Universities dive in new rankings

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Not a single Norwegian university made it into the rankings of the top 200 universities in the world this year. One of them received among the lowest scores for universities located in the Nordic countries, and Norway ended up with a generally poorer showing than in earlier years.

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) published the World University Rankings from Times Higher Education on Thursday and they show that Norway’s best-scoring university, Universitetet i Oslo, fell from 181st place last year to 202 this year. The University of Bergen, ranked second among those in Norway, fell from 191st place to 228.

The next-highest-scoring Norwegian university was NTNU in Trondheim, which maintained its ranking of 251st, with the University of Tromsø ranked among the lowest of those making the list in the Nordic countries, at 301st place.

Swedish schools best among Nordic nations
Five universities in Sweden, by contrast, made it into the top 200 schools in the world, with Karolinska Institutet ranking best among the Nordic countries in 42nd place, Lund ranking 82nd and Uppsala ranking 106th. The University of Stockholm ranked 117th and Kungliga tekniska høgskolan ranked 140th.

Three universities in Denmark (Aarhus, University of Copenhagen and Danmarks tekniske universitet) scored among the top 200 as well, along with the University of Helsinki in Finland.

The top 10 universities were all found in the US and Great Britain, with the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) ranking number one for the second year in a row followed by Oxford in Great Britain and Stanford, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Princeton, all in the US. Next came Cambridge and Imperial College London in Great Britain, with the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago in ninth and 10th place respectively.

Many factors evaluated
The rankings are based on a wide variety of factors including evaluations of the universities’ innovation, teaching conditions, the number of students vs faculty, total revenues, the quantity, financing and reputation of research, published academic articles and international mix.

Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education, told DN that tight budgets were one reason the Norwegian universities scored lower this year. “Funding hasn’t increased in line with competing universities abroad,” Baty told DN. “We see that budgets are stretched.”

He agreed with several Norwegian professors, who claimed the universities aren’t doing anything worse than before. “The problem is that’s not enough, you have to keep improving your results or else you’ll fall,” Baty said. “The international competition gets tougher all the time.”

Methodology questioned
Some Norwegian education officials, including Sveinung Skule of the Nordic institute for studies of innovation, research and education (Nifu), scoffed at the new rankings and questioned the methodology used. Professor Bjørn Stensaker at the University of Oslo called the rankings “nearly a scandal” because of how they’re compiled.

Key indicators change from year to year, Skule noted, “and you must remember that there are more than 17,000 universities in the world,” so falling just outside the top 200 may not be so bad.

The ranking may nonetheless pose another setback for Norway’s left-center government coalition and, not least, the Socialist Left party (SV), which has shared government power for the seven years and always has promoted higher education in its political platform. It is perhaps ironic that Norway’s universities fell in the rankings during SV’s tenure, and after SV even held a ministerial post devoted to research and higher education.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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