[All-Staff] Comment on Times Higher Education Supplement: World University Rankings

Vice-Chancellery vice-chancellery at admin.uwa.edu.au
Wed Nov 10 13:07:09 WST 2004

All Staff

Comment on Times Higher Education Supplement: World University Rankings 

The Times Higher Education Supplement's World University Rankings confirm what The University of Western Australia has been aware of for some time: outside our nation and our region, our academic and research performance far outweighs our international reputation. 

This becomes clear when comparing the categories of 'peer review' (or reputation) and citations per faculty (a measure of research ranking).  Our research score was equal to or higher than 12 of the top 50 universities in the world, but our score in terms of reputation was significantly lower.

In addition, the ranking methodology is skewed towards universities with large numbers of international students on the assumption that a university's ability to attract international students is an indicator of quality.  We would dispute this since in many situations, the number of full fee-paying international students is not a measure of quality, but the result of strategic decision-making.  For example, for some universities fee-paying international students are a critical revenue base. At UWA, international students are encouraged to study on our campus as part of our commitment to international education, but they must meet the same stringent academic qualifications as local students.  Since UWA has arguably the highest overall entry requirements of any Australia university, international students continue
to make up only about 17 per cent of our student population

The THES world rankings do not stand up against the ranking of institutions when measured within their own national systems.  In Australia for example, the foremost non-government ranking system, The Good Universities Guide, ranks The University of Western Australia first along with The University of Sydney and The University of Queensland on a more comprehensive set of criteria. 

Overall, the Times Higher Education Supplement's list appears to be a naive attempt to rank the world universities on an ill-matched set of criteria. Furthermore the criteria remain undefined, the sources of data are not identified, with the result that the rankings are not transparent.

The University of Western Australia welcomes attempts to rank universities on international criteria.  However, the criteria must be very carefully chosen.

With a growing international reputation against most specific academic and research measures, The University will not be distracted from its emphasis on high quality education at international standards of excellence.

I have included for information, a selection of the THES rankings (with and without international students), the Jiao Tong University rankings and the Good University Guide rankings at http://www.uwa.edu.au/file/56997

Alan Robson

More information about the All-Staff mailing list