All posts by Ellen Hazelkorn


Obama’s Rating System: an International Perspective

As an observer of global university rankings, I’ve followed the debate about President Obama’s proposed college-ratings system with great interest—and growing incredulity.

From a distance, the concerns about the plan are curious. While some are certainly valid, I wonder how American colleges did not try to create a system of their own, or at least to work with the government to establish one.

Efforts to compare colleges have become an increasingly influential factor in higher education since the…


In Europe, Contradictory Messages About Teaching and Research

Europe_mapRecently in Europe, as in many other countries, there has been a growing focus on research to the detriment of teaching and learning. There are some signs, however, that the pendulum may be beginning to swing back—ever so slowly.

In June, the European Union published the first report from its high-level group on the modernization of higher education, which was chaired by the former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese. Titled Report to the European Commission on Improving the Quality of Teaching …


Has Higher Education Lost Control Over Quality?

Educational quality is now a hot topic in higher education globally.

In recent months, I have been involved in institutional assessments and government meetings on the topic in Finland, Romania, Ireland, and the United States—and shortly I’ll travel to Gabon on behalf of the European Union and the African Union to discuss quality issues.

While the discussions vary, what’s clear is that quality is no longer solely the domain of higher-education providers or independent agencies, like accreditor…


Europe Looks for Better Ways to Measure the Value of the Arts and Humanities

An infrared camera is used to study a 16th-century painting. Arts and humanities research like this is under more pressure from policy makers to demonstrate its value to society.

How can universities demonstrate the benefit that arts and humanities research provides to society? It’s a perennial question and one that has become more urgent in Europe in recent years. I belong to a European consortium, supported by the Humanities in the European Research Area, that is investigating ways to better u…


Global University Rankings: the New Olympic Sport?

The main global rankings of universities have been published recently and with them, the predictable news headlines. However, over the years, the headlines have taken on a more geopolitical edge: An opinion article in The Wall Street Journal asks “Can U.S. Universities Stay on Top?” Public Affairs Ireland claims, “Irish Universities Lose Ground in World Rankings.” ABS-CBN News in the Philippines says, “Budget Cuts Blamed for Low University Rankings.” And The Telegraph celebrates, “British Univ…


Measuring Value: Societal Benefits of Research

A Ph.D. student in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science at Virginia Tech.

In recent years, there has been a noted policy shift towards measuring the value and benefit of university-based research. Rather than measuring inputs (e.g. human, physical, and financial resources), the emphasis has switched to looking for outcomes (the level of performance or achievement including the contribution research makes to the advancement of scientific-scholarly knowledge) and ultimat…


Measuring Value: University-Based Research and National Needs

The European Science Open Forum, or ESOF, came to Dublin the other week. ESOF is Europe’s largest general science meeting and is held in a leading Europe city every two years. The Dublin event followed that of Stockholm in 2004, Munich (2006), Barcelona (2008) and Turin (2010). Copenhagen will host the event in 2014.

It was hugely successful, provoking wide-ranging discussions and debate about science and technology, not only amongst the 4,000-plus delegates but also the wider Irish public. I ha…


What Effect Is the Economic Crisis Really Having on Higher Education?

A march in 2009 to protest the Irish government's handling of the economic crisis.

Over the last two decades Ireland has experienced a remarkable transformation in fortunes. The boom years of the “Celtic Tiger” made Ireland the poster child of the 2000s. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, Ireland became the symbol of economic collapse, before being rescued by the “troika” of the IMF, European Commission, and European Central Bank.

Our higher-education institutions, which cl…


Focusing on the Total Quality Experience

The university rankings debate is heating up – again. Hopefully, this time it will be different and with better outcomes for everyone.

At a time when many nations are experiencing high levels of public and private debt and higher education is in great demand, university rankings have encouraged a preoccupation with the trials and tribulations of a handful of “world class” universities. This is having a profound–and perverse–effect on higher-education policy making, universities, and public opini…


It’s Time to Move Beyond Rankings

As I watch the deluge of press releases and media reports reacting to the latest rankings, I am reaching the point of despair. At a superficial level, we can all join in the ridiculous state-of-affairs as governments and universities vie with each other to promote their institutions and—in reality—their country as a place worthy of investment and talent recruitment. But there are more insidious currents at work.

A confluence of factors has heightened policy, public and student interest in higher…