How can we identify the next generation of leading universities?

At a recent workshop on university rankings one participant was quoted as having said the following:

‘Universities less than 50 years old fall below the radar of current world university rankings systems. Younger institutions are under-represented in world rankings. Current rankings do not provide information which allows the early identification of universities which are building research activity and intensity.’

First, I cannot help pointing out that the university I led until very recently is definitely younger than 50 and is definitely not below the rankings radar, having entered the global top 300 in 2006. However, the question as to how we might identify the next generation of leaders is an interesting one. Although no university will make it into that group without real world-class research excellence, that may not be the early identifier. If you want to break the hegemony of US Ivy League institutions and Oxbridge I would suggest you need to be different, not an imitator. You need to be an innovator with knowledge, finding new ways to develop higher education both in pedagogy and in scholarship, finding new and better ways of answering society’s questions.

There is a widespread view that one model of university will always dominate. I doubt that.

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6 Comments on “How can we identify the next generation of leading universities?”

  1. Fred Says:

    It is difficult to identify them because too many universities are claiming to be the new ‘leaders’.
    But,Ferdinand if you manage to put RGU in the top say 300 as you did with DCU then we will assume that you definately know how to put one there!!

  2. anna notaro Says:

    @’…You need to be an innovator with knowledge, finding new ways to develop higher education both in pedagogy and in scholarship, finding new and better ways of answering society’s questions.’ Let’s not forget that we should all aim to do that REGARDLESS of League tables/rankings of any sort, are these the best parameters to assess academic achievement??

  3. copernicus Says:

    Excellence comes when the universities play to their strengths and sometimes small can be beautiful. As a previous poster mentioned RGU, expansion with multifaculties often is not the answer. RGU lost out when it failed to develop its Engineering departments which was its strength when it was RGIT. This allowed U of Aberdeen to develop its Engineering department which is now arguably among 2/3 best departments in the UK in terms of its research and teaching excellence. Ranking does not matter when reputation for good teaching and research travels ahead of ranking.

    My own Alma Mater U of Cincinnati has arguably the best paediatrics department in USA and its medical school is among the best in that country. Similarly its College of Conservatory of Music had an enviable reputation in that country. But again it did not play to its strengths for long and only recently its School of Medicine and Life Sciences were strengthened and within a short time the univesity has appeared in top 200 in THE ranking.

    An institution like Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indian, USA is the first choice for so may UG students, and despite its fees being higher than what nearby Purdue University charges (Purdue is an excellent university and has reputation in the engineering and technology areas as well as sciences), Rose Hulman attracts best students all over the world, and has an enviable reputation of getting its undergraduates into institutions like MIT and CalTech for further work. They are in demand in industry. It follows the adage ” small is beautiful”.

  4. Sally Says:

    A university is a set of buildings containing academics. If you had a bus-full of engineers who built a good bridge, would you rank the bridge, the engineers or the bus?

  5. Vincent Says:

    In fairness, outside of the industry how many Universities can the well read bloke name outside of his own Country.
    Most have the connection from some novel or film during their teen years. Heidelberg is a case in point, the thing that sticks is the dueling clubs which were a staple of schlock 30′s action films.
    So, to my mind some of the Brand Recognition and therefore their position in the tables that accrues to the Dublin Colleges stems firstly from mixing up TCD, UCD and DCU. As outside of the country you would need to be a code breaker from Bletchley Park to work out the difference. And as far as I can see this is no bad thing for the Good accruing to one will go to all.
    And further I’ll bet you that outside of the Spanish departments pushing beyond Salamanca and a reasonable certainty that there is a university in Madrid Barcelona and Seville would be some effort for most insiders. And Salamanca, only because the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria are rubbing a synapse or two.

  6. Al Says:

    The rankings will change over time,
    But it is the value system and the ability to live to it that needs definition and study.
    We lost the run of ourselves here!
    Too many promotions to general
    Vice President for the student experience!!!
    Good night


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