ELTE – IREG International Ranking-Conference in Budapest, Hungary

19-21 May 2021

About the Goal and Topics of Conference

A special feature of our event was a look at rankings from an “external perspective” using the terms of social sciences and humanities.
  • Rankings and the Decision Makers
  • Meeting of Three Cultures: Universities, Rankings and the Social-Economic Environment
  • Are There Theories of Rankings?
  • Theoretical Approches to Excellence
  • Rankings as Social and Media Phenomena
  • Reflections from Ranking Providers

In order to demonstrate this, a conference will be organised by Social Communication Research Group at the Faculty of Education and Psychology of Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) (Institute of Research on Adult Education and Knowledge Management) as a traditional research university of humanities, arts and sciences, addressing practitioners of the humanities and social sciences. The conference is sponsored by PADME Foundation (Central Bank of Hungary) and our partner is the IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence (IREG). Our professional co-organiser partner is the Budapest Ranking Research Group (BRRG) , affiliated to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and hosted by University Pannonia (head: Dr. András Telcs).



After a Very Successful Discussion

Global university ranking providers were confronted with the social science perspective at a recent ranking conference at Eötvös Loránd University Faculty of Education and Psychology. The novelty of the conference was that it explored the relevance of university rankings for higher education, the mechanisms of their impact, their methodological assumptions and their functioning from the perspective of the social sciences and humanities. The ranking providers responded to the suggestions made by leading international scholars in the fields of sociology of science, psychology, history of science and higher education research.

The "University Rankings - Reflections from Social Sciences and Humanities" event (supported by the PADME Foundation) attracted 34 speakers from 12 countries and 382 registered participants representing 40 countries. Organised in collaboration with the International Ranking Expert Group (IREG), the international organisation for higher education rankings, the major conference featured speakers from leading global rankings.

Speaking at the conference, Luiz Claudio COSTA, President of IREG, former Minister of Higher Education of Brazil and former Rector, called for a continuous rethinking of rankings and reflection on knowledge. In his video presentation, László Palkovics, Minister of ITM, put the issue of rankings in the context of Hungarian higher education policy, responding to some of the questions raised by the registrants beforehand. Professor László Borhy, Rector of ELTE, President of the Hungarian Rectors' Conference, also highlighted the ranking positions of our university in his opening speech.

Bob Morse, senior analyst at USNews Global Ranking, the most respected ranking expert, pointed out the huge increase in the number of institutions analysed in subject rankings worldwide. Svetlana Grishankova of RAER Ranking argued for the measurability of the so-called "third mission" of universities. Bob Snow of QS and Niclas Cletz of THE rankinej presented their methodological refinements and, in the discussion, partly accepting the criticisms voiced, indicated that even with their shortcomings, rankings are a great service to improve the self-image and competitiveness of institutions.

A very different approach was taken by scholars who put the issue of rankings in a broader context. Ulrich Teichler (Universitat Kassel), one of the most highly regarded figures in continental higher education research, explored the theoretical background of rankings and showed that rankings, acting as "influencers", work against creativity and complex knowledge-institutional functioning. Péter Érdi, professor at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, USA, based on his recently published book (Oxford University Press) analysed ranking as a basic civilizational drive, pointing out its limitations. Professor Csaba Pléh, (CEU), presented patterns of excellence, partly from a psychological background, partly in the networks of the science of psychology. Richard Holmes, a journalist specialising in global rankings, showed how global rankings have reached a crisis, partly because of the paradigm-shifting nature of the rise of higher education in China and India, partly because of the increasing importance of educational performance, which cannot be measured, and which the pandemic has particularly highlighted. Professor György Fábri, the initiator of the conference, in his closing presentation, discussed rankings as a postmodern media phenomenon, highlighting that the bypassing of traditional academic and educational benchmarks leads to distorted results. In addition, new initiatives were discussed, such as the sports ranking, presented by Mózes Székely, Senior Research Fellow at the PPK FTI, or the European engineering ranking, presented by Waldemar Siwinski.