The real competition: Hungarian universities in the international field

Summary of the second Ranking Webinar (22 February 2021)

The second part of our Ranking-webinar series discussed the ranking of Hungarian higher education institutions in global and subject rankings. This series aims to strengthen common thinking on rankings – an important milestone of this will be the International Ranking Conference in 19-21. May 2021.

Dr. György Fábri’s presentation discussed two important issues. The first topic discussed where the real competition for Hungarian universities is, whether the issue of comparing the dominant North American universities and Hungarian institutions is realistic. In the presenter’s view, it is important to have a proper comparability between domestic and foreign universities, for which it is worth choosing a reference circle that includes universities operating in similar social, cultural and scientific environments. For this reason, the professional workshop of ELTE Social Communication Research Group considers it important to make an annual comparison, which includes the analysis of nearly half a hundred institutions in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in Austria and Finland. The other question, expressed by Dr. György Fábri in his presentation, discussed the position of Hungarian universities in the rankings and their comparison with reference institutions. Although the approaches of the most important global rankings differ, it can be said that domestic institutions reach mostly the same positions in these rankings. In recent years, the majority of Hungarian higher education institutions are facing a deteriorating ranking position, the primary reason for which is the poor performance in publication indicators. In the rapporteur’s view, there is no reality under the current conditions of a change in international positions which have been “frozen” in recent years.

The presentation of Dóra Czirfusz discussed the positions of Hungarian universities in international subject rankings. In her opinion, it is not possible to talk about these rankings in general, because, for example, different rankings have different disciplinary classifications and work with different methodology. In international subject rankings  13 Hungarian higher education institutions have gained some position in recent years – and year after year, more and more Hungarian names return to these rankings. At the same time, most Hungarian universities appear in the middle or last third, with a few exceptions (for example, CEU is among the top 100 in the field of social sciences and Liszt Ferenc University of Music is among the top 50). In her presentation, Dóra Czirfusz dealt in detail with the ranking of life sciences and medicine, in which the Finnish and Austrian institutions are among the best ones, but three Hungarian institutions can also be found on the list.

In his speech, Mózes Székely, head of the department, presented the areas in which the Ministry of Innovation and Technology is thinking and in which areas it is preparing projects in connection with the rankings. One such area is the digitization of higher education institutions, and a project aimed at ranking the attitudes of universities towards sport is under preparation. The latter would be more of a special, information-specific ranking. In addition, a specific ranking analyzing the institutions of the V4 countries began.

In their comments, participants highlighted the growing number of thematic rankings that capture a particular area of higher education. An example is THE Impact Ranking, which is linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals collaboration. There have been a number of contributions on how rankings can be optimized, for example by providing accurate affiliations in publications. This is a particularly prominent issue when institutions go through name changes, which is a recent topic in Hungary.

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