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EC unveils new interactive global university ranking

The European Commission has unveiled a new international university ranking with a difference – it allows web users to create a personalised ranking based on a range of different criteria.

The U-Multirank resource ranks over 850 higher education institutions from 70 countries around the world, and allows users to view the strengths and weaknesses of each university or create their own individual ranking lists.

The resource was developed over six months with €2 million (£1.6 million) of EU funding, and was launched by Androulla Vassiliou, European commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, at a press conference in Brussels.

The European Commission has stressed that the ranking is intended to be an alternative to the more common system of top 100 lists – which it claims can give a “simplistic” picture of the higher education landscape.

The U-Multirank system does not give each university an overall score. Instead, it gives each institution a grade from “A” (very good) to “E” (weak) for 30 different performance indicators, based on feedback from 60,000 students at participating universities.

The developers have grouped these attributes into three key areas dubbed “readymade rankings” – research and research linkages, economic involvement and business studies programmes.

The European Commission believes the resource will allow students, universities and businesses to gain a more comprehensive picture of the differences between institutions around the world compared to other rankings.

The “research and research linkages” ranking includes performance indicators for citation rate; numbers of research publications; and numbers of co-publications with industrial, international and regional partners.

A number of universities gained A grades for each indicator within the research ranking, including Imperial College London, the University of Copenhagan, Denmark, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, the University of Helsinki, Finland, the University of Leiden, Netherlands and Wageningen University, Netherlands.

The “economic involvement” ranking includes indicators for the number of co-publications with industrial partners; income from private sources; patents awarded; number of spin-offs and the number of graduates working in the region.

For this ranking, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands, and ETH Zurich, Switzerland came out on top with the highest number of A grades, followed by the University of Liverpool, UK.

The “business studies programmes” ranking includes indicators for the number of students graduating on time; number of academic staff with doctorates; contact with work environment; international orientation of the course; and opportunities to work abroad. It also includes a number of criteria based on student surveys, including: overall learning experience; quality of teaching and courses; and contact with teachers.

Here, the list was led by American University, Florida, US, WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management, Germany, Dartmouth College, US, Zeppelin University, Germany and HEC Paris, France.

The highest ranking UK university for the business studies programme list was Newcastle University in 49th place.

The resource was developed by group of academics led by the Centre for Higher Education in Germany and the Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies in the Netherlands.

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth said: "I welcome the launch of this exciting new development in higher education. U-Multirank will enable students to make more informed decisions about where to study and give us a more accurate picture of how universities perform.

“We are proud of our world-class higher education, but we need many kinds of universities, catering for a wide range of needs; that means strong technical and regional universities just as much as outstanding research universities.

“U-Multirank highlights many excellent performers that do not show up in current, research-focused, global rankings – including more than 300 universities that have never appeared in any world ranking until now."