Pham Thi Ly (2013)

(Reflections of 5th International Conference on World Class University in Shanghai. 3-6 November 2013 and the U21 Symposium on National Systems of Higher Education: Criteria for Evaluation held by the Universitas, in Shanghai, 7 Nov 2013Executive Summary

Despite limitations in methodology and the controversy surrounding the implications of university rankings , the impact of global university rankings to the governments and higher education institutions around the world are undeniable. The 5th International Conference On World Class University held by Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, 3-6 Nov 2013 and the U21 Symposium on National Systems of Higher Education: Criteria for Evaluation held by the Universitas, in Shanghai, 7 Nov 2013, are two important international forums devoted to discussing this issue. There were 18 presentations in the first conference which covered the following topics: (1) National reflections on WCU initiatives; (2) Institutional practices on building WCU; (3) Challenges to building WCU; (4) Experiences of ranking providers; and (5) Impact and application of global university rankings. The second conference included 6 presentations addressing the issue of benchmarking national systems of higher education.

This paper synthesizes some key points from the presentations and discussions at the two conferences above. These points includes: (1) Global Contexts of Higher Education; (2) Experiences of Ranking Providers and Impacts of Global University Rankings; and (3) Current Trends in Global Academic Ranking. The current trends  identified and discussed here include: (1) Improving ranking methodologies and applying more criteria that reflect better university as a whole; (2) Toward benchmarking rather than ranking; (3) Multi rank as a more comprehensive ranking than has been undertaken; and (4) National systems benchmarking instead of individual institutions rankings.

The author concludes with remarks on the current situation of global university ranking; e.g.,insufficient evaluation of the university and creating the phenomenon of pursuing high ranking that might affect negatively other missions of the university in serving public.  On the other hand, rankings stimulate the collection of data and promotes accountability of HEIs in pursuing academic excellence. How to respond to the rankings is a challenge to every country and every HEIs. Perhaps, as Douglas (UC Berkley, USA) suggested, “it would be better to come to a broader notion of the flagship university as more relevant to society, a model that does not ignore international standards of excellence but that is grounded in national services and includes a specific set of characteristics and responsibilities most of which are not easily ranked.”