Friday, 2 December, 2022

Academic Staff Should Take Active Role in University Ranking System

Dr P R Datta

There is no denying the importance of world university rankings. Students, parents and educators widely use them to compare institutions of higher learning. The most well-known and influential ranking system is the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, published annually by a British magazine. The world university ranking system is a controversial topic among academic staff. Some believe it is an accurate measure of a university's quality, while others believe it is biased and flawed. There is a great deal of debate surrounding academic staff's role in the world university ranking system. Some believe that academic staff is solely responsible for a university's ranking, while others believe that ranking is more complex and considers various factors.

Those who believe that academic staff is solely responsible for a university's ranking argue that these individuals are the ones who produce research and teaching materials, which are then used to judge the quality of the institution. Furthermore, they argue that it is unfair to blame other factors, such as funding or administration, when it is clear that academic staff is the key to a university's success. On the other hand, those who believe that ranking is more complex argue that a variety of factors must be considered to judge an institution fairly. They argue that academic staff is essential but not the only ones responsible for a university's ranking. Instead, various factors, such as funding and administration, must be considered to get an accurate picture of an institution's quality. Both sides of the argument have valid points, and, likely, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Academic staff is essential. It is difficult to believe that only two Bangladeshi universities are in the top 1000 QS World University Ranking but in the bottom two hundred, despite Bangladesh having over 155 private and public universities. It demonstrates that our Higher Education System has no significance on the global stage. We must all recognise that the only way to make social progress is to strengthen our education system and focus on students through quality teaching and research. We must reconsider the role of academic staff and create a world-class faculty community.

A few key points should be considered when discussing the role of academic staff in the world university ranking system. First, it is crucial to consider the criteria used to rank universities. The most common standards include measures of research output, teaching quality, and student satisfaction. Second, it is essential to consider how academic staff can influence a university's ranking. For example, research output is often measured by the university's number of publications. Therefore, academic staff engaged in research activities can directly influence their university's ranking. Similarly, teaching quality is often measured by student satisfaction surveys. Therefore, academic staff members who are effective teachers can indirectly influence their university's ranking. Third, it is vital to consider the implications of world university rankings. For example, highly ranked universities may receive more funding and applications from students. This can lead to a competitive environment among universities and pressure academic staff to maintain or improve their ranking.

World university rankings can impact the reputation of a university and its students. It is crucial to consider the positive and negative implications of world university rankings before deciding whether to participate in them. Academic staff should weigh the pros and cons of world university rankings and make an informed decision about whether they want to be involved. But what exactly do academics look for when judging the merits of an institution? In a recent survey of over 4,000 academics from around the world, THE (Times Higher Education) asked respondents to rate their institution and others on various criteria related to teaching and research. The results provide insight into how academics view the strengths and weaknesses of different institutions. When it comes to teaching, respondents were most likely to cite student support as being important (70%), followed by contact hours with teaching staff (64%) and assessment and feedback (61%). The research was rated as being important by 96% of respondents, with half saying that it was "very important". When asked about specific aspects of research quality, 56% said that "the volume and/or quality of publications" was very important, while 54% cited "the impact or potential impact of publications". Other important factors included external research income (48%), doctoral student supervision (46%) and collaboration with industry or business (45%).

So, what does this all mean for universities? Firstly, it indicates that teaching quality is critical to academics – even more so than research quality. This highlights the need for universities to invest in high-quality teaching staff and support services if they want to attract top talent. Secondly, it shows that research outputs is still highly valued by academics, even though there has been some criticism in recent years about the emphasis placed on publishing or perish culture within academia. Universities need to continue investing in research infrastructure to stay competitive in world university rankings. Finally, these results underscore the importance of internationalisation in higher education. With nearly half of respondents saying that collaboration with industry or business is critical when judging research quality, it is clear that academic staff value institutions that are engaged with the broader world beyond academia. For universities looking to climb up world university rankings, internationalisation is vital.

The role of academic staff in the world university ranking system is significant. Professors and other academic staff members are typically responsible for conducting research and teaching at universities. Their work helps shape the institution's reputation, which is one of the main factors considered when ranking universities. In addition, academic staff members often play a role in determining which students are admitted to the university and what courses are offered. As such, they can significantly impact the overall quality of the institution. Academic staff members are the people who are most familiar with the inner workings of their university, and as such, they are in the best position to provide accurate information. If they are involved in the ranking process, it is more likely that the results will be accurate and meaningful.

There are different ways that academic staff can contribute to world university rankings. Firstly, they can provide high-quality teaching to students, and this includes both delivering lectures and providing one-on-one support to students. Secondly, academic staff can conduct research that their peers highly rate, and this research can be published in prestigious journals or presented at international conferences. Finally, academic staff can provide service to the university that the institution highly values. This can include serving on committees or working on special projects. The role of academic staff is becoming increasingly important in the world university ranking system. As the criteria for evaluation shift to focus more on the quality of teaching, academic staff must be prepared to meet these new standards. By providing high-quality teaching, conducting research that is highly rated by their peers, and providing service to the university, academic staff can significantly contribute to world university rankings. Academic staff members must be prepared to provide high-quality teaching. This includes ensuring they have a deep understanding of the subject matter and can effectively communicate this knowledge to students. Furthermore, academic staff must be able to create an environment that is conducive to learning. This means creating a safe and supportive environment where students feel comfortable asking questions and challenging themselves. Finally, academic staff must be able to support students outside the classroom. However, for the faculty to provide various services to the university, the university must hire the right faculty with the necessary characteristics.

A number of key attributes are common among academic staff at the world's top universities. Firstly, they are all highly qualified and experienced in their field. They have typically completed a PhD or other terminal degree and have several years of experience teaching at the university level. Secondly, they are all research active, regularly publishing in their field and contributing to the university's academic reputation. Finally, they are all engaged with their students, providing high-quality teaching and mentorship. These attributes are the key to the success of any university, but they are significant for those institutions that aspire to be ranked among the world's best. This is because rankings are increasingly based on measures of institutional research productivity and reputation, which require a high level of academic staff. To attract and retain the best academic staff, universities need to provide an environment that is conducive to research and teaching excellence. This includes well-funded research programs, high-quality facilities and resources, and support for professional development. Having a lively and engaged student body is also important, as this enhances the university experience for both students and staff. Finally, universities need to be located in cities or regions that offer a rich cultural and social life, as this is important for attracting the best talent from around the world.

Academic staff plays a vital role in the world university ranking system. However, academic staff members are often not consulted about the ranking process, and they may not be aware of the potential impact of rankings on their institution. This can lead to a feeling of powerlessness and frustration. There are several ways academic staff can make their voices heard and help improve the world university ranking system. They can participate in ranking surveys and provide feedback about the process. They can also lobby for changes in how data is collected and processed and for greater transparency in the ranking process. The role of academic staff in the world university ranking system is essential. The academic team play a vital role in the university's day-to-day running, and their research helps shape the institution's future. Without their dedication and hard work, the university would be unable to maintain its high standards and reputation. Therefore, the academic staff must be given the support they need to continue their excellent work.


The writer is an educator, author, researcher and Executive Chair, Centre for Business & Economic Research, UK