Where is the new generation of the best young universities?


To see the THE Results of the Young Universities Ranking 2022

The UK has long been home to more of the world’s best young universities than any other country. While the country’s higher education system is perhaps most globally associated with the ancient spiers and great halls of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, its major institutions aged 50 and under – many of them old polytechnics – outnumber those in the rest of the world. since 2016. That is, until this year.

India and Turkey are now in the lead Times Higher Education Ranking of young universities in terms of representation, with 40 institutions each, while Iran’s 37 universities share third place with the United Kingdom. Overall, the list of countries for 2022 seems to support the idea that we are now in the “Asian century”.

The Youth Table, perhaps more than any other ranking, reflects the evolution of global higher education policies. The UK’s lead was the result of two major policy changes – one in the 1960s, following the historic Robbins report on higher education which recommended a wide expansion of the system, and legislation in the early 1960s. 1990s which allowed dozens of institutions that were polytechnics to become universities. Universities that were created in response to the first have since left the ranking after reaching their 51st birthday.

India’s rise to the top of the list of countries reflects the expansion in the number of institutes of technology in 2008, as well as the emergence of new private universities, with the aim of meeting the aspirations of a middle class in full growth. The number of Turkish universities has also exploded since the 1990s in response to its growing population. The European University Association (EUA) Public Funding Observatory reports that the number of students in Turkey increased by 230%, to almost 8 million, between 2008 and 2019.

Hans de Wit, Distinguished Fellow of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, says university expansion tends to occur in less mature higher education systems.

In many Asian and African countries, “the demand is increasing and the supply is still insufficient because they have not been so strong in the past to offer higher education, so there is a strong need for more universities” , he said.

“It’s quite different from North America, Europe and Australia, where we now have a sort of absorption rate of access to higher education.”

One of the new Indian players to join the ranking in the last two years is the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN), which ranks fifth in the country and co-140and in the world, compared to 155and Last year.

Its founding director, Sudhir Jain, who was an academic at IIT Kanpur for 35 years, says he does not see the institution as “a poor cousin of the old IITs” – which are among the most prestigious universities in the country – but rather as “a next generation IIT”.

“Just as every father wants his children to do better than [he] fact, I too am on a mission for the IITGN to be a superior IIT,” he says.

One of the differences between the IITGN and its elders, according to Jain, is the focus on students, who are always “the first priority”.

“That means providing them with a significantly superior educational experience and preparing them for life – not for their first job, but for their last job,” he says.

Academics are now rated not only on the number of research papers they have written and the number of doctoral students they have supervised, but also on the outcomes of those doctoral students, such as where they are currently working. .

“We still focus on research, but we try to see it through the prism of students,” he says.

Jain has also emphasized interdisciplinarity during his leadership.

“A subject is not the monopoly of the teacher who has obtained a degree in that discipline,” he says.

“If you are a physics teacher, you don’t have physics. Someone in English literature might also own physics and want to teach physics. At the IITGN, nearly 15% of students have a thesis supervisor who is not in their discipline…because when you have interdisciplinary knowledge, you can solve real problems. You want to have an impact.

Jain acknowledges that it will take time for the IITGN to be recognized in the same way as former IITs – but he believes the institution will get there.

“There is no rush; we are not in a 100 meter race, we are in a marathon,” he says.

Indeed, while several Asian countries have more universities in the youth rankings than ever before, in many cases these institutions have not made it to the top ranks. India’s leading representative, JSS Private Academy for Higher Education and Research is 70and; Turkey’s highest position is common 89and and Iran is 67 years oldand.

And while four of the top 10 spots are taken by mainland institutions, that’s down from six last year due to the decline of two South Korean universities. A French institution – Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris – takes the top spot from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, making it the first time an Asian institution has not been in the lead since 2017.

France’s rise to first place has also been accompanied by an increase in the number of establishments ranked in recent years; 24 of its universities are in the table, up from 16 five years ago. Seventeen of these institutions were founded in the last 10 years and five are in the top 20, more than any other country.

However, the rise of young universities in France is a very different trend from that of India or Turkey; it is less about an expansion of the country’s higher education system than about consolidation through the process of consolidating – and sometimes merging – existing institutions. The development is part of a government campaign to create several “mega universities” that will be more visible on the world stage.

One of them is the Institut Polytechnique de Paris, which joins the ranking for the first time this year in sixth place. It was created in 2019 following the merger of five small engineering schools.

Its president, Eric Labaye, says that “scale matters”, not only from the point of view of attracting the attention of students, staff, funders and partners in higher education around the world, but also in terms of having the critical mass to be able to undertake high-impact research and innovation projects. The institution now has three interdisciplinary centers on energy and climate, AI and data analytics, and defense and cybersecurity, while a fourth center on biomedical engineering is in the works.

Another development of which Labaye is particularly proud is Polytechnique Insights, a free online magazine inspired by the Technology Review of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It offers an overview of the socio-economic implications of research and innovation and the “big movements that affect the world” in the fields of environment, health, natural resources, finance and demography. . Its website indicates that the initiative is “a vector of international influence for the Institut Polytechnique de Paris”.

“None of the schools could have done it on their own. We needed a critical mass for that,” explains Labaye.

“We already have 40,000 subscribers. It is a way of communicating the scientific results of the Institut Polytechnique to a wider audience.

While Labaye says improving the rankings was not the first goal, his strong performance in the rankings is “testimony” that “bringing the five schools together works”.

“It increased visibility,” he adds.

But Enora Bennetot Pruvot, deputy director of governance, funding and public policy development at EUA, says merging institutions is not a surefire way to improve research performance or international visibility. .

“There are mergers that could actually knock some very reputable or fairly well-recognized institutions down the rankings in places, if you join institutions that have very different profiles,” she says.

“In France, there was a strong rationale, due to the nature of the establishment of the French system and the division of universities after the 1960s into what we would normally call faculties.”

Pruvot says there is unlikely to be much more expansion of higher education in Europe, but mergers have been popular across the continent over the past 15 years, sometimes due to declining youth population, and should continue to some extent.

In many cases, university consolidation in the 2010s was seen as a way to cut costs in the wake of the economic crisis – but Pruvot also cautions against this logic.

“These expectations of efficiency and cost reduction have not turned out to be true because mergers actually require a lot of investment. The chances of success are higher when you don’t drive these processes through very difficult times,” she says.

But she says there is now a better understanding of the complexity of these processes, and that many of the recent consolidation projects have been aimed at meeting local needs or increasing system differentiation.

New legislation enacted in Ireland in 2018, for example, allowed institutions to band together and apply to be designated as a “university of technology”. So far, one such institution has been created – Dublin University of Technology in 2019, which ranks in the 351-400 bracket of the youth rankings – but four other consortia are engaged in the process. The government says that technological universities will meet the social and economic needs of their region, focus on vocationally and professionally oriented science and technology programs and engage in industry-oriented research.

According to global higher education expert Jamil Salmi, some Asian countries are likely to lean more towards consolidation than the creation of new universities.

“Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea share the same problem of declining high school-leaver populations – as do Eastern European countries and Russia,” he says.

“I think the only place where you will still see expansion is the Middle East and Africa.”

However, Salmi says these newcomers are unlikely to reach the top of the youth or world rankings.

“Very few of them will have the financial base and the strategic objective to become strong research universities,” he says.

De Wit also says the newcomers are unlikely to cause a stir among established players anytime soon – a vision that ambitious leaders like Jain and Labaye might choose to see as motivation.

“Even if you look at China, the dominant universities are the old dominant universities. If you look at the young research universities in Europe, they’re not doing badly, but they’re not really among the top research universities,” says De Wit.

“Even those who are now almost 50 years old have not been able to accomplish this.”

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