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Brussels, 11 December 2008

Ranking Europe's universities

The European Commission has launched a call for tenders for the design and testing of a new multi-dimensional university ranking system with global outreach. This initiative builds on earlier EU-funded work on mapping the different strengths and missions of universities and responds to an invitation by the French Presidency of the EU to explore and test the feasibility of a new ranking system for higher education and research institutions in Europe, in comparison with other world regions. The first results of the envisaged pilot project will be available in the first half of 2011.

Ján Figel', the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, said: "There are not many ranking systems of universities of the type we are interested in. At present most rankings are typically mono-dimensional . But while they may have some merit, we are more interested in developing a ranking system that goes beyond the research performance of universities, to include elements such as teaching quality and community outreach. What we are looking at is multi-dimensional, because we want to take account of the rich diversity of our universities, so that potential students, researchers and staff can get better picture about the respective university."

Why rank universities?

Comparable information on higher education institutions and their teaching and research programmes should make it easier for students and researchers to make informed choices on where and what to study and where to work. Better information would also help policy-makers at institutional, national and European levels develop future strategies in higher education.

Existing mono-dimensional rankings do not fulfil these purposes because they tend to focus on certain aspects of research and on entire institutions, rather than on individual programmes and disciplines.

A new type of university ranking

While drawing on the experience of existing university rankings and of earlier EU-funded projects, the new ranking system should be —

  • multi-dimensional: covering the various missions of institutions, such as education, research, innovation, internationalisation and community outreach;
  • independent: it should not be run by public authorities or universities;
  • transparent: it should provide users with a clear understanding of all the factors used to measure performance and offer them the possibility to consult the ranking according to their needs;
  • global: covering institutions inside and outside Europe (in particular those in the US, Asia and Australia).

The project, to be funded by the Commission up to a sum of € 1.1 million, will consist of two consecutive parts:

  • In a first phase, from May 2009 to the end of 2009, the tenderer will design a multi-dimensional ranking system for higher education institutions in consultation with stakeholders.
  • In a second phase, from January 2010 to the end of May 2011, the tenderer will test the feasibility of the multi-dimensional ranking system on a representative sample of no less then 150 higher education and research institutions. The sample will focus on the disciplines of engineering and business studies. The sample should have a sufficient geographical coverage (inside and outside of the EU) and a sufficient coverage of institutions with different missions.

Depending on the outcome of the project, recommendations may be made on how this ranking system could, eventually, be implemented at a European and global level.

To find out more:

European Commission: Calls for tender in Education and Culture:

European Commission:

Higher education in Europe

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