Неэргодическая экономика

Авторский аналитический Интернет-журнал

Изучение широкого спектра проблем экономики

Global Competition of Universities in the Mirror of International Rankings

Shifts in the global competition in the market of world–class universities (WCUs) are analyzed; the long-term restructuring of this market is considered in three geopolitical centers – the United States, Europe, and Asia – over the past 18 years of the 21st century. Nine of the most authoritative global university rankings were used as an information base. Calculations show that even though the positions of American universities in the top lists of world rankings are weakening, giving way to European and Asian universities, the United States continues to maintain leadership in this area. However, the authors’ expert forecast makes it possible to say that, if the emerging trends continue, by 2030 the number of WCUs of Europe and the United States in the Top 100 of many global ratings can be equalized, leading to a kind of Euro-American parity in the higher education sector. According to the authors, the desire of countries to create their own WCUs is a positive trend in terms of the development of global science.

Today, no one disputes the fact that the world is in a state of global geopolitical turbulence. In recent decades, enormous technological, institutional, and cultural changes have occurred in the United States, Europe, and Asia. During this time, the economic center of gravity has shifted in favor of Asia, primarily China. These changes have logically affected the market of leading universities in various countries, which from the late 20thearly 21st century have actively been involved in the competition for the construction of global scientific and educational systems. World–class universities (WCUs) are the most important, though not the only, element of this system. The number and power of WCUs are not only an indicator of the level of development of countries but also a factor for their further strengthening.

In recent years, a new analytical tool has appeared to evaluate universities in general and the WCUs in particular–global university rankings (GURs), the number of which has grown over time so greatly that they have become an official source of market assessment of the world’s leading universities, including the WCUs.

In an earlier study, we revealed a fundamental increase in European WCUs compared to American ones in the years 2017–2019. [1]. This conclusion was based on a rather labor–intensive but accurate methodology for identifying WCUs, based on the use of classical and subject GUR data. The main question that remains open is how stable the detected shift is since the data for three years do not allow us to speak about the stability of the revealed effect. To confirm or refute the earlier conclusion, this work will analyze a longer time series of 18 years. However, due to the lack of information for such long intervals in the subject GURs and the complexity of the methodology proposed previously, we will use an alternative approach, which, being slightly less accurate but simpler and more economical, allows us to maintain an organic relationship with the previous study. Thus, the purpose of this article is to verify and summarize the previously obtained conclusion about the regional restructuring of the WCU market.

 

Diversity of ranking tools for WCU assessment

 

The beginning of the current century was marked by the emergence of GURs, which had a certain impact not only on competitive processes in the global education market but also on different aspects of society, starting from the appearance in the Netherlands of a law according to which people with qualifications confirmed by a diploma of a university from the Top 150 GUR [2] have priority right to immigrate to this country and ending with the launch of national initiatives to create a WCU and enter the Top 100 global rankings (for example, projects 985 and 211 in China, the program Fifty Billion in Five Years in Taiwan, an initiative on achieving outstanding results in Germany, the national project for the development of world–class universities in South Korea, the project 5–100 in Russia, etc.) [3].

Despite the fact that the first attempts to build international university rankings date back to 1997, when AsiaWeek published a ranking of the largest universities in the Asia–Pacific region (for political reasons it was not widely used [4]), the starting point for the global university ranking movement should be considered 2003, when the academic ranking of the world’s leading universities Academic Ranking of World Universities, (ARWU), [1] developed by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, appeared. This rating is based on the assessment of research achievements and the quality of training by six indicators. By 2019, the number of universities ranked in the ARWU ranking had reached 1800, of which information on 1000 universities is published in the public domain.

After the release of the first GRU, their number began to increase rapidly. Thus, since 2004 the list of the best universities in the world has been published by the British edition Times Higher Education (THE). Until October 2009, the rating was known as the Times Higher Education–QS World University Rankings (THE–QS), as it was a joint project of THE with the British company Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), which was responsible for collecting and analyzing data for compiling the rating. Having ceased to exist, THE–QS has split into two independent ratings–Times Higher Education World University Rankings [2] and QS World University Rankings. [3] QS has maintained continuity, using the previously existing methodology, in which universities are evaluated by six indicators: academic reputation (40%), reputation among employers (10%), teacher–to–student ratio (20%), number of citations per associate (20%), and the share of international teachers/foreign students (5% each). The Times Higher Education, having merged with the Thomson Reuters media company, has developed a new ranking algorithm, which analyzes five areas of university activities: training (30%), research (30%), citation (30%), international interaction (7.5%), and income from production activities (2.5%). In 2020, the base of the QS ranking under analysis amounted to 4700 universities, and that of the THE ranking, to 1400 universities.

The Ranking Web of Universities (Webometrics, Web) [4] was published in 2004 as a twice–a–year periodical by the Cybermetrics Lab under the Spanish National Research Council, CSIC. Its fundamental difference from academic rankings is its orientation to the web space and to the representation of higher educational institutions and their results, mainly publication. Almost immediately after the release of Webometrics in May 2005, another web ranking of the best universities in the world, uniRank University Ranking, [5] was published in the framework of the Australian project 4 International Colleges and Universities, which evaluates more than 13 600 universities from 200 countries around the world based on the popularity of their websites.

The year 2007 witnessed the emergence of several rankings at once. Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities, [6] or NTU Ranking, was published before 2011 by the Higher Education Evaluation and Accreditation Council of Taiwan (HEEACT) and from 2012, by National Taiwan University (NTU). CWTS Leiden Ranking (LR) [7] was developed by the Center for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), Leiden University. Both rankings consider primarily research and publication activities of universities. In addition, the CWTS Leiden Ranking is a multifactor ranking, in which there is no reduction in the total score of individual indicators–the ranking result is formed according to a user-specified indicator.

The Spanish research group SCImago, University of Granada, has been publishing SCImago Institution Rankings (SIR), [8] a global ranking of scientific organizations and universities, since 2009. The basis for this ranking is analysis of research and innovation results, as well as the degree of influence of scientific and educational organizations on society.

In 2012, the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), located in the United Arab Emirates, joined the ranking movement. Like the above academic rankings, the CWUR World University Ranking (CWUR), [9] published by this center, focuses on the assessment of research activities (40%), quality of education (25%), and the professionalism of the teaching staff (10%), as well as the demand for graduates (25%). By 2019, the ranking had expanded to the list of the best 2000 universities selected on the basis of analysis of more than 20000 universities from all countries of the world.

Three rankings replenished the GUR piggy bank in 2014. First, the U.S. News Best Global University Rankings, [10] published by the U.S. News & World Report media company, was formed as a result of lengthy transformations – from ranking exclusively American universities to analyzing universities around the world. It focuses primarily on research activities of universities. Second, the first release of the new multidimensional ranking U–Multirank [11] came out to assess universities in five areas: research, teaching and learning, knowledge transfer, international orientation, and regional influence. Its development, initiated and funded by the European Commission, was entrusted to an independent consortium, which included representatives of various entities (research, educational, rating agencies, business, etc.) from Germany, the Netherlands, and several other countries. The fundamental difference between this ranking and the established ranking systems is its personalization: indicators are selected based on user preferences (similar to the Leiden Ranking). Third, the International Science Council (ISC) within the international program Global World Communication developed the RankPro [12] as a combination of three rankings: the academic capabilities of a university (50%), assessment of virtual representation by the BC–Index (25%), and a university’s reputation (25%).

Russia also did not stand aloof from the ranking epidemic spreading worldwide. The global Round University Ranking (RUR) [13] was developed by the Russian rating agency RUR in 2010 to create a maximally open and transparent tool to compare universities across the world. Currently, it is used to compare 1100 leading universities from 85 countries in four areas: teaching (40%), research (40%), international diversity (10%), and financial stability (10%). Another Russian development – the Moscow international ranking Three Missions of a University – saw the light of day in 2017. This is an academic ranking that evaluates universities in three areas: education (45%), research (25%), and community engagement (30%). This ranking is new but quite promising, since its methodology was formed as a result of a large–scale discussion, which was attended by over 100 expert organizations of the world (universities, rating agencies, councils of rectors, etc.), and approved by the International Expert Council, which included experts from 12 countries. The growing popularity of the ranking is evidenced by the fact that, over the three years of its existence, the number of universities that responded to the information requested has grown almost eight times: from 215 in 2017 to 1700 in 2019, and the published part of the ranking increased from 200 to 1200, respectively.

Note that, along with internationally recognized GURs, there are less successful attempts to build them. For example, the American magazine News–week published its global university ranking, The Top 100 Global Universities, in 2006. This was one of the first experiments in building a hybrid ranking to take into account the results of two reputable academic ratings – THE–QS (40%) and ARWU (50%). The remaining 10% accounted for an original indicator of the developer (the volume of the library fund of a university). However, Newsweek’s attempt to enter the global ranking market remained single: the rating was not reproduced in subsequent years. A similar fate befell the French Professional Ranking, developed by the Paris Mining School (Ecole nationale superieure des mines de Paris) in 2007, which evaluated universities in terms of the relevance of graduates and the success of their careers. Neither the ArkaLer web ranking, created within a joint Russian–Armenian project, to assess a consolidated index of the virtual intellectual (human, organizational, and relationship) capital nor the Global University Ranking, developed by the ReitOR independent agency in 2009, gained ground.

Most of the rankings discussed above belong to the institutional category, in which universities of different countries are ranked according to certain indicators (mainly characterizing education and research activities). In addition, rankings are divided into subject and special [5]. The first group ranks universities in certain subject (scientific) areas. Often all the leading ranking companies have in their arsenal this ranking category (for example, the subject rankings of ARWU, THE, QS, etc.). Special categories include narrowly targeted ranking products, which are usually oriented at specific target groups (for example, the THE ranking of young universities, the QS graduate employability ranking, the Webometrics and uniRank web rankings, the university ranking by academic performance URAP, etc.). From the point of view of the approach used in university assessment, one can distinguish classic, based on the integration of grades into a single indicator, and multifactor (multidimensional) rankings that allow ranking universities depending on user requests for various parameters (for example, U–Multirank, CWTS Leiden Ranking) [5].

Two aspects of the ranking movement should be noted. On the one hand, it generated a stream of criticism regarding the GUR objectivity, accuracy, and reliability [6–8]. On the other hand, a variety of rankings represents unique information about the world–class university market. While recognizing the imperfection of the existing GURs, we nevertheless will use them to identify a long–term trend in the regional restructuring of the WCU market, generated by increasing competition and the emergence of new participants.

 

Slow geopolitical restructuring

 

As noted above, the methodology for identifying WCUs, proposed by the authors in previous works, WCUs being understood as universities included in the Top 100 GURs [1], takes into account the success of universities in specific scientific disciplines but does not allow for long–term retrospective calculations because of a lack of data on subject rankings. In this regard, in this paper we will use a simplified algorithm that will give us the opportunity to consider the dynamics of the WCU number in different regions for 2003–2020.

The essence of the proposed analysis method consists in calculating the WCUs in four regions of the planet – the United States, Europe, Asia, and other countries (a scattered set of geographically unrelated states – Australia, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Russia, etc.) – based on different GUR data for different years. To make the estimates more objective, we will average the available data for different global rankings. Thanks to this technique, it is possible to use the so–called law of large numbers: the flaws of each GUR are suppressed during averaging, which allows one to get quite an objective picture. Since different rankings arose at different times and have different lengths of retrospective series, we will use moving averaging, that is, depending on how many rankings are available for a given year. The unequal retrospective of the GURs in the years analyzed can be interpreted as a factor of a hidden increase in the accuracy of estimates as the sample of rankings expands. This circumstance does not fundamentally affect the general trend.

To build the analytical model, the statistics of the nine most popular and reputable GURs were used: Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) (2003–2019), National Taiwan University Ranking (NTU) (2007–2019), Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) (2010–2020), SCImago Institution Rankings (Sir) (2009–2020), Round University Ranking (RUR) (2010–2019), Times Higher Education (THE) (2011–2020), Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) (2012–2019), CWTS Leiden Ranking (LR) (2012–2019), and Worldwide Professional University Ranking (RankPRO) (2014–2019). The main criteria for selecting these global rankings were their classification as institutional rankings and the duration of the retrospective series. The study did not take into account either subject or special rankings (reputational, virtual, etc.) because of differences in the methodology of their construction with the category of institutional GURs and concentrating on a narrowly focused analysis of the activities of universities, as well as ratings with too short a retrospective. This approach made it possible to select the most comparable global rankings in terms of both methodology and the specifics of the universities under consideration.

In addition, for the period 2004–2009, we used the THE–QS ranking data, which, as was already mentioned, in 2009 broke into two independent GURs – QS and THE (in the tables below, THE–QS data, due to their continuity, are used as the QS history). In addition, QS once introduced a joint GUR for 2014–2015, in connection with which we use these data for each of the indicated years. The total study period is 2003–2020. The purpose of the analysis is to identify regional trends in the WCU dynamics over the time interval specified.

The main indicator that we operate with is xijt, the number of WCUs in the i–th region in the j–th GUR in the tth year. At the second stage, the indicator xijt is averaged for all available rankings, xit. The indicator xit helps us understand development trends in the WCU market in the regions under study – the United States, Europe, and Asia. In addition, the polarization coefficient of the opinions of GUR developers is calculated: yit=max{xjt}–min{xjt}. This indicator denotes the maximum discrepancy in their opinions regarding the WCU number in the ith region in the tth year. For an additional characteristic of the dynamics of the region’s development, the WCU increase in them is estimated within each GUR for the period of their validity (from year S, when the corresponding ranking started, until the last year F for which it provides information): zij=xijS–xijF is the growth in the number of universities from the Sth to the Fth years.

Based on the calculations by the method described above, tables were constructed for the United States, Europe, Asia (Tables 1–3), and other countries. The figures allow us to draw certain conclusions.

First, over 18 years, the WCU market has approached a certain line, the transition beyond which could mark the formation of a qualitatively new situation, when the role of the three regions analyzed will be significantly redistributed. This in itself makes the problem of forecasting further dynamics of the global universities market relevant.

Second, there is a clear tendency towards a decrease in the share of American universities in GUR top lists with a simultaneous increase in the weight of Asian universities. At the same time, the European segment of the WCU market grew so insignificantly that we can talk about its relative stabilization with a weakly expressed growth vector.

Third, as the number of analyzed rankings increases, the mismatch between the rankings grows quite naturally owing to increased competition between them and the formation of certain preferences. However, a certain pattern can be traced: the greatest discrepancies take place regarding European universities (yit=1–29), followed by educational institutions in Asia (yit=7–26), and then the United States (yit=13–26). Thus, differences in the WCU assessments are growing, and the greatest disagreement is caused by new European and Asian players.

Of course, different ranking systems have their “likes” and “antipathies” in relation to certain regions (this will be discussed in more detail below). However, consideration of the Zu coefficient for the three regions allows us to see some objective aspects of the development of the WCU market. Table 1 clearly shows that the US position in all the GURs under consideration has worsened, while the opposite trend is typical of Asian universities: their share in all the ranking systems has increased (Table 3). Less pronounced changes characterize the situation with European universities: their positions improved in six rankings and worsened in three (Table 2). On average, in all rankings, the United States lost 10–11 WCUs, Asia created 7–8 new ones, and Europe increased its potential by about three universities. Similar estimates are obtained from a comparison of the GUR data averaged over years.

 

Table 1. US presence in global university rankings, 2003–2020

Year

GUR type

Xit

Yit

ARWU

QS

NTU

SIR

RUR

THE

CWUR

LR

Rank
PRO

2003

58

58.0

0

2004

51

35

43.0

16

2005

53

30

41.5

23

2006

54

33

43.5

21

2007

54

37

62

51.0

25

2008

54

37

60

50.3

23

2009

55

32

57

57

50.3

25

2010

54

31

56

57

43

48.2

26

2011

53

31

55

54

42

53

48.0

24

2012

53

31

53

51

47

51

58

40

48.0

27

2013

52

29

49

49

45

47

57

40

46.0

28

2014

52

28

44

45

46

46

53

39

51

44.9

25

2015

51

28

44

40

43

45

55

40

38

42.7

27

2016

50

31

42

38

46

39

55

39

35

41.7

24

2017

48

32

42

39

44

41

54

37

33

41.1

22

2018

46

31

41

44

42

43

51

37

34

41.0

20

2019

45

31

42

44

42

41

54

36

35

41.1

23

2020
Zj


–13

29
–6


–20

42
–15

41
–2

40
–13


–4


–4


–16

38.0

13

 

 

Table 2. European presence in global university rankings, 2003–2020

Year

GUR type

Xit

Yit

ARWU

QS

NTU

SIR

RUR

THE

CWUR

LR

Rank
PRO

2003

31

31.0

0

2004

36

35

35.5

1

2005

34

35

34.5

1

2006

33

40

36.5

7

2007

33

35

23

30.3

12

2008

33

36

25

31.3

11

2009

31

39

27

22

29.8

17

2010

32

41

28

22

42

33.0

19

2011

33

38

30

24

42

28

34.2

14

2012

30

39

30

25

36

31

27

27

30.6

14

2013

32

41

32

27

35

32

24

30

31.6

17

2014

34

41

35

30

36

35

25

26

31

32.6

16

2015

34

41

36

35

39

34

23

24

45

34.6

18

2016

30

32

37

35

34

42

24

26

46

34.0

22

2017

34

31

36

25

35

39

25

22

41

32.0

19

2018

33

32

35

18

37

38

31

20

47

32.3

29

2019

33

33

33

25

36

36

28

20

47

32.3

27

2020
Zj

-
2

33
–2


10

26
4

36
–6

37
9


1


–7


16

33.0

11

 

 

Table 3. Asian presence in global university rankings, 2003–2020

Year

GUR type

Xit

Yit

ARWU

QS

NTU

sir

RUR

THE

CWUR

LR

Rank
PRO

2003

5

5.0

0

2004

5

13

9.0

8

2005

5

15

10.0

10

2006

6

13

9.5

7

2007

6

13

5

8.0

8

2008

4

13

6

7.7

9

2009

5

16

6

11

9.5

11

2010

5

15

6

12

10

9.6

10

2011

5

18

6

13

11

10

10.5

13

2012

4

19

8

14

10

9

6

19

11.1

15

2013

3

17

10

14

11

11

8

19

11.6

16

2014

3

17

10

15

12

11

13

23

11

12.8

20

2015

4

17

9

15

11

11

13

24

11

12.8

20

2016

7

22

10

16

12

9

11

24

17

14.2

17

2017

6

23

11

26

13

11

11

30

16

16.3

24

2018

8

23

13

28

13

11

6

32

11

16.1

26

2019

9

23

15

21

16

12

10

34

12

16.9

25

2020

25

22

16

12

18.8

13

Zj

4

12

10

11

6

2

4

15

1

 

 

 

 

 

The aforesaid allows us to draw the general conclusion that, in the 21st century, American universities are gradually being ousted from the WCU market. Let us try to assess how seriously the United States has lost its position.

Six out of the nine GURs under consideration started off the mark when American universities occupied more than half of the Top 100 ranking list. In other words, the dominance of US universities at that time was total and unconditional. From 2012, the situation began to change rapidly, and already in 2019 there was only one GUR (CWUR) in which American WCUs still dominated. The US WCU market volume in the other ratings was in the range of 31–51 (Table 1).

By 2020, the presence of the Asian WCU market in seven rankings out of nine increased 1.5–2.0 times. With respect to European universities, the grades varied greatly, but in some GURs they reached 3647 units when the region was already beginning to claim a leading, if not dominant, position in the WCU market. Thus, according to the estimates of the three GURs (THE, RUR, and RankPro), Europe came close to the United States, which makes their further competition more acute and unpredictable.

The tendency identified in the regional restructuring of the WCU market is to some extent related to the changes that have occurred in the structure of financing higher education. For example, in Britain, a 20–percent reduction in university budgets occurred in 2010–2011 [9]. In the United States, the share of state financing in the university budget is decreasing, and the average annual growth rate of education spending in the United States is lower than in OECD countries [10, 11]. China, Japan, India, Korea, and continental Europe, on the contrary, have increased the amount of funds allocated to the higher education system as anticrisis measures, especially in scientific research [3]. It is obvious that the results of governmental organizational and financial initiatives immediately affected the position of universities in GUR ratings.

 

Objectivity of rankings and updating of the top list of universities

 

Despite the objectivity of the rankings, the methods they use are formed in such a way that ultimately they overestimate the presence of some regions in the Top 100 WCUs and underestimate others. Moreover, the initial inadvertent discrimination of a region of the world over time can turn into its opposite. It can be said that some GURs are oriented mainly at one region, others at another. To determine whether a given GUR “likes” the i–th region, it is enough to fulfill the condition xij<xijt; i.e., its value in a certain year should exceed the average value for all rankings. Otherwise, we can speak, on the contrary, about a kind of “antipathy” of the ranking system for this region. If this condition is stable in time, we observe the corresponding regional orientation of a GUR.

A comparison of the data in Table 1 regarding the fulfillment of the condition xij<xijt suggests that rankings, such as ARWU, NTU, CWUR, and THE, are American centric. The first three rankings are Asian in origin (Chinese, Taiwanese, and Arabic), and the fourth is Anglo–Saxon (British). From the very beginning, these systems have been focused on the United States as a reference. That is why these ratings give many more positions to American universities in comparison with universities in other countries.

On the contrary, ranking systems such as QS, RUR, SIR, and RankPRO can be classified as Eurocentric. This fact is quite understandable, given that QS and SIR are European in origin (British and Spanish, respectively), RUR is Russian, and RankPRO was developed by the International Council of Scientists as part of an international program in the format of a global discussion. Moreover, QS, strictly speaking, can be called Eurasiocentric, since it clearly and very strongly overestimates the performance of not only the European region but also the Asian one.

A special place is occupied by the LR GUR. This ranking is of Dutch origin, and it can be conditionally classified as Asian centric. Throughout the entire existence of LR, there has been a steady increase in the presence of Asian universities in it. By 2020, their number was comparable to American universities (34 Asian universities versus 36 American ones) with a more than double gap in 2012.

Here is a curious fact: three Asian rankings – ARWU, CWUR and NTU, focusing on American universities as a model – underestimated the position of Asian universities. Thus, one cannot suspect these ranking systems of regional engagement. With certain reservations, the European QS can be reproached for a certain addiction to European universities, since from 2004 to 2015 it steadily overestimated their positions but from 2016 began to lower them consistently. However, in general, the European developers of GURs are deprived of obvious preferences and only in some cases gravitate toward “their” universities.

The main conclusion that follows from the above calculations is that the US WCUs are gradually being ousted from the top list by European and Asian universities. At first glance, this fact indicates an active geopolitical inversion, when even such a conservative sphere as the university sector is changing in a new direction. From this we can conclude that the United States is slowly but steadily losing its position as the unconditional hegemon in the market of multidisciplinary research universities. However, it would be wrong to simplify the situation. For a more balanced position, a number of circumstances should be considered.

First, GURs are a specific information product. Almost all of them are open platforms that openly publish their methods and receive data from the universities themselves. This situation contributes to the active operation of the Goodhart law, according to which an effective indicator, turned into a target indicator, loses its indicative properties. The emergence of GURs as a new tool of market competition has generated a powerful movement among many reporting universities to pump their reporting parameters. Universities do not hesitate to juggle facts and distort information in their favor, i.e., to manipulate data [12, 13]. This circumstance requires the most cautious conclusions based on global rankings.

Second, the growth of GUR authority led to the fact that they began to commercialize their analytical activities by advising universities on a paid basis, introducing additional distortions into the objective picture of the WCU market.

Third, as such, the ranking movement was initiated in order to show the advantages of American universities and stimulate the process of copying them by universities in other countries. At the same time, the United States, being the undisputed leader of the WCU market, is not so actively involved in the global ranking movement, focusing mainly on the creation of national rankings. In addition, the strengthening of European and Asian WCUs is based on their transition to the American model of a research university and the international language, English. In this sense, we can say that American universities have made the WCU market more homogeneous in terms of language and scientific standards.

Fourth, the GURs have an important quality, which can conditionally be called its “core.” Its essence is that the consistency of different GURs decreases as the sample grows. Thus, with an increase in the number of universities under comparison, all the ratings seem to blur, becoming less and less accurate [14]. Thus, in the case of reputation rankings (for example, World Reputation Rankings), a reliable assessment only applies to the core of 25 leading universities [15]. This means that the most accurate information concerns the first two to three dozen of the top lists, and in this group, American universities are practically not losing their positions.

 

Table 4. Retrospective and forecast of the dynamics of the number of world–class universities in the main regions of the world (GUR averaged data)

Year

Region

United
States

Europe

Asia

Other
countries

2007

51

30

8

11

2019

41

33

16

10

2030

35

35

20

10

 

 

It does not at all follow from the foregoing that the identified trend toward weakening of the American university system is not significant. Earlier studies showed that American WCUs tend to disperse, breaking up into smaller specialized universities [1]. The main point is that the catch-up development of European and Asian countries has allowed many new strong players to enter the WCU market, and they are able to compete on equal terms even with the most advanced US universities. For example, in 2017, Harvard University was listed in the Top 50 lists by 34 scientific fields in QS subject rankings and thereby successfully competed in 74% of the areas of the existing spectrum of scientific disciplines, acting as a standard for scientific diversification. However, the National University of Singapore exceeded this value by entering the top lists for 35 subject rankings, and Seoul National University came close to the specified threshold, reaching the level of 30 disciplines [1]. These data indicate that the competitive processes in the WCU market have undergone undeniable qualitative changes.

What are the prospects for the world-class university market? Recognizing the hopelessness of any forecasts in the context of geopolitical turbulence, we still dare to offer our vision of the WCU market in ten years with the assumption that in the coming years the world will not undergo heavy–duty shocks, such as a sharp devaluation of the dollar, the restructuring of the international monetary system, or military clashes of major powers. Then the alignment of scientific and educational forces by 2030 will be approximately as it is presented in Table 4.

In our estimation, changes in the WCU market will slow down. US influence will decrease but by no means in a landslide manner. Moreover, losing ground in the Top 100, America will maintain its leadership position in the Top 10 list over the next ten years. In other words, the best WCUs will continue to be concentrated in the United States. We can assume that in parallel there will be strong pressure from European and Asian WCUs.

The specificity of the forecast situation is that, despite small quantitative changes in the global rankings, the WCU market will move to a new quality: the absolute hegemony of the United States in this field will end, approximate parity with Europe will be established, and Asia will turn into a full–fledged player, gradually catching up with its advanced competitors.

A factor contributing to a more uniform restructuring of the WCU market will be a change in the model of an advanced university in the context of total digitalization. This will require a review of the current model, including by American universities, which provides an additional chance for European and Asian universities to reduce the gap with the leader.

 

Russia in the WCU market: slowly moving up

 

“The other countries” were left out of our analysis. In our opinion, this geographic area will also gain ground in the future, but not as fast as it sometimes seems. To illustrate the processes taking place in this segment of the WCU market, let us analyze Russia. Tables 5 and 6 illustrate the presence of Russian universities in the Top 100 and Top 500 GURs.

Obviously, in terms of the number of WCUs included in the rankings, Russia fundamentally failed to improve its position during the period analyzed. In fact, all this time only Moscow State University pretended to be a WCU but with unstable dynamics: it either entered some top lists, or dropped out of them, then rose in the list, then dropped again; some GURs consistently included it in their lists, some never. It can be stated that our country is still represented poorly and extremely unreliably in the global WCU market.

This circumstance is largely due to the fact that Russia entered the WCU race relatively late. For example, the construction of centers of excellence and the formation of WCUs with the help of special state financing programs in Canada began back in 1989; in Denmark, in 1991; in Finland, in 1995; in China, in 1996; in Hong Kong, in 1998; in Japan, in 2002; in Australia and Norway, in 2003; in Taiwan, in 2005; and in Germany, in 2006 [3]. According to experts, Russia took the first serious institutional step in this direction only in 2008, launching a project to form a network of national research universities [3]. However, only four years later, Presidential Decree no. 599 of May 7, 2012, was signed and the State Program for the Development of Education was adopted, setting the task of at least five Russian universities entering the world’s top 100 leading universities by 2020. Russia was late in joining the global trend in the formation of national WCUs, and this did not allow it to be widely represented in global rankings.

 

Table 5. Russian presence in Top 100 global university rankings, 2001–2020

Year

Global rankings

ARWU

QS

NTU

sir

RUR

THE

CWUR

LR

Rank PRO

2003

1

2004

1

1

2005

1

1

2006

1

1

2007

1

0

0

2008

1

0

0

2009

1

0

0

0

2010

1

1

0

0

0

2011

1

0

0

0

0

0

2012

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

2013

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

2014

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

1

2015

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

3

2016

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

2017

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

2

2018

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

2019

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2020

1

0

1

0

Zj

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

–1

–1

 

 

Table 6. Russian presence in Top 500 global university rankings, 2001–2020

Year

Global rankings

ARWU

QS

NTU

sir

RUR

THE

CWUR

LR

Rank PRO

2003

2

2004

2

1

2005

2

2

2006

2

2

2007

2

0

1

2008

2

1

1

2009

2

2

1

1

2010

2

4

1

1

9

2011

2

7

1

1

7

0

2012

2

6

1

1

5

2

0

2

2013

2

8

1

1

6

2

0

2

2014

2

10

1

1

8

1

2

1

23

2015

2

10

1

1

9

2

3

1

26

2016

3

9

1

1

11

7

3

1

20

2017

3

11

1

1

10

8

3

1

21

2018

4

13

1

1

10

8

1

1

19

2019

4

13

1

1

12

4

1

1

20

2020

16

-

1

14

5

Zj

2

15

0

0

5

5

1

–1

–3

 

 

Table 7. Number of Russian universities included in Top 100 subject rankings

GUR

2017

2019

ARWU

5

8

THE

5

5

QS

6

8

NTU

1

1

RUR

7

18

Average

4.8

8.0

 

 

At the same time, the data in Table 6 show that there has been clear progress in a broader list – the Top 500 GUR. The representation of domestic universities in this list increased by an average of two to three universities. In three of the nine GURs, Russia has noticeably improved its position, in two it has improved a bit, in two it has worsened a little, and in two it has not changed.

We can conclude that, in the creation of WCUs, our country is moving in a stepwise evolutionary path: first you need to get into a wider pool of advanced universities (Top–500) and then gradually improve all the parameters and thereby move to the top of the list (Top–100). At one time, China very successfully adhered to a similar policy.

To clarify the stepwise strategy, let us consider the data in Table 7, which shows the representation of Russian universities in subject rankings. It turns out that a university’s upholding of its positions begins with specific areas of knowledge. Russia has clearly succeeded in this direction: in just two years, it has improved its position in three ranking systems, while maintaining the same level in another two. On average, over the two years examined, Russia added three to four universities that had achieved global leadership in their fields.

Along with traditional leaders, such as Moscow State University, St. Petersburg State University, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, National Research Nuclear University MEPhI, Novosibirsk State University, and the Higher School of Economics, TOP 100 subject rankings included Belgorod State University (engineering), Kazan (Volga) Federal University (education), ITMO University (information technology), St. Petersburg Mining Institute, and some others.

In the future, in order to turn such narrow-profile universities into full–fledged WCUs, it is necessary to expand the list of disciplines in which they achieve global leadership, that is, enter the Top 100 subject ratings. The university’s expansion of the number of such disciplines with a parallel increase in the ranking in the Top 100 of subject rankings contributes to its transformation into a full–fledged WCU and entry into the Top 100 GURs themselves.

The method of WCU formation in all countries is quite uniform: this is a sharp increase in the financing of universities in the framework of national programs. Analysis of the amount of financial support for universities in different countries allows us to divide them into three groups: the first is moderate financing (<$20 mln), the second is generous ($20—$100 mln), and the third is supergenerous (>$100 mln) [3]. Russia, together with Spain and Thailand, falls into the second group, so it is quite legitimate to expect an improvement in the situation. At the same time, breakthrough success is achieved under conditions of extremely generous financing, as was the case in China, Taiwan, and Singapore. To illustrate this thesis, we present data on the Chinese Project 985, in which in 1999, at the first stage, Peking University and Tsinghua University received $285 mln each, and at the second stage (in the same year), another ten universities were allocated $156 mln each, and 22 universities, $106 mln each [3].

As is with the enlarged regions, “sympathies” are also visible for Russia from certain rating systems (QS, RUR), which is understandable. Thus, the vast majority of Russian universities included in the internationalization campaign focus on the QS ranking, increasing precisely those indicators that are taken into account by this system. The RUR ranking is of Russian origin, and domestic universities are in the zone of its close attention, which inadvertently affects their number in the Top 500 list.

We must say that Russia in its struggle to enter the WCU market is pursuing a policy that is characteristic of almost all countries that have a similar goal. We grow WCUs from the “old” state universities, including through their unification, while some countries are moving towards creating new universities with initially different standards and traditions. [14] Today, an extensive arsenal of institutional approaches to building research universities has already been analyzed [9, 16]. For example, the salaries of top–ranking employees at universities in Canada, Australia, Britain, India, Italy, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Malaysia are higher than in the United States [17]. Some countries have a policy of bonuses, allowances, and subsidies for university associates. For example, it may be a frozen Christmas turkey in Mexico; housing allowances in Ethiopia, India, and Japan; marriage and childbirth payments in Germany; inflation compensation allowance in India; allowances for each article published in famous peer–reviewed journals in China and Russia; etc. Depending on the situation, such compensation packages play an important role in retaining the best teachers and researchers [17]. Of great importance is the guarantee of employment for university employees. in many countries, academic staff fall into the category of civil servants with a lifetime job guarantee; in some countries, even in private universities, a guarantee of employment throughout the career is provided along with a guarantee of academic freedom (the United States, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands). The enumeration of WCU formation tools is an independent topic that is beyond the scope of this article. We only point out that in recent years Russia has been actively using the accumulated methodological arsenal, although some advanced approaches cannot be implemented, since the country’s leading universities are state owned and are under pressure from a bureaucratic apparatus that limits institutional innovation.

 

* * *

 

Apparently, competition in the WCU market with the weakening of the US positions and the strengthening of Asia and Europe is a long–term trend that will develop in the coming decade. The recent opposition between the United States and China against the background of the EU’s test of strength can at any time change the disposition of forces in the WCU market. At the same time, the processes characteristic of the past two decades provide the basis for the continuation of the emerging dynamics. in any case, the regional composition of competitors for global intellectual resources has greatly diversified. For example, in the ARWU subject ranking for 2019, the number of Chinese universities in the Top 100 in the field of Chemical Technology exceeded by 1.4 times the number of American universities (34 versus 24, respectively).

It can be assumed that the loss by the United States of global dominance in the WCU market will lead to its transformation into a regional leader that will form models of the best university brands (Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, etc.) for a long time. Competition in the WCU market is escalating, contributing to the formation of a kind of regional multipolarity with less pronounced authorities and guidelines. The very fact that the United States has diminished its role in the market of advanced universities as a whole can be evaluated positively: various approaches and different cultures on the foundation created by the American WCUs will positively affect the development of world science.

 

References

 

  1. E.V. Balatsky and N.A. Ekimova, “Geopolitical meridians of world–class universities,” Herald Russ. Acad. Sci. 89 (5), 468–477 (2019).
  2. E. Hazelkorn, Rankings and the Reshape of Higher Education: The Battle for World Class Excellence (Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2011).
  3. D. Salmi and I.D. Frumin, “How states achieve international competitiveness of universities: Lessons for Russia,” Vopr. Obr., No. 1, 25–68 (2013).
  4. J. Salmi and A. Saroyn, “League tables as policy instruments: User and misuses,” Higher Ed. Manag. Policy, 19(2), 1–38 (2007).
  5. N.A. Polikhina and I.B. Trostyanskaya, University Rankings: Development Trends, Methodology, Changes (FGANU Sotsiotsentr, Moscow, 2018) [in Russian].
  6. A.F.J. Van Raan, “Fatal attraction: Conceptual and methodological problems in the ranking of universities by bibliometric methods,” Scientometrics 62 (1), 133–143 (2005).
  7. G.A. Olcay and M. Bulu, “is measuring the knowledge creation of universities possible? A review of university rankings,” Technol, Forecast. Soc. Change 123, 153–160 (2017).
  8. A.V. Kincharova, “Methodology of global university rankings: Analysis and criticism,” Univ. Upr.: Prakt. Analiz, No. 2, 70–80 (2014).
  9. The Road to Academic Excellence: Building Research Universities, Ed. by F.D. Al’tbakh and D. Salmi (Ves’ Mir, Moscow, 2012) [in Russian].
  10. R. Geiger and D.E. Heller, “Financial trends in higher education: The United States,” Peking Univ. Ed. Rev. Working Paper No. 6 (2011). https://ed.psu.edu/cshe/working-papers/wp-6. Cited May 9, 2019.
  11. E.N. Wolff, W.J. Baumol, and A.N. Saini, “A comparative analysis of education costs and outcomes: The United States vs. other OECD countries,” Econ. Ed. Rev. 39, 1–21 (2014).
  12. N. Diamond and H.D. Graham, “How should we rate research universities?,” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 32 (4), 20–33 (2000).
  13. E.V. Balatskii and N.A. Ekimova, “Global university rankings: Problem of manipulation,” Zh. Nov. Ekon. Assots. 13 (1), 126–146 (2012).
  14. K. Chen and P. Liao, “A comparative study on world university rankings: A bibliometric survey,” Sciento-metrics 92 (1), 89–103 (2012).
  15. E.V. Balatskii and N.A. Ekimova, “The comparative reliability of the global university rankings,” Zh. Nov. Ekon. Assots., No. 11, 127–140 (2011).
  16. A.V. Prokhorov, “Modern trends in the development of higher education in Asian countries,” Psikhol.-Ped. Zh. Gaudeamu 26 (2), 52–56 (2015).
  17. F.D. Al’tbakh, Global Prospects for Higher Education (Vyssh. Shkola Ekon., Moscow, 2016) [in Russian].

 


[14] In fairness, it should be noted that in 2011 a new university was created in Russia in strict accordance with international stan- dards–the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech). However, it is too early to speak about its achievements. In addition, Skoltech belongs to the category of small universities: in 2018, there were only 108 professors, 613 students, and 259 graduate students. With such parameters, this university cannot yet claim global leadership.

 

 

 

 

Translated by B. Alekseev

 

 

 

Official link to the article:

 

Balatsky E.V., Ekimova N.A. Global Competition of Universities in the Mirror of International Rankings // «Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences», 2020, Vol. 90, No. 4, pp. 417–427.

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