Rankings provide a more complete picture of worldwide research

Times Higher Education World University Rankings will use Scopus data and SciVal analytics

Dr. Nick Fowler is Managing Director of Elsevier's Research Management division.Colleges and universities compete intensively with each other for talent and funding. For a long time, students, teachers, research partners and donors have based their decisions on the universities' historic reputations without the use of data to back up perceptions. The rapid growth of the international higher education system has brought with it the development of initiatives to build world-class universities. Prospective students are looking for international exposure opportunities and want to compare institutions across borders. The general public is becoming increasingly interested in the activities and accomplishments of universities to solve today's grand challenges.

The growing need to understand this complex system has led to the rise of rankings, metrics and surveys.

There are over 30 ranking systems for higher education around the world. The results are used by universities as key performance indicators and serve as a powerful communication tool. By showcasing the distinctive strengths of research institutions, rankings help students select their university of choice, faculty to make career decisions, and university leaders to discuss strategic priorities. They may also be used by the corporate world to guide industry investment in academic partnerships.

Because of their broad impact, the accuracy and integrity of rankings is crucial. Rankings must deploy a range of techniques – both qualitative and quantitative – to provide a meaningful and balanced system by which universities can be compared. Quantitative data has increasingly played a role in providing key metrics that can supplement personal knowledge and experience. Of course, it is a challenging task to rank universities that are all unique; each has its own mission and focus and offers a diverse set of academic programs. The size of the organization and its financial resources can also vary greatly. Additionally, the structure of the academic organization is influenced by the country's higher education system, which in turn influences the set of metrics used for each institution.

Rankings can help institutions gain a perspective on their global position and will undoubtedly remain important. The globalization of the higher education system will continue, driven by the rapid growth of large research nations such as China, India and Brazil, and changes in population density and demographics. More than ever, institutions will focus on their international standing; they will attract the best talent in the world and carve out their competitive advantages by establishing strong international partnerships to optimize their return on investment; by sharing expertise, equipment and financial investment, strategic alliances can be the key to success.

In addition to using rankings data, universities benchmark themselves against their peers using all the data available to them, as supported by Snowball Metrics, a set of sector-defined, robust metrics. Universities increasingly use a basket of diverse metrics to understand their strengths, set goals, chart their progress, and make budgetary decisions. Universities globally are, more and more, investing in an evidence-based approach to develop a clear understanding of their position and progress.

The Times Higher Education rankings and Elsevier

Times Higher Education World University Rankings

Rankings focus on 5 key areas

Times Higher Education World University Rankings are based on 13 performance indicators grouped into five areas:

1. Research: volume, income and reputation (worth 30 percent)

2. Citations: research influence (worth 30 percent)

3. International outlook: staff, students and research (worth 7.5 percent)

4. Industry income: innovation (worth 2.5 percent)

5. Teaching: the learning environment (worth 30 percent of the overall ranking score)

Among rankings providers, The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings are unique because they are the only system to score research-focused universities across all their core missions: research, international outlook, knowledge transfer and teaching. Staff are surveyed to share their experiences and opinions, which are combined with quantitative analysis based on research data to construct the ranking.

Times Higher Education (THE) and Elsevier announced today that they are partnering to provide the data behind THE's flagship World University Rankings and its global university performance analyses.

Times Higher Education will now use Elsevier's Scopus data for  its rankings because of its breadth and depth which provides a more complete view of the world of research. Using Scopus, THE will be able to analyze more research activity from a greater number of institutions, and will also include institutions from emerging economies that account for a growing portion of research. THE will also use SciVal, Elsevier's research metrics analysis tool, to continue to innovate its research performance metrics and analysis.

THE and Elsevier will also launch the annual global academic reputation survey, which feeds into the World University Rankings and lists the top 100 most powerful global university brands, known as the World Reputation Rankings. THE will have ownership of the results and the data behind the ranking indicators empowering them to be more transparent and accountable for them.

The need to evaluate state and national performance

Interest in the quality of higher education systems has been raised by policymakers, employers, students and the general public. Governments are eager to demonstrate the societal impact of their R&D expenditures in order to be accountable to taxpayers, and to inform budget allocation. This drives the demand for rankings and encourages government agencies to adopt quality assurance measures to evaluate their national research and education systems, many of which are also using Scopus data.

The UK's Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), for example, will assess university research faculties to determine distribution of the UK's £1.7 billion in block research funding; its outcomes will be published on 18 December 2014. The UK is not unique in employing Elsevier's data and expertise; similar exercises have been completed in Australia, Portugal and Italy.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) is responsible for administering the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA), which identifies and promotes excellence across the full spectrum of research activities in Australia's higher education institutions. ERA rates specific research disciplines at each university against national and international benchmarks.

Elsevier and the Shanghai Education Evaluation Institute (SEEI) will launch the Center of Academic Research Evaluation (CARE) whose primary goal is to analyze academic performance and research data from universities and research institutions across China. Results from these analyses will form the basis for SEEI's strategic-consulting role, advising China's Ministry of Education and supporting effective formulation and development of national policies governing academic research in China.

Using research metrics to inform policy and investment

World Bank/Elsevier Africa reportInternational agencies are using research metrics to inform the development of R&D priorities. The World Bank has partnered with Elsevier to produce a report on research investment in sub-Saharan Africa to support sustainable economic growth. It provides an overview of research output and citation impact, regional and international research collaboration, and researcher mobility, all important indicators of the strength of the subcontinent's research enterprise.

Elsevier Connect Contributor

Dr. Nick Fowler is Managing Director of Elsevier's Research Management division which provides data, systems, tools and analytics to help universities, funding bodies and governments manage their research activities.  He leads Elsevier's Global Academic Relations group in which he collaborates with senior leaders of the world's leading universities and research policy-makers globally.

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