20 October 2019

Universities have often claimed that adequate funding is a prerequisite for academic research and teaching. However, a paper presented at the recent World Class Universities Conference in Shanghai suggests that this may not always be the case. A conference session discussed the factors that underlay academic excellence.

William Kirby, Professor of China Studies at Harvard University, discussed challenges to liberal education in China. Luiz Claudio Costa. President of IREG, asked whether world class universities were built on quality, reputation or prestige. Jamil Salmi, a global higher education expert, reviewed the relationship between excellence and the rankings, noting that the pursuit of high scores in the rankings can lead to serious problems such as distortions in the allocation of resources and an unhealthy obsession with metrics.

Dr Salmi suggested that there were five accelerators in the drive for world class status: leadership, internationalisation, attracting talent, innovations in the curriculum, and strategic planning and benchmarking.

Alex Usher of Higher Education Strategy Associates of Canada dealt with the changing finances of world class universities. He noted that much of the data for universities in the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) top 200 was of poor quality. Full data was available for only 129 universities in nine countries.

He reported that, with the exception of Japan, institutional expenditure and research income rose significantly between 2006 and 2017 and that universities recruited more staff and generally increased their research output. There was not, however, a significant correlation between increases in institutional funding and increases in scientific output. It was difficult to see any differential impact of extra funding within the ARWU top 100. In short, it seems that at this level and under these conditions money does not matter much.

Academic Ranking of World Universities

IREG Initiatives

The purpose of "IREG Inventory of International Rankings" is to collect and make available on the IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence website information on the current state and scope of this important group of rankings.


National and international academic rankings play ever increasing role as a barometer of quality of higher education institutions. The purpose of "IREG Inventory of National Rankings" is to collect and make available on the IREG Observatory website information on the current state and scope of this important group of rankings.


With the fast development of science and technology, as well as the internationalization of scientific activities, international academic awards have been more and more popular and influential. Numerous international academic awards have been established to provide individuals with incentives and motivation for new academic work and to reward past excellent academic accomplishments.


The purpose of the IREG Ranking Audit, conducted by independent experts, is to verify and attest that ranking under review is done professionally, with a transparent methodology, observes good practices and responds to a need for relevant information of various stakeholders, in particular students, higher education institutions, employers and policy makers.


The purpose of the IREG Guidelines for Stakeholders of Academic Rankings is to provide recommendations for appropriate interpretations, uses and applications of rankings by potential interested parties, including students and parents, institutions of higher education, policymakers, quality assurance and funding organizations, employers and the media. Specific recommendations have been formulated for each group of stakeholders.


News from IREG Members

Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod listed in the global ranking of the world's best university websites Webometrics

According to the recent results of the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, Lobachevsky University now ranks 1383rd in the world and 67th among university websites in Eastern and Central Europe.

QS organize Reimagine Education conference on 8-10 December 2019 in London

Reimagine Education is the global conference for those interested in pedagogical innovation, cutting edge education technology, and means by which graduate employability can be nurtured.

Yeditepe University in Turkey organize the YIRCoF’19 conference

The Yeditepe International Research Conference on Foresught and Futures will take place at Yeditepe University on 29-30 November, 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey. The invited speaker are – Roberto Poli, UNESCO Chair in Anticipatory Systems from University of Trento, Italy.

Members area

© 2018 IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence