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A new approach to ranking universities worldwide – with the personal touch

European Commission - SPEECH/14/370   13/05/2014

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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Androulla VASSILIOU

Member of the European Commission for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

A new approach to ranking universities worldwide – with the personal touch

Launch of U-Multirank

Brussels, 13 May 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, some of you have already been here earlier this morning as we have had a presentation on U-Multirank, a new, independent university ranking developed by academic experts and supported by the European Union. This ranking breaks new ground by providing in-depth information and performance results which have never been published before about universities in Europe and across the world.

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 figures speak for themselves: more than 850 universities appear in the ranking; and more than 60,000 students responded to the U-Multirank survey. I am confident that even more universities will take part next year and registration for next year has already started; and that the student voice will continue to be heard.

The quality of higher education is a crucial part of the Commission's strategy to return Europe to sustainable growth. We are proud of our world-class higher education and excellent universities. 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.

In particular, we need to know how well our institutions are performing across different areas of higher education – so that they can develop and play to their strengths; so policy makers can make well-informed decisions; and the same time students can plan their futures better.

I am delighted that the independent consortium has now made this idea real. I very much welcome this new ranking, because it gives us a much better view of how universities and colleges are performing - not only in research, but also in teaching and learning, in knowledge transfer, in internationalisation and in regional engagement. These are the 5 dimensions we included in that ranking.

It highlights many excellent performers that do not show up in the current, research-focused, global rankings – including more than 300 universities that have never appeared in any world ranking until now.

This is a different kind of ranking, more comprehensive and detailed than those already out there. Universities are not measured in a league table from 1 to 100, but scored in a wide range of different areas, using 30 different indicators.

One of its strengths is the fact that users can decide themselves which indicators are important for them and produce their own personalised rankings.

It introduces new ways of measuring what universities do. It looks, for example, at which universities are producing research that blends different disciplines – often a necessary first step in innovation. While not enough universities are engaged in this kind of interdisciplinary research, U-Multirank shows that new, technical or regional universities top this list.

U-Multirank also indicates areas where we do not have enough information to grade universities. For example, only a minority of universities and colleges have information on the jobs their graduates get – an issue of huge interest to students and their parents, as well as to policymakers.

I hope that by pointing out this gap and weakness, we will encourage steps to improve data in this vital area.

I believe that supporting this independent ranking is a good example of how the EU adds value for Europe, since it is doubtful that any individual country could have launched such an initiative on this scale. I look forward to seeing the next set of U-Multirank results in 2015.

The U-Multirank website will be live at 12.30. I encourage you all to try it out and see how the different universities and colleges perform against the different indicators. I am certain you will find results which will surprise you!


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