A new global university ranking, set up with €2 million in funding from the European Union, was launched on May 13. U-Multirank, which assesses the performance of more than 850 higher education institutions worldwide, breaks new ground by producing multi-dimensional listings rating universities on a much wider range of factors than existing international rankings. The idea is to avoid simplistic league tables which can result in misleading comparisons between institutions of very different types or mask significant differences in quality between courses at the same university. Individual users will be able to build a personalised ranking based on their particular needs. This will allow them to obtain information on the universities or specific disciplines which most interest them and to choose criteria according to their own preferences.
Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth said: “I welcome the launch of this exciting new development in higher education. U-Multirank will enable students to make more informed decisions about where to study and give us a more accurate picture of how universities perform. We are proud of our world-class higher education, but we need many kinds of universities, catering for a wide range of needs; that means strong technical and regional universities just as much as outstanding research universities. U-Multirank highlights many excellent performers that do not show up in current, research-focused, global rankings – including more than 300 universities that have never appeared in any world ranking until now.”
While traditional international rankings tend to focus on research excellence and neglect other factors, U-Multirank will base its assessments on five key areas:
The new ranking also takes account of feedback from 60 000 students at the participating universities.
U-Multirank assesses the overall performance of universities but also ranks them in selected academic fields: in 2014 the fields are business studies, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and physics; in 2015, psychology, computer science and medicine will be added. The universities are tested against up to 30 separate indicators and rated in five performance groups, from ‘A’ (very good) through to ‘E’ (weak).
The results show that while over 95% of institutions achieve an ‘A’ score on at least one measure, only 12% have more than 10 top scores. Of the 850 universities in the ranking, 62% are from Europe, 17% from North America, 14% from Asia and 7% from Oceania, Latin America and Africa.
An independent consortium led by the Centre for Higher Education (CHE) in Germany and the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) in the Netherlands compiled the new ranking. Other partner organisations include the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University (the Netherlands), Catholic University Leuven (Belgium), academic publishers Elsevier, the Bertelsmann Foundation and software firm Folge 3. The consortium also works closely with a range of national ranking partners and stakeholder organisations.
A new approach to university rankings was first proposed by Member States in 2008 and the European Commission subsequently invited experts to carry out a feasibility study to ensure it would have the support of universities and students. The consortium was responsible for the selection process and methodology.
Of the 850 universities featuring in U-Multirank, more than 500 provided comprehensive data. The others were assessed on the basis of data available through publicly available sources such as patent data bases in the area of research and knowledge transfer.
U-Multirank received €2 million in EU funding from the former Lifelong Learning Programme (now Erasmus+) for the years 2013-2015, with the possibility of a further two years of funding in 2015-2017. The goal is for an independent organisation to manage the ranking on a sustainable business model thereafter.
U-Multirank press release