Australia in the Asian Century: Improving university rankings

Parliament house flag post

Australia in the Asian Century: Improving university rankings

Posted 31/10/2012 by Coral Dow

The Asian Century White Paper sees higher education as a key sector in developing capabilities for economic success in what it calls ‘the Asian century’ and sets a national objective that ‘by 2025 10 of Australia’s universities will be in the world’s top 100’.
A number of questions arise from this objective, including the appropriateness of world rankings in setting and measuring goals; the degree of investment required to improve rankings and a decision on which ranking system to use.

World rankings have largely arisen in the last decade and there are now five major world university ranking systems. They have variations in methodologies but all stress research investment and performance over other measures such as teaching quality. As a recent Group of Eight analysis states: ‘As they are currently structured world university rankings do not relate well to the missions of universities whose principal mission is not research, or at least not internationally-referenced basic research’.

The Asian Century White Paper uses the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) which in 2012 placed 5 Australian universities in the top 100. Alternative systems are the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE) which has Australia with 6, the QS World University Rankings (QS) with 7, the Leiden Ranking (of scientific performance) 0 and Webometrics 2.

There are many reported deficiencies in world ranking systems including the availability of comparable data, the emphasis on research, the bias to English language research and publishing, the inability of specialist niche institutions to be recognised, the arbitrary nature of the weighting measures, and the changes to methodology.

Despite these deficiencies world rankings are used as market indicators that affect student (both domestic and international) choice, as guides for investment (both government and non-government) and as measures of aspirations and assessing improvements. In Australia both the Government, in the Asian Century White paper, and the opposition have referenced rankings in setting policies.

In December 2011 the opposition spokesperson for Education, Christopher Pyne said a Coalition government would assist ‘at least’ the Group of Eight Universities into the ‘highest fifty ranked universities worldwide in the next four years’. Using THE rankings he pointed out that the number in the top 50 under the Labor Government had fallen to two compared to six under the Howard Government in 2004. ‘Our universities have fallen in international comparisons in the last six years. It is a situation that demands a response and not an excuse’.

However there are dangers in using rankings to set and compare policies as factors beyond institutional and government control affect movements within the rankings.

Changes in methodology make comparisons with previous years problematic. THE rankings which commenced in 2004, the year when Australia had six universities in the top 50, changed its methodology in 2010 when it broke away from the QS system. Australian universities then dropped from five in the top 50 in 2009 to two in the 2010 top 50. However using the breakaway QS 2010 rankings Australia maintained its position with five in the top 50. Changes in methodology rather than government policy may account for the changes noted by Christopher Pyne and point to the problems for future policy makers in assessing the success of a goal that ‘by 2025 10 of Australia’s universities will be in the world’s top 100’.

Furthermore other institutions will also be aiming to maintain or improve their position. Movements into the top 50 or top 100 rely on others dropping out. The ARWU is produced by China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University. It commenced in 2003 as a means of evaluating China’s universities against the world’s best universities and guiding China’s efforts to create elite universities. It is now a leading global guide for universities and governments.

Analysis by THE of its 2012-13 rankings noted institutional effort and government investment are driving Asian improvements at the expense of western universities. Statements such as ‘Investments in China’s elite universities are paying dividends’, ‘Empirical evidence of a power shift from West to East’, and ‘Signs that public funding cuts are damaging the US' and the UK's global competitiveness’ suggest that Australia is now competing with a wide range of institutions to improve its position.

A key input for improvement will be research investment. The Asian paper does not commit to increased funding but the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Technology Sydney, Ross Milbourne, estimates an extra $10 billion a year in research funding would be required to double the number of Australian universities in the top 100. The 2012–13 budget estimated $8.9 billion will be spent on higher education this financial year suggesting that total funding would need to double to meet Professor Milbourne’s estimates.


Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print

FlagPost

Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament


Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice

Archive

Syndication

Tagcloud

refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament climate change elections women social security Indigenous Australians Australian Bureau of Statistics Employment Sport illicit drugs people trafficking taxation Medicare welfare reform Australian Defence Force higher education welfare policy United Nations health financing Asia income management Middle East criminal law disability Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget gambling school education forced labour aid statistics Australian Electoral Commission WADA emissions trading dental health Australia in the Asian Century steroids detention Private health insurance OECD ASADA labour force transport Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Industrial Relations people smuggling National Disability Insurance Scheme Australian Crime Commission slavery Senate election results Papua New Guinea Australian Public Service constitution International Women's Day corruption Afghanistan Fair Work Act child protection debt federal election 2013 parliamentary procedure poker machines ALP New Zealand Newstart Parenting Payment 43rd Parliament political parties Census High Court skilled migration voting Federal Court terrorist groups Higher Education Loan Program HECS youth paid parental leave Aviation environment foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability customs doping health crime health risks multiculturalism aged care Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery sea farers Special Rapporteur leadership United Kingdom UK Parliament Electoral reform politics banking firearms public policy violence against women domestic violence mental health China ADRV terrorism social media pensions welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation governance public service reform Carbon Pricing Mechanism carbon tax mining military history employer employee fishing by-election European Union same sex relationships international relations coal seam gas family assistance planning United Nations Security Council Australian economy food vocational education and training Drugs health reform Indonesia children codes of conduct terrorist financing health system money laundering asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Population Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity science research and development Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse federal state relations World Trade Organization Australia accountability housing affordability bulk billing water renewable energy children's health health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation expertise Senators and Members climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry food labelling Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government local government consumer laws PISA royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition Parliamentary remuneration Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol energy forced marriage rural and regional Northern Territory Emergency Response ministries social citizenship human rights High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories workers Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery transparency corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation standards NATO Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly public health smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine regional unemployment asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency productivity human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies trade unions same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders public housing prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines Somalia GDP forestry world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission regulation limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders animal health live exports welfare systems infant mortality middle class welfare honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Constitutional reform referendum Rent Assistance competition policy pharmaceutical benefits scheme obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant homelessness regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Youth Allowance Members suspension citizen engagement policymaking federal election 2010 workplace health and safety Trafficking in Persons Report marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament alcohol Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act entitlements political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing Hung Parliament political education social inclusion Social Inclusion Board maritime early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin Iran sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits

Show all
Show less
Back to top