The ensuing post refers to Guenther Krumpak‘s post regarding the “downranking” of Centrope universities; a contribution I found quite insightful.
I mostly concur with the thesis: the gap between the benchmarked results of Central European universities as compared to the positive economic output of the educated workforce is embarrassing; mostly for the “institutes” that conduct the rankings. Part of this weird outcome is caused by the research indicators used but also the mentality of many Central Europeans that tend to criticize their alma mater more than any Anglo-American student would do.
Taking citations into account as an indicator automatically favors universities whose scholars publish in English. Certainly many of the Centrope region’s universities publish in their respective languages, resulting in less citations and less publications in academic outlets such as Science or Nature which form another benchmarking indicator. Besides, other countries acknowledge the importance of their educational industry as an opportunity to create revenues and spread cultural values, something that often seems to be forgotten in Europe.
Sometimes evaluations take professors’ and students’ views of their respective universities into account. The differing answers are somewhat characteristic for the Anglo-American attitude to their alma mater as compared to many representatives from the Centrope regions: no student would ever publicly criticize his former university, since it would be perceived as criticizing their own qualification and even be potentially harmful to their career; even third tier university students will rather highlight the underestimated quality of their respective educational facilities.
European students tend to be highly critical of their universities. This attitude can be observed with a range of issues, such as the state of their economy, their country and many public factors. Speaking of that tendency benevolently, one could well highlight the degree of critical thinking that students obtained during their educational career or emphasize a genuine US-optimism that is highly characteristic for the country as a whole, even during difficult times.
As for my personal experience: I happened to work with students from Harvard when implementing a common conference. They are elaborate, intelligent and very eloquent. Respective outputs compared, the academic capability was – by and large – pretty much the same as compared to the Heidelberg students. I bet, however, an “official” ranking would have shown different results.