An international conference examined the university rankings
Internationally renowned sociologists of science, psychologists, historians of science and researchers in higher education examined the importance of university rankings for higher education, the mechanisms of their impact, methodological assumptions and functioning from the perspective of social sciences and humanities.
The online event "University Rankings - Reflections from Social Sciences and Humanities" (with support from the PADME Foundation) attracted 34 speakers from 12 countries. Organized in collaboration with the International Ranking Expert Group (IREG), the international organization for higher education rankings, the speakers at this conference included representatives from leading global rankings.
Speaking at the conference, Luiz Claudio Costa, President of IREG, former Minister of Higher Education of Brazil and former Rector, called for a continuous rethinking of rankings and scientific reflection. In his video presentation, László Palkovics, Minister of ITM (Ministry for Innovation and Technology), put the issue of rankings in the context of Hungarian higher education policy, responding to some of the questions raised by the registrants beforehand. Academician László Borhy, Rector of ELTE, President of the Hungarian Rectors' Conference,also highlighted ELTE's ranking positions in his opening speech.
Bob Morse, senior analyst at USNews Global Ranking, the most respected company that compiles rankings, pointed out that the number of institutions analyzed in subject rankings has increased significantly worldwide. Svetlana Grishankova of RAER rankings argued for the measurability of the so-called "third mission" of universities. Bob Snow of QS and Niclas Cletz of THE rankings presented their methodological refinements and, in the discussion, partly accepting the criticisms voiced, indicated that even with their shortcomings, the rankings play a major part in improving the self-image and competitiveness of institutions.
The participants of the conference
The scientists put the issue of rankings in a broader context. Ulrich Teichler (Universitat Kassel), one of the most highly regarded figures in continental higher education research, explored the theoretical background of rankings and showed that rankings, acting as "influencers", work against creativity and the complex functioning of knowledge and institutions. Péter Érdi, professor at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, recently published a book which was a huge success (Ranking: The Unwritten Rules of the Social Game We All Play), in which he analyzed ranking as a basic civilizational drive, pointing out its limitations. Academician Csaba Pléh, professor at CEU and alumnus of ELTE, presented patterns of excellence, partly from a psychological background and partly in the networks of the science of psychology. Richard Holmes, a journalist specializing in global rankings, described
how global rankings have come to a crisis,
partly because of the paradigm-shifting nature of the rise of higher education in China and India, partly because of the increasing importance of educational performance, which cannot be measured, and which the pandemic has particularly highlighted. György Fábri, the initiator of the conference, discussed rankings as a postmodern media phenomenon in his closing presentation, highlighting that the bypassing of traditional academic and educational benchmarks leads to distorted results. In addition, new initiatives were discussed: Mózes Székely, Senior Research Fellow at the PPK Institute of Research on Adult Education and Knowledge Management of Eötvös Loránd University, had a presentation on sports rankings, and Waldemar Siwinski detailed European engineering rankings in his presentation.
In addition to the scientific publication, the presentations of the conference will be available in digital form as well, as part of a knowledge base put together by the organizers, the Social Communication Research Group of the PPK Institute of Research on Adult Education and Knowledge Management of Eötvös Loránd University in September – thus continuing the outreach activities related to rankings.
Source: ELTE PPK