IREG 2020 Beijing Conference

University rankings in the time of uncertainty

For almost two decades, the annual IREG conferences have played the role of an independent, global forum on the state of arts in the field of academic rankings. Higher education is now in the process of deep changes in a way it functions. This new situation will certainly affect the world of university rankings. The IREG 2020 Beijing Conference (online) will examine changes, that will come to the academic rankings as the result of the Covid-19 impact on higher education.

Many indicators in ranking methodology will become less important while some new will appear. To answer questions on the future of rankings, IREG Observatory has invited those directly involved in the construction of rankings to share their views on the impending changes.  We have also invited outstanding international experts to voice their opinion on the changes that are likely to affect rankings methodology.

If you are interested in university rankings please register (free) for the IREG 2020 Beijing Conference (virtual) – University rankings in the time of uncertainty 20 October 2020. We encourage you to send questions about rankings to, and we will ask panelists at the Conference to answer them.


Times are in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)

Tuesday, 20 October

9:00-9:15 OPENING
  • Luiz C. Costa, President, IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence
  • Liu Gonghui, President, Beijing University of Technology

09:15 – 10:30 First Session
Impact of COVID-19 on higher education
(the landscape of higher education emerging from under the pressure of COVID-19)
Moderator: Ellen Hazelkorn
Speakers: Hans De Wit (USA), Fu Guo (China), Mirko Degli Esposti (Italy), Jacob Stoustrup (Denmark)

10.30 – 10.45 break

10:45 – 11:45 Second Session
Global rankings (part one)
(the state of arts of the main four global rankings; emphasis on expected changes in methodology in the wake of the Covid-19 impact on the higher education)
Moderator: Luiz C. Costa
Speakers: Robert Morse (USA), Ben Sowter (UK), Lu Wang(China), Phil Baty (UK)(tbc)

11.45 – 12.00 break

12:00 – 13:00 Third Session
Future of excellence initiatives in the “new reality”
(international cooperation in research has been an important component of excellence initiative’s, will limitations on travel affect them?)
Moderator: Lauritz B. Holm-Nielsen
Speakers: Michael Matlosz (France) (tbc), Ulrike Beisiegel (Germany) (tbc), Isak Frumin (Russia)

Wednesday, 21 October

9:00 – 10:00 Fourth Session
Global rankings (part two)
(the state of the arts of other global rankings; emphasis on expected changes in methodology in the wake of the Covid-19 impact on the higher education)
U-Multirank, Three Mission Ranking, CWTS Leiden, Webometrics
Moderator: Waldemar Siwinski
Speakers: Isidro Aquillo (Spain), Ludo Waltman (Netherlands), Gero Federkeil (Germany), Dmitry Grishankov/Kirill Ivanov (Russia)

10.00 – 10.15 break

10:15 – 11:15 Fifth Session
National rankings
(the state of arts of national rankings; emphasis on expected changes in methodology in the wake of the COVID-19)
Foha Brazil, Rankings in India, CHE Germany Perspektywy Poland, Times Good University Guide UK
Moderator: Jan Sadlak
Speakers: John O’Leary (UK), Raghu Raman (INDIA), Sabine Righetti (Brazil) (tbc), Wojciech Marchwica (Poland)

11:15 – 11:30 Special Presentation

11:30 – 11.45 break

11:45 – 12:45 Sixth Session
Impact of COVID-19 on rankings
(discussion of experts on changes COVID-19 may bring to global and national rankings)
Moderator: Alex Usher
Speakers: Richard Holmes (UK/Malesia),

12:45 – 13:00 CLOSING
Luiz Costa


Luiz Claudio Costa

President of IREG Observatory and Academic Ranking and Excellence, Academic Vice Rector of IESB University.

Former Minister of Education, Federal Government of Brazil, Former Rector of Federal University of Viçosa. Former President of the National Institute of Educational Studies and Research Anísio Teixeira (INEP), Brazil. Former Vice President of the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) of OECD. PhD from the Reading University (UK) currently serves as Academic Vice Rector of IESB University, Brazil.

Isidro F. Aguillo

Head of Cybermetric Lab – Scimago Group (Webometrics)

Isidro Aguillo is the Head of The Cybermetrics Lab, a research group of the Instituto de Políticas y Bienes Públicos (IPP) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).He is the editor of the Rankings Web (Webometrics), including the Ranking Web of Universities (since 2004), Research Centres (since 2006), Hospitals, Repositories and Business Schools (since 2008). He is the founder and editor of the journal “Cybermetrics”, the first electronic-only journal of the CSIC. He has published more than 60 papers in international journals on such research topics as evaluation of the scientific activity, electronic journals, open access initiatives and specially webometrics and web indicators.

His teaching activity comprises more than 400 workshops, seminars and conferences in more than 80 Universities and professional societies worldwide. In 2000 he was appointed to the Spanish Office for Science and Technology (SOST) in Brussels. In 2002 he was grantedMetcalfe Visitor Professor in the University of New South Wales in Sydney (Australia). He has an MSc in Biology (University Complutense, Madrid) and an MSc in Information Science (University Carlos III, Madrid). He was awarded with the IWE 96 prize, given by the Spanish information Science Community. In 2009 he was invested Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Indonesia. In 2015 he received his second Doctor Honoris Causa from the Russia Nuclear Research University.

Mirko degli Esposti

Deputy Rector Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna; Member, IREG Observatory Executive Committee

Mr. Degli Esposti is Full Professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Deputy Rector Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna, Dean of Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna, Head of Service for the health and safety of people in the workplace, President of the Alma Mater Foundation and Delegate for Rankings.

Mr. Degli Esposti is also a member of the QS Intelligence Unit Advisory Board, National Coordinator for Italy for the UI GreenMetric Network, and coordinator of a working group on Academic rankings at the Conference of Italian University Rectors, CRUI.

Gero Federkeil

Head of International Rankings at CHE

Gero Federkeil is Head of International Rankings at CHE – Centre for Higher Education, Guetersloh, Germany, and Coordinator of U-Multirank. In October 2009, he was elected Vice-President of the IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence.

At CHE he is responsible for international ranking activities, including the U-Multirank project funded by the European Union.

He is an internationally recognized expert in the field of rankings. His main fields of work and publications include rankings, performance indicators, benchmarking, quality assurance and issues of employability/ university – labour market relations. He is a member of the German Association of Evaluation.

He holds a Master Degree in Sociology (1989) from Bielefeld University.

Fu Guo

Vice President, Beijing University of Technology (BJUT)

Prof. Fu Guo was appointed Vice President of Beijing University of Technology (BJUT) in Nov. 2019. He’s currently leading BJUT’s pioneering efforts in human resources, international exchange and cooperation, student work, alumni affairs and continuing education.
Dr. Guo earned his Ph.D. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Michigan State University (MSU) in 2001 and served as a postdoctoral research associate at MSU from 2001 to 2003. He joined the BJUT faculty in 2003 and became a full professor in 2004. Before becoming Vice President, Dr. Guo has served as Director of Faculty of Materials and Manufacturing, Dean of College of Materials Science and Engineering, Director of Academic Affairs Office, Director of Undergraduate Admissions Office and Dean of Fan Gongxiu Honors College at BJUT.
As a distinguished materials professor, Dr. Guo serves as PI for several national and municipal level research projects. His main research areas include materials processing engineering, reliability study of electronic packaging materials and structures, and thermoelectric materials for cooling and power generation applications. He has more than 120 publications in international high-level scientific journals including Science, Nature, Advanced Materials, Journal of American Chemical Society, etc. He has published the first monograph on Lead-free Soldering Technology and Application in China, and the globally invited paper on Composite Electronic Solders in the Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Electronics.
Dr. Guo has won many awards and titles, such as MSU Outstanding Academic Achievement Award, Fok Ying-tung Young Teachers Award, MOE New Century Excellent Talent, National Excellent Educator title, Capital Excellent Educator title, Capital May 4th Youth Medal, Capital Labor Medal, First Prize of Beijing Teaching and Education Achievement Award, etc.
Dr. Guo is now the chair of Beijing Industrial Promotion Association for Advanced Carbon Materials and a board member of China Association of Higher Education. He has been serving as member of the 15th Beijing Municipal People’s Congress since 2017. He used to serve as the chair of China Materials Society Youth Committee, chair of Manufacturing Technology Committee of Beijing Electronic Society and chair of TMS Electronic Packaging and Interconnect Materials Committee.

Ellen Hazelkorn

Dublin Institute of Technology

Professor Hazelkorn is Policy Advisor to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and Emeritus Professor and Director, Higher Education Policy Research Unit (HEPRU), Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland). She is President of EAIR (European Higher Education Society), and on the Advisory Board and the Management Committee, Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), UCL Institute for Education, in addition to being an International Co-Investigator.

Ellen is internationally recognised for her writings and analysis of the impact and influence of rankings on higher education policy and institutional decision-making. Rankings and the Reshaping of Higher Education: The Battle for World-Class Excellence (2nd ed.) was published in 2015. In addition, she has authored Developing Research in New Institutions (OECD, 2005), co-edited Rankings and Accountability in Higher Education: Uses and Misuses (UNESCO, 2013), and co-authored, Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes: impact or illusion? (EUA, 2014).

Richard Holmes

Blogger, University Ranking Watch

Richard Holmes holds master’s degrees from the Universities of Cambridge and Surrey and a doctorate from Binghamton University SUNY. He has worked at colleges and universities in the USA, Nigeria and Malaysia, including the University of Maiduguri, the International Islamic University Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi MARA and has written on social history, historical archaeology and applied linguistics. His work has been published in journals such as English for Specific Purposes, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, and ITL Review of Applied Linguistics.

He is currently interested in international university rankings and produces the blog University Ranking Watch. He has also written on rankings for a variety of publications including WONK HE, Study International, the Asian Journal of University Education, and Arabia Higher Education.

Robert Morse

Chief Data Strategist for US News & World Report, Member of IREG Observatory

Robert Morse is in charge of producing the America’s Best Colleges, the America’s Best Graduate Schools and America’s Best High Schools rankings all of which are published annually by U.S. News & World Report. He takes the lead role in survey design, ranking methodology changes and higher education research as well as monitoring data collection.

Mr. Morse developed most of the current methodologies that are used in the America’s Best Colleges and America’s Best Graduate Schools ranking projects and has been working full-time on both the America’s Best Colleges and America’s Best Graduate Schools publications starting in 1989. U.S. News has published the America’s Best Colleges rankings annually starting in 1987. Mr. Morse is the author of a widely read blog on academic rankings called Morse Code Inside the College Rankings. Mr. Morse is a founding member and is on the Executive Committee of the International Ranking Experts Group.

Sabine Righetti

Coordinator of the Brazilian National Ranking “Folha de São Paulo”

Sabine Righetti is part-time professor at the Public Administration Department at Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV-SP) and associated researcher at Unicamp (University of Campinas), the same institution where she concluded her master’s and doctorate in Scientific and Technological Policies. She worked as a science and education reporter for more than ten years writing for places such as Folha de S. Paulo, one of the most influential daily news vehicles in Brazil. Since 2012, she coordinates the Folha’s University Ranking – RUF (Ranking Universitário Folha – RUF). The ranking and her work as journalist earned her six journalism national awards. Sabine Righetti is also a Knight Fellow (University of Michigan ‘2012), Eisenhower Fellow (2014) and Lemann Fellow (Stanford University’ 2017) working with education and higher education assessment.

Jan Sadlak

Non-voting Member of Executive Committee

Jan Sadlak, former IREG Observatory President (2009-2018), is internationally recognized and highly cited scholar in higher education and science, with particular interest in issues of policy development and practices related to system level and institutional reforms, evaluation and quality assurance, role of higher education in social and economic development. In recent years his interest has been focused on strategic and system level developments of higher education and research in the context of globalization as well as evaluation of academic performance, in particular accreditation, benchmarking and academic rankings.

Waldemar Siwinski

Vice President, IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence; President, Perspektywy Education Foundation.

Waldemar Siwiński graduated from the Faculty of Electronics of the Warsaw University of Technology; he also studied at the postgraduate School of Diplomacy in Warsaw. Waldemar Siwinski has considerable experience as author of professional rankings. He prepared over 40 rankings of universities, business schools and secondary schools in Poland. WS has extensive and rich media background as writer, journalist and manager. WS served as president of the Polish Press Agency (PAP). WS was bureau member of the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA); board member of the European PressPhoto Agency (EPA); member of the International Press Institute. He was also Chairman of the Conference of Polish Media. As President of Perspektywy Foundation WS is active in Academic Cooperation Association (ACA).

Mr. Siwinski founded and headed for several years “Perspektywy Press”, a publishing and marketing company specializing in education. In October 2009, WS was elected Vice President of the IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence.

Ben Sowter

Senior Vice President, QS Quacquarelli Symonds Unit

Ben spent two years working for the UK national office of international student charity, AIESEC, for which he was ultimately elected National President. Ben leads the QS Intelligence Unit who are fully responsible for the operational management of all major QS research projects including the QS Top MBA Applicant and Recruiter Research, the QS World University Rankings® and the QS Asian University Rankings.

Ben has travelled to over 40 countries and spoken on his research in over 20. He has personally visited over 35 of the world’s top 100 universities amongst countless others and is also a regular speaker on the conference circuit.

Jakob Stoustrup

Vice Dean, Aalborg University, Denmark

Distinguished Academic Achievements Associate editor of International Journal of Robust and  Nonlinear Control; Board member of International Journal of Control; Editor of special issue of International Journal of Robust and Nonlinear Control on Loop Transfer Recovery. Associate editor of Journal of Control Science and Engineering.
General Chair for three international conferences. Program Chair/Program Vice-Chair for two  international conferences. Member of program committees for 30+ international conferences.
Plenary speaker for three international conferences, including European Control Conference. Member of IEEE CSS Board of Governors. Chair of IEEE CSS Technical Committee on Smart Grids. IEEE Wikipedia Editor. Member of IFAC Technical Board. IFAC Social Media Liaison. Chair of IFAC Technical Committee on Detection, Supervision and Safety for Technical Processes; Chair for IEEE Joint CSS/RAS Chapter.

Member of the Governing Board and Council of the European Union Control Association (EUCA). Member of IFAC Technical Committee on Robust Control; Senior Member of IEEE, 1999. Member of Danish Academy of Technical Sciences. Chair of Think Tank of Danish Academy of Technical Sciences.
Author of 300+ papers in international journals and proceedings of international conferences with peer review;
Numerous reviews for 10+ ISI journals and 40+ intl. conferences. Five PCT patent applications. Publication impact h-index of 41 (Google Scholar).
Opponent at doctoral defenses in several  countries. Reviewer for national and international funding authorities.

Member of Swedish Research Council (Signals and Systems) since 2004. Member of Norwegian Research Council since 2011. Member of The Danish Research Council for Technology and Production Sciences 2006-2010. Member of evaluation panel for European Research Council 2011-2013.
Research and management experience from several research programs with funding from national and international funding agencies, and from industry. Main applicant or co-applicant for 23 successful major research applications. The total budget of all projects involved in as a Principal Investigator or co-investigator exceeds 60.000.000 e.
Chair of the Doctoral School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Aalborg University 2001-2007. Member of Open Access Policy Committee at Aalborg University. Member of Academic Council at Aalborg University.

Member of Dean’s Funding Strategy Committee. Numerous appointments for educational committees. Member of Academic Committee (Fagligt Udvalg) for the Ministry of Higher Education and Science as part of the governance structure for the Danish Bibliometric Research Indicator. Chair of electrical engineering panel regarding the Danish Bibliometric Research Indicator (BFI).
Recipient of the Dannin Award for Scientific Research 2006. Recipient of the STATOIL Prize 1997 for outstanding contributions in engineering sciences. Multiple recipient of Best Paper Award in Session of the Amer Control Conf.
Awarded Order of the Dannebrog, a Danish chivalric order by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark for extraordinary contributions to research and for perseverance in dissemination of the results to industry.
Active cooperation with 50+ research institutions and 100+ private companies. Supervision of 29 completed PhD projects.

Alex Usher

President, Higher Education Strategy Associates

An internationally recognized expert in student financial aid and quality measurement in post-secondary education, Mr. Usher has authored numerous ground-breaking studies in higher education. In addition to his years of work on higher education in Canada, his recent work spans Asia, Europe and Africa as well.

In his former role as Director of Educational Policy Institute Canada (EPI Canada), Mr. Usher managed the Measuring the Effectiveness of Student Aid Project for the Millennium Scholarship Foundation, a 4-year $4 million research project to investigate the long-term effects of student aid and is the author of the project’s Final Report, appearing in early 2010. In 2002 and 2004, Mr. Usher co-authored (with Sean Junor) the Price of Knowledge, a volume considered the standard reference on student finance in Canada. More recently, he has written the theme document for UNESCO Europe’s decennial meeting on higher education, Ten Years Back and Ten Years Forward: Developments and Trends in Higher Education in Europe Region. He sits on a variety of advisory, supervisory and editorial boards in Canada, Europe and Asia.

Ludo Waltman

Deputy Director of CWTS Leiden

Ludo Waltman is professor of Quantitative Science Studies and deputy director at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) at Leiden University. Ludo leads the Quantitative Science Studies (QSS) research group at CWTS. Ludo is coordinator of the CWTS Leiden Ranking, a bibliometric ranking of major universities worldwide. In addition, Ludo serves as Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Informetrics.

Hans de Wit

Director, Center for International Higher Education (CIHE), Boston College, USA

Hans de Wit is Professor and Director of the ‘Center for International Higher Education’ (CIHE) at Boston College, USA. Before, he was Director of the ‘Centre for Higher Education Internationalisation’ (CHEI) at the Università Cattolica Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy, and Professor of Internationalization of Higher Education at the Amsterdam, University of Applied Sciences. He was Vice-President for International Affairs of the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 1996-2003.

He is founding member and past president of the European Association for International Education (EAIE). He is Founding Editor of the ‘Journal of Studies in International Education’ (SAGE), Consulting Editor of the journal Policy Reviews in Higher Education, Associate Editor of International higher Education, and Co-editor book series ‘ Global Perspectives in Higher Education, Sense Publishers.

He publishes a blog in University World News, He has (co)written books and articles on international education and is actively involved in assessment and consultancy in international education, for organisations like the European Commission, UNESCO, World Bank, IMHE/OECD, IAU, European Parliament.