|World Universities Ranking|
|Người gửi: Phạm Thị Ly|
World Universities Ranking-
Generic and Intangible Features of Universities?
Da Hsuan Feng
First International Conference on World Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao-Tong University
I want to thank the organizer Professor N. C. Liu of Shanghai Jiao-Tong University who invited me to speak today. I am deeply honored to speak to this group of distinguished education leaders from research universities from Europe, Asia and North America.
Before I forget, I want to thank my friend and mentor on issues of global higher education, Dr. Fujia Yang. Four years ago, he became the first Asian chancellor of the outstanding British university, Nottingham University. This is perhaps a manifestation of what Tom Friedman of the New York Times refers to as the “flat world.” Fujia was formally president of another outstanding university Fudan University in Shanghai. I consider it my enormous good luck that he and I were able to meet in the late 1970s in the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. What I have learned from him in these 30 years is simply invaluable!
We are gathered here for two days to talk about a remarkable global education issue: world universities ranking. I think many of you will agree with me that until recently such discussions would have been meaningless. Although I believe that the amazing work by Professor Liu and his colleagues on their recently published ranking is the immediate reason why we are here today, I would like to take you on a brief journey through time as to why, before now, a world-wide university ranking was not even considered.
From the 16 th century until World War I, European universities were evolving into hallmarks of excellence. During and after World War II, as North America recovered from The Great Depression and Europe entered its own, North American universities emerged as serious competitors to their European peers.
It was not until the later part of the 20 th Century that Asian universities began to blink on the global higher education radar screen. This is in large part to the increased political stability in many Asian countries and the emergence of a new economy passed on modern technology. Now, it is fair to say that Asian universities, especially those in the Pacific Rim and South Asia, are beginning to have their presence felt.
So, I believe that it is extraordinarily appropriate and timely that we are here today, in one of the new shining cities of Asia, Shanghai, and in one of the top universities of China, the Shanghai Jiao-Tong University, to discuss world universities ranking. I believe this Conference, the First International Conference on World Class Universities, carries not only symbolic implications but substantive information.
I also have a personal agenda. I am a firm believer that universities, especially research universities, are both intellectual and economic engines for their regions. There are many examples where the quality-of-life of a region and even the dipolamtic relationship between nations depended on the universities. To this end, I hope that a by-product of this Conference would be the installation of continuous dialogues between universities not just from the aforementioned three regions, but also those from South Asia, the Arabic world as well as the African and South American continents.
Ranking universities, albeit nationally or globally, is formidable. Some would venture to say that it is impossible. For one thing, using the expression of today, while the intellectual landscape may be “flat”, the economic landscape differs from region to region, and from nation to nation. Let me take the example of England and the US, where sthere exist great similarities. Still, cursory examination will tell us that research funding of universities between the two nations are profoundly different, both in amount and in ways resources are handled and distributed. Hence, in this sense, it may be argued that ranking British and U.S. universities could in fact be comparing, as the cliché goes, “apples and oranges.”
Still, there is now apparently wide spread society acceptance of global ranking of universities, and especially research universities. In addition, having a ranking system, as long as it is carried out with well-defined criterions, could instill (hopefully friendly) competition. We all know that it is good for any human organization to have healthy competition. To this end, as education leaders, we can either pretend to be ostriches – bury our heads in the sand and wish that it will vanish – or be proactive in formulating a process in which the ranking is meaningful. To me, the choice is clear. The latter is an obligation we must accept.
There are two current rankings. One was done by Shanghai Jiao-Tong University and the other by London Times. Since the two have rather different criterions, I find it quite encouraging that by and large they seem to be consistent. Let me give you a few consistent examples.
Take the case of the universities in New York and California. The two rankings of the “best” universities in both States are as follows.
I believe that you will agree with me that they are fairly consistent.
I would be remiss, however, if I did not point out that there are also a few deep inconsistencies. This is especially glaring for the following:
This makes it quite clear that two different criterions were used for the evaluations and the point where the criterions diverge has major impact on the ranking of Asian universities. It would be interesting to examine the reasons behind such inconsistencies.
What the above consistencies and inconsistencies tell me is that one probably needs to work a little harder to seek generic features of universities in evaluating universities. I think that few will argue with me that one of the goals of global ranking of research universities is to provide educators some guidelines about “excellence.” Indeed, the higher ranked the university, the more excellent it is. In evaluating universities, many features come to mind. Features such as research, number of Nobel laureates on the faculty, the achievements of alumni, citation index, and so on and so forth.
“Excellence”, of course, is quite nebulous and may very well be a function of the beholder. For this discussion, I would like to put on the table two of my personal biases of some generic features of universities, i.e. features which are not dependent on national or regional origins. This is by no means a complete set. It is my hope that after several days of intense discussions here, we may arrive at a set of generic conditions which are as complete as possible, thus providing some positive impact on future works on global ranking.
First and foremost, I believe that leadership, especially the president, is absolutely fundamental. I know that different countries have different names for this position. In England, it is called a Vice Chancellor. In United States, it is sometimes called a President (as in my university), and sometimes a Chancellor (as in UC Berkeley). In Indian Institute of Technology, Director is its leader. Here in China, sometimes it is the President who has the last word in any decision, and sometimes the Chairman of the University Council. Whatever it is called, there is such a person, and this person can and will have profound impact on a university’s demeanor. Indeed, a president of a university is its window for the world. The intellectual depth, elegance, vision and most of all, courage, of a president are direct reflections of the heart, soul and quality of his/her university. Throughout history, great universities were always propelled by great presidents. In August of 2004 in Beijing, Dr. Richard Levin, President of Yale University, in his keynote speech for the “ Chinese-Foreign University Presidents’ Forum” indicated that without the great work of its president Charles William Eliot in the second half of the 19 th century, Harvard in all likelihood would not be where it is today. (Come to think of it, the fact that a sitting Yale President is willing to say in public how great a past Harvard president was is in itself a testimony of the greatness of President Eliot). Towards the latter part of the 20 th century, university presidents need to shoulder greater and enormous responsibilities. Vision to transform universities from strictly intellectual engines to intellectual and economic engines was a key responsibility of such individuals.
I cannot help but to mention at this point a Chinese university called Bei-Jing-Da-Xue, or Peking University (PKU). One of the first presidents of PKU was a man not well known in the West (although he should be). His name is Cai Yuan-Pei. I think that just as Eliot of Harvard, PKU would not be what it is today if it did not have Cai at the helm in its beginning. Indeed, with Cai’s leadership, PKU became not just the soul of Chinese universities community, but in fact Chinese history and culture of the 20 th century. How do we measure the “intangible impact” of PKU on China, with the effort of Bai-Hua (modern Chinese) movement, the May 4 th movement, and so on and so forth. Is it even logical to consider PKU not a “ World Class University” when it has profound impact on China, with nearly a quarter of all humanity, for a century?
Thus, I can confidently say that if a university’s leadership is languishing, so will the university. For this reason, I think it is critical that an important ingredient of global ranking is to rank its president.
Second, it is self evident that there is no such thing as a great university not producing great students. This is as true in Great Britain as it is in China, or U.S. or any other country. One of the fundamental reasons for universities to exist is because they can and should produce future citizens who would make life better for mankind. This means that a great university must instill in its students global outlook and deep respect for humanities. Indeed, universities are institutions where young men and women are enlightened in the broadest sense of the word, not just being educated or trained. Universities should be platforms where these young men and women learn how to connect dots; no matter how unrelated the dots may appear to be. Producing such outstanding students, I believe, is a generic feature of great universities. Therefore, as educators, we must find a way, or ways to “normalize” the evaluation of the students from country to country. I do not believe that this is an easy task, and it may require long-time integration of data. But I believe that it needs to be examined with care.
So let me end by standing on a soapbox to talk about the responsibilities of higher education, especially research universities, in this new millennium.
Incredibly, even just after four and a half years, 21 st century is already posing global economic, intellectual, technological, political, ecological and military challenges. There is no doubt mankind is at a cross-road and this is why I believe that higher education carries responsibilities it never had now.
I believe that the Chinese have the most appropriate phrase to describe the current global situation, and that it is embedded with “wei-ji”, or “dangerous opportunities.” Indeed, there are enormous and incredible opportunities in seeking solutions, and business opportunities, to these complex global challenges. Some people say that technology can solve all these problems. This is not true. Only people can solve problems. To solve problems of a global scale, one needs to find people with global thinking and global outlook. To solve these problems require bold creativities and innovations never before known to mankind. I hope that the ultimate aim of ranking of global universities is not just which university is considered as the best, but how we can collectively uplift universities at all corners of the world so that together we could face and overcome these challenges of unprecedented magnitude. Humanity survival depends on us making the effort.
I certainly do not possess any literary depth. As a Chinese educated student in Singapore, I was not schooled in English literature. However, I thought the beginning sentence of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, which I am sure you all know, strangely seems to summarize the situation of the today nearly:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
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