Those of you who read this blog for the stuff about rankings will know that I have a fair bit of time for the U-Multirank project. U-Multirank, for those in need of a quick refresher, is a form of alternative rankings that has been backed by the European Commission. The rankings are based on a set of multi-dimensional, personalizable rankings data, and were pioneered by Germany’s Centre for Higher Education (CHE).
There is no league table here. Nothing tells you who is “best”. You just compare institutions (or programs, though in this pilot year these are still pretty thin) on a variety of individual metrics. The results are shown as a series of letter grades, meaning that, in practice, institutional results on each indicator are banded into five groups – therefore no spurious precision telling you which institution is 56th and which is 57th.
Another great feature is how global these rankings are. No limiting to a top 200 or 400 in the world, which in practice limits comparisons to a certain type of research university in a finite number of countries. Because U-Multirank is much more about profiling institutions than about creating some sort of horse-race amongst them, it’s open to any number of institutions. In the inaugural year, over 850 institutions from 70 countries submitted information to the rankings, including 19 from Canada. That instantly makes it the largest of the world’s major rankings system (excluding the webometrics rankings).
Of course, the problem with comparing this many schools is that there are a lot of apples-and-oranges in terms of institutional types. The Big Three rankings (Shanghai, THE, QS) all sidestep this problem by focussing exclusively on research universities, but in an inclusive ranking like this one it’s a bit more difficult. That’s why U-Multirank includes a filtering tool based on an earlier project called “U-MAP”, which helps to find “like” institutions based on institutional size, mission, discipline, profile, etc.
Why am I telling you all this? Because the U-Multirank site just went live this morning. Go look at it, here. Play with it. Let me know what you think.
Personally, while I love the concept, I think there’s still a danger that too many consumers – particularly in Asia – will prefer the precision (however spurious) and simplicity of THE-style league tables to the relativism of personalized rankings. The worry here isn’t that a lack of users will create financial problems for U-Multirank – it’s financed more than sufficiently by the European Commission, so that’s not an issue; the potential worry is that low user numbers might make institutions – particularly those in North America – less keen to spend the person-hours collecting all the rather specialized information that U-Multirank demands.
But here’s hoping that’s not true. U-Multirank is the ranking system academia would have developed itself had it had the smarts to get ahead of the curve on transparency instead of leaving that task to the Maclean’s of the world. We should all wish it well.