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Can Universities Be Scientifically Ranked?

In his latest blog post, Janez Potočnik, European commissioner for science and research, ponders the difficult and controversial task of evaluating universities. He discusses a recent workshop organized by a panel assigned to come up with better evaluation methods than the unofficial university rankings that rile so many education officials. They don't have an easy task, the commissioner notes.

For me, the message from the workshop is clear. Today there is no single, correct methodology. It is our task to help develop methodologies which are fit for purpose and are suitable for a range of disciplines as well as interdisciplinary research use. However, we should be careful. The intention of evaluation is certainly not to create an ‘audit society’ in which indicators become an end in itself. Otherwise, we run into the risk of loosing sight of the essential role which universities and research play in the wider society and culture. We should encourage more discussion to bridge the sometimes artificial gap between education and research; and management, funding and policy on the other hand.