Nobody likes, everybody uses: university ranking II

Demand for Ranking
Transparency, accountability and comparability There is an increased demand of transparency, accountability and comparability of the higher educational institutions from the public and the politicians 121. Ranking methodology offered a simple and easily interpretable comparison. Ellen Hazelkornin his excellent book 122 published a list of typology of transparency, accountability and comparability  instruments:
Accreditation: certification, directly by government or via an agency, of a particular HEI
with authority/recognition as an HEI and to award qualifications.
Assessment, Quality Assurance (QA) and Evaluation: assesses institutional quality processes, or quality of research and/or teaching and learning.
Benchmarking: systematic comparison of practice and performance with peer institutions.
Classification and Profiling: typology or framework of higher education institutions to
denote diversity usually according to mission and type.
College Guides and Social Networking: provides information about higher education institutions for students, employers, peers and the general public.
Rankings, Ratings and Banding: enables national and global comparison of higher education performance according to particular indicators and characteristics which set a ”norm” of achievement. The different instruments partly reflects the past performance and partly helps to plan future activity.
Heterogeneity and comprehensivity Malcolm Gladwell has already explained the nuts and
bolts of college rankings in a New Yorker article titled ”The Order of Things”. What college rankings really tell us”, published in 2011). He describes the evolution of the U.S. News ranking systems, and the difficulties of being both ”comprehensive and heterogeneous”. (Gladwell’s italics). Comprehensive means that nearly all aspects of something is included. Gladwell gives an example for heterogeneity:

”…aims to compare Penn State—a very large, public, land-grant university with a low tuition and an economically diverse student body, set in a rural valley in central Pennsylvania and famous for its football team—with Yeshiva University, a small, expensive, private Jewish university whose undergraduate program is set on two campuses in Manhattan (one in midtown, for the women, and one far uptown, for the men) and is definitely not famous for its football team.

I think from the example it is clear that to compare these two institution much more difficult than apples to oranges. We saw in Chapter 2, that it even the latter is quite difficult. As concerns comprehensivity and heterogeneity, there is a trade-off between the two characteristics.


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