Comments on the chances of Eastern European Universities in the most spectacular form of global academic competition

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The global university rankings dominate the international and more or less the national media about higher education. Of course, there is competition: in the pursuit of reputation, in the recruitment of international students and in the raising of funds. Also, global rankings can be interpreted as the sings of a country’s (and it’s HEI’s) “capacity to participate in world science and the global economy”[1]. In this race the chances are unequal not only because of the generic differences among universities (history, budget etc.) but characteristics of rankings themselves.

First of all, higher education rankings are biased. They are not independent of language and network background of their creators. In these fields Eastern European universities can never catch up with the universities of Western countries. They can’t attract enough native English professors, they can’t organize as many international conferences, and it is more difficult for them to publish in international scientific magazines. Generally, Eastern European countries and cultures are not too trendy, not too attractive. This is also true for foreign students, who prefer choosing a Western country or the Far East, while the ratio of international students (and staff) – besides publication and citation performance –  is a common indicator in rankings methodology[2].

A second point in this argument is the economical position of Eastern European countries compared to those of the Western World. The handicap is clearly shown in MINES global ranking of universities that counts the CEO’s of the largest 50 worldwide companies[3], where the Eastern European region is obviously outsider.

This situation wouldn’t be a problem if governments didn’t expect universities to achieve good positions in global rankings. To meet these requirements universities should reframe their ranking-communication in these countries. Universities have to use ranking-results relatively.  They could show their own ranking-positions in relation to economic and social data of countries. Another way to find better interpretations is to differenciate ranking results according these social and economical background issues of the region.



[1] Hazelkorn, E.  Rankings and the Reshaping of Higher Education. 2011, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 5.

[2] See for example Times Higher Education rankings (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/) or QS rankings (http://www.topuniversities.com/)

[3] http://www.mines-paristech.fr/Actualites/PR/EMP-ranking.html#3