College rankings are truly a global phenomenon. Academics at Asian universities have shown a considerable interest in discussing both national and global rankings. As a result I have been invited to participate in two Asian conferences in 2010 where rankings were one of the main topics. I just returned from the 6th QS-APPLE–QS Asia Pacific Professional Leaders in Education conference, which took place in Singapore in mid-November.
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The conference had an impressive program and many well-known speakers. Many of the discussions promoted best practices in Asia-Pacific higher education. There were more than 120 higher education experts from 87 institutions from more than 29 countries giving presentations and talks. There were attendees from 190 institutions in 42 countries.
[Read more about U.S. News attending rankings conferences in Asia.]
Many speakers gave detailed presentations on the steps that many Asian countries—including China, Thailand, Taiwan, and South Korea—are currently taking to invest in higher education in an effort to greatly improve some of their countries' leading research universities. The goal of these targeted investments in universities by the central governments is to significantly improve the academic quality of a few key universities, so they are able to become "world class." These investments are also expected to raise the education standards in the country, attract increased research funding, and lead to enhanced economic growth and enhanced global status.
As part of the conference, I participated in the one-day QS University Rankings and Evaluation Workshop. At a time of intense global interest in university quality and performance and their measurement, the workshop brought together world-leading authorities on higher education who examined the role and contribution of rankings, their strengths and limitations, and how they are developing and evolving over time. I presented a talk titled "U.S. News's ranking experience with U.S. colleges and the implications for Asian universities."
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 education 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.
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