Rankings pressure on university from Asia

Harlene Hayne.
Harlene Hayne.
The University of Otago's performance in international rankings has been mixed in recent years, with pressure from Asian universities making it harder to compete.

That is the picture painted in a Ministry of Education report which looks at how New Zealand universities have performed in the three main ranking systems - Times Higher Education (THE), Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).

The declining performance in these rankings recently prompted Otago University vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne to call for more Government funding for New Zealand universities, or else risk having them fall behind.

''If the New Zealand universities continue to slip in the rankings they will not attract and retain the best staff and students.

''New Zealand must invest more in our universities so we can compete in an increasingly crowded, competitive international market,'' Prof Hayne said in her role as Universities NZ deputy chairwoman.

The Ministry of Education report showed Otago University's ranking, along with all its New Zealand counterparts, fell in the QS rankings - in Otago's case from 114 in 2007 to 155 last year.

In contrast, the university was one of only two New Zealand universities to move up the ARWU rankings between 2003 and 2013 - going from the 351-400 band to the 201-300 band.

Its performance in the THE rankings was steady, hovering around the 226-250 mark.

The author of the report, Dr Warren Smart, said overall the performance of New Zealand universities - like their Australian counterparts - was ''mixed''.

This comes amid increasing investment in Asian universities.

''In particular, the rise in rankings of universities from Asia appears to be having a displacement effect on the Australasian universities,'' Dr Smart said.

However, it was not all bad, with all of New Zealand universities placing in the QS top 500 for the first time last year, something ''not achieved by the Australian, Canadian or United Kingdom university systems''.

Dr Smart stressed that despite flaws in the ranking systems, they were ''important because people think they are important''.

''They are also one of the only ways people can access information on the relative performance of individual universities from different countries.

''And because they provide a shorthand view of performance, they may be an influence on student flows and, possibly, flows of contestable funding,'' he said in the report.


So true

The unfortunate management tool of recent times is 'throw more (of someone else's) money at it' and that will fix the problem.

You only have to look at the reserves that organistaions like the university and the NZRU have to see how having your hand in the public purse is a great income earner.

More funding

I didn't imply that "more funding" was required for the sponsorship money.  My comment "More funding will fix the problem..." was referring to the VC's suggestion to Government that "more funding" should be given to tertiary institutions.

Like most other large enterprises in the current climate, I firmly believe that attention should be given to efficiency savings rather than additional funding.  Unfortunately, when you tell a bunch of academics to "stick to the knitting", they write papers on the subject "What IS knitting?"

To clarify

Overit: I apologise for not being clear. I wasn't saying I thought rugby would be a good fit, I was saying obviously the uni thought it was. Like yourself I believe the actual proof will be in the numbers. However, you can do all the market research you like into whether a particular approach may be viable - unfortunately with marketing the only way to actually know whether a particular method will match a product in the end is to try it.

When they announced the deal I do remember they gave a range of numbers including the viewing numbers that would be exposed to the brand.

My original point, however, was the attempt to link this issue, including trying to infer it was additional funding, and the issue of the stadium  to the completely unrelated issue of the Univarsity rankings.

Target markets

While I agree with Lynden for the most part I cannot agree with that rugby is  good fit with the University. Surprisingly, for some, rugby is still a minor sport worldwide, though the impressive amounts spent on promotion are improving it's visibility.

As to whether or not rugby sponsorship will be "a good fit with their overall advertising strategy and a way to reach a bigger (or different) audience", that would have to be substantiated by targeted research into actual benefits, not the wishy-washy marketing flim flam that passes for fact.

Advertising budgets

Farsighted: The sponsorship money came from existing advertising budgets. It wasn't "more funding" as you imply, it was exsisting funding and would have been spent promoting the the university anyway. It's just this time round it was the Highlanders chosen instead of more TV ads or promotional tours etc. 

Advertising itself may have no effect on university rankings but the research the staff recruited and students gained from it certainly does, not to mention the quality of teachers. But to get them to even look up what the uni has to offer and get them interested in the first place you have to get the name out there. The uni has obviously decided that this is a good fit with their overall advertising strategy and a way to reach a bigger (or different) audience.

Singling out and linking rugby to this issue is not relevant.

Myself and many others are sick and tired of people trying to link everything to anti-rugby/anti-stadium comment. I even know anti-stadium people who are sick of it and believe this approach actually undermines their position and public support in what should be a debate focused on the true issues surrounding the stadium. 


But think of the rugby

The stadium and the sponsorship of the Highlanders. That will have the students rolling in the door, won't it?

Or the massively expanded building programme?  Students love new buildings, don't they?

More funding will fix the problem, won't it? 

Or are those activities not really contributing to the University ranking because the world has changed in a different direction?