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Regular version of the site

Author of the Shanghai Ranking visits the HSE

On October 18th 2011, as part of the preliminary programme of the 3rd International Conference of the Russian Association of Higher Education Researchers, Professor Nian Cai Liu, author of the world-renowned Shanghai University Ranking, gave a lecture at the HSE.

Professor Nian Cai Liu is an important figure in the international academic community. He initially studied to be a chemist, and received a doctoral degree from Queen's University (Canada), but in 1999 switched to educational studies and created a small research team of colleagues and students at Shanghai University. After just four years they published the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), unofficially known as the Shanghai Ranking. This study immediately attracted international attention.

For China, the problem of university development has long been pressing. In the 1990s the Chinese government had the goal of creating world-class universities. Appropriate state programmes were developed, and leading regional universities formulated development strategies. But in order to achieve success, it was necessary to have some benchmarks and to create a reference system. Professor Liu and his team’s study turned out to be very up-to-date, and simple benchmarking rapidly grew into a whole ranking methodology.

According to Prof. Liu, the aim of the first ranking, published in 2003, was to determine the positions of Chinese universities in relation to leading, world-class universities. But as the Shanghai Ranking system developed, it soon became a source of information for global university comparison.

Professor Liu spoke about the mechanism of university selection for the Shanghai Ranking. The number of universities in the study (over 2000) includes universities which employ Nobel laureates, winners of the Fields Medal, researchers with a high level of international citation and staff whose papers have been published in international journals such as Nature or Science.In addition, they look at universities with large number of publications included in the Citation Indexes of Thomson. Out of over 2000 prospective universities, only 1200 are included in the ranking, and the officially published part contains just 500 universities.

Universities in the main part of the Shanghai Ranking are evaluated by six indicators, which reflect the quality of education, quality of teaching staff, results of research and average academic productivity of the university per lecturer. The data is taken from freely available independent sources.

If we look at universities from specific countries and continents, the ‘continental’ proportions in the Top 100 haven’t changed much over recent years, while the share of American universities in the Top 500 has decreased, and the share of universities from Asia and Oceania has grown. The latest Shanghai Ranking includes universities from 43 countries, with the largest share from the USA (150 universities), followed by China (42 universities), Great Britain (38), and Germany (37).

Prof. Liu believes It is important to avoid ‘misuse’ of rankings both on the part of both authors and users, so consequently research on compiling the Shanghai Ranking is not financed by any organizations or individuals with a vested interest. Professor Liu and his team of about 30 people are funded by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service

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