University claims topmost rank

The University of Otago is still ''clearly New Zealand's top-ranked university for research'', once all assessment measures used in the latest Performance-Based Research Fund evaluation are considered, Otago officials say.

Otago was ranked the country's overall most research-intensive university - just ahead of Auckland - in the previous PBRF quality evaluation round, in 2006. In the latest round, whose results were announced last week, a lengthy Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) report ranked Auckland and Otago universities both behind Victoria University of Wellington, which was ranked fourth last time.

Victoria scored 5.51, Auckland 5.12 and Otago 4.96. TEC co-ordinates the quality evaluation rounds, which help determine Government research funding for universities and other tertiary institutions- a total of $262.5 million being allocated this year.

Prof Richard Blaikie, the Otago deputy vice-chancellor of research and enterprise, said the 2006 PBRF evaluation had used a single quality measure, and found that Otago was ''the top-ranked university for research quality''.

The latest evaluation had switched to four average quality measures, but when the ''full scorecard'' over all measures was considered, Otago ''retains this distinction'' [of first place], he said.

''This university is on a very positive trajectory,'' he said in an interview.

New Zealand's leading research universities had all significantly improved their research-related performance in the latest PBRF round, as had Otago University.

The four quality measures focused, respectively, on the quality of research undertaken by academic staff whose evidence portfolios had been submitted, and the extent to which staff given a funded quality category were representative of all academic teaching and research staff at each institution.

Other measures probed the extent to which teaching and learning at degree level and above, and at postgraduate level, were underpinned by research.

Otago University had improved its scores in all four measures since 2003, and was the country's only university to have been ranked in the top four places across all four measures.

Otago had taken first place in the postgraduate measure and second in the research underpinning of teaching and learning at degree level and above.

Otago University had a ''strong, balanced scorecard'' to report, he said.

And yesterday he released an Otago University-generated table showing that, when the ''full scorecard'' of four measures was considered, Otago retained top place, with its first, second, third and fourth placings generating 10 overall placing points.

This was ahead of Victoria University of Wellington, whose two first placings, as well as a third and a sixth place, generated 11 points. Auckland was third, with 13 points, the table suggested.

There is also contention over which university has the best law school for research in New Zealand, with both Victoria and Otago claiming top honours after the latest Performance Based Research Fund quality evaluation.

Victoria University has disputed reports the University of Otago's law school came out top in last week's PBRF round, with a ''quality score'' for its research performance at 6.3 followed by Victoria on 5.9.

Victoria has instead elected to use a different measure, based on ''nominated academic units'', which places it just ahead of Otago, with 6.4 compared to 6.3.

In a press release, Victoria Law School Dean Tony Smith said the PBRF results confirmed its top place.

''It reaffirms the current international recognition that we are the top Law Faculty as judged by the QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2012.''

Otago Dean Mark Henaghan said Victoria University's claim to be the top law faculty for research quality was not true and ''we are clearly well out in front''.

The faculty was ''very proud'' of its performance in the PBRF. However, he pointed out research was only one aspect of its performance and that the quality of its teaching was more important.

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