Is Europe making the grade?

Cambridge overtakes Harvard in the annual QS World University Rankings, released this week. Other than that, good news for Europe is a little hard to find in this annual league table, which is one of a number of international university rankings published each year.

According to the QS listing, when you exclude British universities, only one European institution features in the world top 20 and only three – two in France and one in Switzerland – in the top 50.

Of course, any such ranking reflects the methodology used to create it, as Daniel de Vise  and The Chronicle of Higher Education explain . Different criteria would produce different results. On the other hand, other rankings, such as the widely cited league table  from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, also suggest that Europe’s universities are not keeping up with the world leaders. Also worrying, a report  from the Lisbon Council suggests that, more broadly, university systems in a number of European countries are failing “to make their education systems more open, democratic and readily accessible to a broader range of people”.

By the way, the OECD is hosting a conference on higher education next week under the title “Higher Education in a World Changed Utterly: Doing More with Less” . You can find out more about the event on the OECD’s educationtoday  blog, and follow the discussions via a live webcast starting Monday morning.

Useful links

 OECD work on higher education

 OECD Insights: Human Capital

 “Europe’s university challenge”   – from the OECD Observer

Brian Keeley

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  1. Luke Collins - 09/09/2010 Reply

    There are always rows about these university ranking systems, about the way in which they fail to take into account the differing structures of some European university systems, for example the separation of high level research into the Fraunhofer institutes in Germany.

    What those who object don’t seem to understand is that it really doesn’t matter what the rankings measure – if someone publishes a Top 50 Global Universities listing then many people will believe it and gifted staff, students, and money will tend to flow to the ranked institutions. With so much of a university’s success being based on its ability to market itself globally the rankings, however flawed, do matter.

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