – American supremacy seems to be slipping.
While the US still has by far the most institutions in the top 200, with a total of 54, it has lost five institutions from the top 100 and four have dropped out of the top 200 altogether.
The country’s decline comes amid improved showings by institutions in Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Malaysia.
Philip Altbach, director of the Centre for Higher Education at Boston College in the US, says several factors are behind the surges by Asian institutions.
“These countries have invested heavily in higher education in recent years, and this is reflected in the improved quality in their top institutions,” he says. “They have also attempted to internationalise their universities by hiring more faculty from overseas … this helps to improve their visibility globally.
“These universities have also stressed the importance of their professors publishing in international journals, which has no doubt increased the visibility of their research.”
But he adds that this drive for internationalisation and success in global rankings may be “debatable in terms of good policy” for Asian institutions. For example, he says, stressing the importance of publishing in international journals may “tilt research away from topics relevant for national development”, and fostering the use of the English language “may have a negative impact on intellectual work in the local language”.
Japan counts 11 institutions in the top 200, among them two new entrants: the University of Tsukuba sharing 174th place and Keio University making an impressive debut at 142nd. Japan’s representatives in the top 100 rose in number from four to six, led by the University of Tokyo at 22nd place (down from 19th).
Despite having a total of only eight government-funded tertiary institutions, Hong Kong has five institutions in the top 200, up from four last year.
Its tally includes three in the top 50: the University of Hong Kong (up two places to 24th); Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (up four to 35th); and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (down four to 46th). City University of Hong Kong rocketed up the table to 124th, from joint 147th, in its 25th anniversary year. Hong Kong Polytechnic University made the top 200, reaching 195th place.
South Korea now has four universities in the top 200, with new entrant Yonsei University in at joint 151st. Seoul National University is the country’s highest-placed institution, sharing 47th place.
Malaysia returned to the top 200 with its Universiti Malaya entering at 180th place.
China replicated its standing from last year, with two institutions in the top 100 and a total of six in the top 200. The country’s top-rated institution, Tsinghua University, climbed from 56th place to joint 49th, while Peking University slipped from 50th to joint 52nd. Fudan University moved up to joint 103rd from 113th.
The rise of Asia is in direct contrast to the US’ fortunes. The most dramatic illustration of its slide is apparent in the top ten. Although America still claims six of the top ten spots, Yale University has slipped from second to third place in the past year – overtaken by the University of Cambridge – and the California Institute of Technology has fallen from number five to number ten.
This slide lends credence to the predictions of several international higher education experts that the US will soon lose its international ascendancy.
Don Olcott, head of the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, spoke in August about the rise of the “new global regionalism” threatening Anglo-American dominance.
“Are we really naive enough to think that China, India, Malaysia, South Korea, the Gulf states and others do not want to build long-term, high-quality, sustainable university systems?” he told Times Higher Education.
At an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development conference earlier this year, it was suggested that the US and the UK would be hit far harder than most countries by the need for future public spending cuts because both will need to reduce massive budget deficits. A number of countries in Asia, including Japan and Korea, will face an easier ride. Delegates spoke of a resulting major “redistribution of brains”.
According to Ben Sowter, head of research at QS, which compiles the tables for Times Higher Education, the fallout caused by America’s economic problems may ultimately result in its institutions sliding even lower in subsequent rankings. As 40 per cent of the overall ranking score is based on a survey of academics’ opinions (see “Talking points”, page x), the US’ slip in 2009 may have more to do with the improvement in the reputation of Asian institutions brought about by better marketing and communication, he says.
“In the six years of conducting this study, we have seen a drastically increased emphasis on international reputation from institutions in many countries, particularly those in Asia,” he notes.
Like its southern neighbour, Canada’s overall position in the rankings also dropped. It registered 11 institutions in the top 200, compared with 12 in 2008. Its two best performers both rose – McGill University climbed from 20th place to 18th, while the University of Toronto shot up from 41st to 29th – but others slipped.
Australia has nine institutions in the top 200, the same number as last year, but it increased its representation in the top 100 from seven to eight.
The Australian National University, the highest-placed institution outside the US and the UK, slipped from 16th to 17th, but Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland and Monash all improved their positions.
Russia has two institutions in the top 200, with new entrant Saint-Petersburg State University in at joint number 168.
Sweden also has one new entrant; the University of Gothenburg moved up to 185th place to lift Sweden’s tally to five in the top 200. Brazil and Argentina, which had one university each in the 2008 rankings, both fell out of the top 200 altogether.

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