‘Somewhat toning down the arrogance wouldn’t go amiss. Avans may be world-famous in the province of Brabant, we had nevertheless better strengthen our position in the international playing field’. This is the conclusion arrived at by Frans van Kalmthout following the launch of Multirank, a new global ranking system for universities and universities of applied sciences.
This rating system was developed in response to other worldwide rankings, such as the Shanghai Ranking, and the World University Ranking published by the British magazine Times Higher Education. In contrast to these rankings, Multirank does not mainly focus on the research performance of universities. Why would an ordinary student want to know that Harvard or MIT are the best universities in the world? How can he compare universities and universities of applied sciences that he is genuinely interested in?
Are we happy enough to merely be a regional university of applied sciences, or do we want to play a role in the international arena?
As a member of the Board of Governors, Van Kalmthout urged Avans to participate in Multirank. ‘The question is: “Are we happy enough to merely be a regional university of applied sciences, or do we want to play a role in the international arena?” For the first time ever, Multirank offers international institutions the opportunity to benchmark themselves against each other. This system furthermore provides its users with much more information than higher education programmes guide De Keuzegids or Elsevier, for instance, as not only student satisfaction as regards academic teaching is measured, but also subjects such as research, funds obtained through contract research (‘the third flow of funds’) and internationalisation.’
Research and internationalisation
Avans is one of four Dutch universities of applied sciences to have been included in the rankings. Avans Hogeschool performs well where education and degree programmes are concerned, but compared to other universities of applied sciences, it lags behind in terms of research and internationalisation. ‘These are key aspects that Avans should be really worried about’, according to Frans van Kalmthout, director of Open Education and International Relations. ‘If we don’t pick up this challenge, before you know it, our foreign partners may decide to work with other institutions instead.’ Take for instance Fachhochschule Reutlingen that works in partnership with ASIS. Reutlingen, however, achieves significantly higher scores in the field of international relations.
‘When it comes to internationalisation we are lagging behind in comparison to other universities of applied sciences’
‘When it comes to internationalisation we are lagging behind in comparison to other universities of applied sciences. For the past decade Saxion, for example, has had a far more consistent and transparent internationalisation policy in place’, Van Kalmthout continues. The Multirank scores moreover show that, compared to other universities of applied sciences, Avans Hogeschool underperforms as far as the generation of so-called third flows of funds is concerned.
In the past year, Avans was asked to furnish the makers of the ranking with certain information from its annual report. In addition, one thousand students of International Business and Management Studies, Industrial Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering, were interviewed. ‘The information gathered provides a first picture of Avans. Compared to foreign students, our students only attain moderate scores as opposed to the top scores mentioned in De Keuzegids. Next year, students from even more study programmes will be polled.’
‘For the first time ever, a foreign student wishing to study in the Netherlands can compare not only Dutch education institutions, but also compare these with other institutions’
Multirank is not only of interest to policymakers in higher educational institutions, but is also a handy tool for students themselves. ‘For the first time ever, a foreign student wishing to study in the Netherlands can compare not only Dutch education institutions, but also compare these with other institutions such as the German Fachhochschule that has meanwhile also been classified as a university of applied sciences, or with Danish or Swedish institutions. The same applies the other way around: Avans’ students can use Multirank to help them decide which foreign study programme would suit them best.’
Van Kalmthout has high expectations of the new ranking system. ‘As more institutions sign up for this system and the number of polled students increases, from an international point of view this ranking instrument will eventually carry more weight than De Keuzegids.