03 July 2020
An international panel of academics and industry representatives concluded some time back that university rankings are not very useful.
This view is shared by Singapore’s Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who said: “The current ranking system is actually rather crude and one-size-fits-all, and actually not that relevant compared with what we want to achieve.”
This was the consensus reached by the International Academic Advisory Panel, which was assembled some time back to advise Singapore’s Education Ministry on university trends.
Mr Ong said that each of Singapore’s six autonomous universities has its own focus, and social and economic mission.
Nonetheless, global rankings, if taken in the right spirit, can still provide a gauge as to where an institution stands, and serve as an indicator of progress over time.
In determining the universities’ rung on the ladder, publications such as Times Higher Education and Quacquarelli Symonds use a mix of performance indicators that assess their abilities in research, teaching, employability and international outlook.
However, these metrics have been criticised for focusing too heavily on research prowess, which privileges large broad-based universities.
“If you look at student-to-faculty ratio, it just measures the number of warm bodies but doesn’t study in detail the quality of teaching and learning. Environmental factors that are hard to measure are not captured,” said NUS President Tan Eng Chye, who named initiatives that rankings do not account for, like residential colleges and overseas colleges where NUS students learn the ropes of entrepreneurship.