US institutions losing ground on world rankings list
- Asian universities, particularly in China, are gaining on their U.S. and U.K. counterparts in world ranking lists. The 2017 World Reputation List published by Times Higher Education saw Tsinghua University and Peking University overtaking schools like Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania, giving reason for U.S. institutions to reflect on their global competitiveness.
- The rankings are based largely on research performance, and officials in China credit increased investment in research and a newly developed tenure system which mirrors the Western "publish or perish" culture.
- Faculty members in the United States point to a social and political climate which is dismissive of facts and constant challenges to the core values of truth, evidence and freedom of speech in higher education are having a negative impact on institutions' world reputations. But Emma Leech, director of marketing and advancement at the UK’s Loughborough University, says there remains a "snobbery" in academia which discourages faculty from communicating their research to the media, and which puts them at a reputational disadvantage.
There are concerns that President Trump and Congress are considering cutting funding for "indirect-cost reimbursements" that help fund facility and administrative costs for research universities. Some in Congress are arguing for a "flat rate" for reimbursements, which critics worry could weaken research facilities, particularly at smaller schools with lower endowments. Coupled with broader proposed cuts to agencies which fund research, these conversations certainly give reason for concern for researchers on campus — and the administrators managing institutional reputations which hinge on research productivity.
Many administrators and advocates are wary about the effect that a reduction in federal support for university research facilities could have on American innovation and growth. In a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the Research and Technology Subcommittee and the Oversight Subcommittee of the House’s Committee on Science, Space and Technology, numerous associations, including the Association of American Universities and the Association of Independent Research Institutes, expressed concern that loss of federal funding could have a long-term impact.
“Without sufficient federal support for F&A (facilities and administration), research institutions would be unable to sustain the scientific infrastructure necessary to conduct this cutting-edge research,” the letter read. “A cap or flat rate could well have the unintended long-term consequences of consolidating remaining research programs into fewer institutions by making research costs prohibitive for smaller and geographically diverse universities and institutions. It could also discourage institutions from pursuing more cutting-edge research requiring specialized facilities.
- Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2017: results announced