I just returned from the IREG-5 Conference: The Academic Rankings: From Popularity to Reliability and Relevance, held in Berlin, Germany, earlier this month. The conference was the fifth meeting of the world's leading experts on university rankings. IREG-5's stimulating program discussed various topics concerning national, regional, and global university rankings and their impact on the academic world, society, and policymakers. Also discussed, but not finalized, was the creation of a set of principals and standards called the IREG audit that will determine whether rankings are being done according to high standards. Attending the conference were 150 participants from about 50 countries.
Following the IREG-5 conference, I attended the Maribor Academicus Event: Mapping of Academic Excellence in the Context of Quality Assurance in Maribor, Slovenia. These global meetings are an opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with those who publish and study rankings around the world.
Rankings, now being conducted in more than 40 countries, serve different purposes for different audiences. Even if rankings are not necessarily universally appreciated, there is an increasing understanding that they have become a key factor in the higher ed accountability movement. There is little doubt that rankings are here to stay. Indisputably, ranking universities has changed the way higher education institutions and their activities are being presented, perceived, and assessed at all levels.
This rapid growth of rankings globally led to IREG's creation in December 2004 in Washington. This initiative includes experts who develop or analyze academic ranking systems. IREG also involves media and governmental and nongovernmental organizations worldwide that publish rankings and researchers and others who scrutinize and critique academic rankings. U.S. News is proud to be one of IREG's founding organizations and a member of IREG's Executive Committee. Many countries have modeled their rankings after those produced by U.S. News, which were first published in 1983. We believe these global efforts will lead to better rankings being published.
One of IREG's most important achievements is the creation of the Berlin Principles on Ranking of Higher Education Institutions, established in 2006. These principles focus on "good practices" that will be useful for the improvement and evaluation of ranking systems. The establishment of these international principles encourages those producing academic rankings to hold themselves accountable for the quality of their own data collection, methodologies, and the dissemination of their information. U.S. News makes every effort to produce and publish our Best Graduate Schools and Best Colleges rankings so they meet these international standards.
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