Apparently it is university rankings season. Newspapers in Ireland were full of the news that in the latest QS rankings most Irish universities have slipped although UCC managed to put a positive spin on by some obscure claim to be Ireland’s only “5 star university”- despite being ranked below UCD & TCD.
I generally don’t get excited about these things one way or another although it is always amusing to see universities splash the good news on their websites but remain curiously silent when the news is bad. Such is human nature. It also seems to me a lot of the academics who comment on them are strangely uncritical of the methodology or take the line “oh yes we know they are not perfect but they matter anyway”. Economists, in particular, have no excuse as we know about the limitations of data. Well maybe theorists don’t.
With the latest QS rankings my attention was drawn to one of the criteria “International Faculty” i.e. the proportion of academics who are, I assume, foreign to the university’s country. Now it only gets 5% weighting so its not very important but that doesn’t explain its inclusion. This attempts to justify it. In my opinion, it is complete bullshit and I find it hard to see how any intelligent person familiar with universities could subscribe to that view (or indeed write so badly).
It is quite funny to see the claim that because the rankings are international that it is essential to include the % of international faculty. On the contrary, it is a reason not to. If you are in a big country, like the US, there is a bigger supply of your own nationals. If no other country speaks your language then there is a smaller supply. So what? People should be judged on their merits not on the colour of their passports.
I think serious universities should have the self-confidence to call a spade a spade and say we simply don’t care about these Mickey Mouse numbers (with apologies to Disney).