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University heads explain rankings nosedive

As Copenhagen comes to grips with its newfound, low, status on the world ranking of the Times Higher Education World University Report, it also sets in motion a game of interpretation

The unflattering result for Copenhagen in one of the most cited university rankings has set off a round of interpretation by university insiders.

The university nosedived to a 177th position from 51st following a revamp of Times Higher Educations World University Report’s methodology. To add insult to injury for university patriots, Copenhagen was bettered by Technical University of Denmark DTU (122) and the University of Århus (167).

The most obvious reading is the one that the Times survey has promoted itself in its lead up to what was bound to have been a severe shake-up to those universities who previously scored high. A reduction in the weighting of subjective measures such as the surveyed scholars evaluation of universities’ reputation, would penalise those universities that previously had gained from a recognisable brand.

Not English-language, no high rank

Director of Communications Jasper Steen Winkel gives no credence to the theory that it is the reduction of subjective reputational measures in the new ranking that is penalising Copenhagen.

Instead it is the new weighting of citations rather than the volume of publications, inspired by THE’s partnership with Thompson Reuters, »that is helping those universities that are strong in Science and Technology and solely publish in English. Income is also a new and critical factor in the ranking,« he says to the University Post.

»All the subjects that are taught and published in Danish for Danish universities, or in other national languages for other European universities, have no chance of doing really well on this ranking,« he says.

No objectivity

The QS ranking using the old methodology where publications rather than citations are measured, has Copenhagen ranked 45th up six places from last year.

His explanation fits well with the higher score for the Technical University of Denmark DTU in the revamped Times ranking.

Jasper Steen Winkel denies that any ranking is more objective than another.

»What you get, is what you measure,« he says.

Just the Danish model

Also the chairman of the University of Copenhagen ranking committee Henrik Dam claims to be taking the new low ranking in his stride.

»On the new ranking we have got a worse placing than we normally get on other lists, but this is the same for all Danish universities, and more an expression of what the Danish university model looks like relative to the American model,« says Henrik Dam to KUnet.

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