Why participate in IREG-4 Conference?

Background, context and objectives

“University Rankings” - or “League Tables”, as they are known in the United Kingdom –have in a short period of time become an important feature in policy-making and practice in higher education. They are now a global phenomenon serving different purposes for different and varied audiences. Even if they are not necessarily universally appreciated, there is an increasing understanding that they have become the “third arm of the quality-assurance tool, together with accreditation, government regulation and licensing" and they are clearly here to stay. Indisputably university ranking has changed the way higher education institutions and their activities are being presented, perceived and assessed at the institutional, local, national and international levels.  

It is this very background which led to the creation in December 2004 in Washington DC, USA, of the International Rankings Expert Group – IREG. This initiative includes a distinguished group of individuals who develop or analyze ranking systems and which also involves the leading media and other organizations that publish ranking systems along with researchers and others who scrutinize the rankings of universities and other higher education institutions, their study programs and research activities. It is in this context that IREG has reached an understanding that the growing relevance of university rankings at the national and even more so at the international level requires the establishment of international principles to ensure that those producing rankings and league tables hold themselves accountable for quality in their own data collection, methodology, and dissemination. At its second meeting held in May 2006 in Berlin, IREG adopted a document articulating 16 principles of good practices, known as the Berlin Principles on Ranking of Higher Education Institutions.

The next meeting – IREG-3 was held in October 2007 in Shanghai, China. This meeting further advanced discussions about university ranking as a global phenomenon. It also moved forward discussions for an appropriate formal organizational setting for the functioning of IREG. As result of the IREG/International Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence was created in April 2008. The legal location of the IREG/Observatory is Warsaw, Poland, with its temporary secretarial assistance being provided by the Perspektywy Education Foundation (for additional information see www.ireg-observatory.org ).

The fourth meeting of IREG will take place from 14 to 16 June 2009 in Astana, the thriving capital city of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This meeting has been made mostly possible due to the generous financial support of the Government of Kazakhstan and with the organizational back-up of the Independent Kazakhstan Quality Assurance Agency in Education (IQAA.KZ). Thanks to its rich natural resources and appropriate policy, Kazakhstan is making great efforts to look outwards and create solid foundations for its economic, social and cultural development. Higher education and research is part of this strategy. It is also in this context that for the first time in 2006 Kazakhstan conducted a ranking of 110 of its higher education institutions, an exercise which is now undertaken on an annual basis.

The three main topical lines of the Astana conference are:

  • international/regional rankings;
  • national rankings;
  • approaches and measurements for developing comparable transnational data while respecting the limitations of a “culture of numbers” in assessing quality of research or other activities carried out by higher education institutions.

In addition, those participating in IREG-4 will benefit from reflections on such issues as: the increasing use of rankings as a policy tool for national governments, and the use of rankings in developing countries as a means for urging institutions to improve individual and collective performance. Participants will also have first hand access to the efforts being made by those involved in the elaboration of rankings to increase the respectability of ranking and league tables via a comprehensive and open reflection on various aspects of higher education quality.

On behalf of the organizers we look forward to welcoming you to IREG-4 Meeting in Astana!
               
Dr. Jan Sadlak
Chairman of the IREG/International Observatory
Director UNESCO-CEPES

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