World University Classifications?

by Ben Sowter


I imagine this is too simple an idea to be particularly practical but would welcome feedback either way.

The THE-QS World University Rankings, amongst others, are frequently criticized in all sorts of ways, some fair and some not.

One of the most common observations is the failure of most aggregate ranking systems, whether international or domestic, to acknowledge the different missions and typologies of institutions.

In the case of the THE-QS exercise, large institutions are likely to be advantaged in terms or recognition whilst smaller ones may have greater ability to perform in some of the ratio based indicators.

In the US we frequently refer to the Carnegie classification system to better understand the nature of institutions that are featured in the rankings. What if we were to apply a similar, albeit simpler, concept to universities at a world level and include a classification alongside all ranking results.

Classifications might include:

Type A: Large, fully comprehensive

More than 10,000 students. Offer programs in all 5 of our broad faculty areas. Has a medical school.

(i) High Research – Over 5,000 papers in 5 year Scopus extract.
(ii) Moderate Research – 1,000-4,999 papers in 5 yyear Scopus extract
(iii) Low Research – 100-999 papers in 5 year Scopus extract
(iv) Negligible Research – Less than 100 papers in 5 year Scopus extract

Type B: Large, comprehensive

More than 10,000 students, operates programs in ALL of our 5 broad faculty areas. Has no medical school.

(i-iv) Reduced thresholds

Type C: Large, focused

More than 10,000 students. Operates programs in 3 or 4 of our broad faculty areas.

(i-iv) Reduced Thresholds

Type D: Large, specialist

More than 10,000 students. Operates programs in 1 or 2 of our broad faculty areas

(i-iv) Research thresholds set against mean or median for stated specialist faculty areas

Types E-H: same as above but for medium sized institutions. 4,000-10,000 students

Types H-K: Same as above but for small institutions – less than 4,000 students

A (u) or (p) could be added to denote institutions that only offer programs at either undergraduate or postgraduate level.

This is unlikely to, yet, be exhaustive but a system such as this may help readers put the ranking results in context. Thoughts and suggestions welcome.