By Ruth A. Pagell*
(20 July 2016) Harvard, MIT and Cal Tech are all ranked number one by at least one major ranking service, but the flagship universities for their states are the publically (state government) funded University of Massachusetts and University of California Berkley.
“The New Flagship University: Changing the Paradigm from Global Rankings to National Relevancy”, edited by John Aubrey Douglass, offers an alternative to chasing top 100 World Class University (WCU) status and suggests “a need for specific national universities with specific characteristics” in which regional and national relevance take precedence over global rankings (Douglass, 2016, xiv). The first half of the book discusses WCUs, rankings and the old and new flagship model. The second half examines four regions: Asia, Latin America, Scandinavia and the Soviet model.
The book’s ideas are relevant to our concerns about the limited number of universities that can be considered “Top” and the growing awareness of the need for national and regional relevance. This article focuses on the WCU, Flagships, and tertiary education systems which have, not surprisingly, generated a new set of rankings. The second part of this article focusing on the relevance to Asia and other developing regions will follow.
Ruth’s Rankings have discussed WCUs and their national higher education policy bodies that aspire to have world class universities as measured by external ranking organizations. We have reiterated the reality that not all universities can or should be a WCU. The Flagship model is a U.S. construct, beginning with the establishment in the 19th century of the land grant colleges that is suggested today as a complement to WCU status.
World Class Universities
The term “World Class University” became popular in the 21st century, tied to top ranked universities or the desire to become a top ranked university. The many definitions of the WCU vary from the simplistic definition that a world class university is a university ranked in AWRU (or QS or THE) to the long list of characteristics in Table 20.1.
In 1998, John Niland (2000), then President of UNSW, articulated his vision for creating world class universities in Asia. At the time Niland gave his talk at NUS there were no global rankings and reputation and perception were the standards for world class standing. In 2004, Alden and Lim proposed an expanded list of characteristics of WCUs, available in the Douglass book and as part of the freely available World Class University, from the World Bank (Salmi, 2009).
There is no standard for what rank a university needs to be considered world class. ARWU has always included 500 universities with the top 100 getting individual ranks. The 2004 THE-QS rankings included 200 universities. In 2016, QS ranked 700, with 400 getting individual rankings and THE ranked 800 with individual ranks still going only to the top 200. Not all these universities can be world class.
Traditional Flagship Universities
The U.S. College Board (Baum, Lapovsky, & Ma, 2010) defines flagship universities as the best-known institutions in the state, noting that they were generally the first to be established and are frequently the largest and most selective, as well as the most research-intensive public universities.
Gary Olson (2012) at The Chronicle of Higher Education offers the following definition: “…typically a state’s flagship is its land-grant institution. It is likely to be the university with the highest research profile and the most doctoral programs. It may house the state’s medical school, law school, or both. And it may be the largest and best endowed university in the state…and NCAA Division I athletics is a must.” He also encourages universities within a state to carve out specialties, which make the entire higher education system more efficient.
The New Flagship University Model
Douglass (2016) presents his vision of the New Flagship within the environment of massification of higher education on one hand and the “status anxiety” of being a WCU on the other. Figure 20.1 shows the rise in percent of world population receiving university degrees from 10% in 1970 to over 33% in 2013.
Two consequences of rankings and their pressure to produce WCUs and of massification, to provide tertiary education for more of the population, are a search for a new university model and some form of excellence assessments and performance-based funding, as we noted in Ruth’s Rankings 18 for Australia and New Zealand.
What differentiates Flagships is that they have three missions: teaching and learning, research and knowledge production and public service and engagement in economic development. The concept of the new flagship is part of a theme we see in the rankings and literature about looking at the importance of universities within their national and regional contexts. Table 20.2 is a summary of Douglass’ Flagship characteristics compared to his WCU characteristics.
Appendix 20 A provides a more detailed list of the components of a Flagship University. At the other end of the “what is a flagship” spectrum, Millot (2015) refers to local flagships as universities with the potential to become WCUs.
Douglass identifies four “Realms of Policies and Practices” and explains them in the book and in his online article (Douglass, 2014). The realms or categories are (1) National Higher Education System; (2) Core Mission of Teaching Learning, and Research; (3) Engaged Scholarship and Public Service; and (4) Management and Accountability. This last category includes both institutional autonomy and international engagement.
Douglass emphasizes the importance of the Flagship having a strong regional and national focus and at the same time that it is collaborating with universities worldwide. Flagships should not see “International engagement as an end itself (or for that matter a way to improve WCU rankings)”.
The model needs to be adapted to individual countries and Douglass identifies13 variables at play in different regions of the World (Appendix 20 A Part 2: National context and other variables). The Flagship model could have the greatest potential in developing economies that are growing their tertiary institutions to meet growing population demands. They also face the most challenges, such as low faculty salaries, cultures of corruption leading to paying for grades, limitations for women and limitations on academic freedom of speech. (Douglass, 2016 Chapter 4). We will look at the national variables in the article that will follow on the relevance of Flagship Universities in the Asian and developing world context.
One of the trends accompanying the discussion of flagships is rankings of national systems. Universitas’ 21 “Ranking of National Higher Education Systems 2016 “, now in its fifth edition, was the first such ranking. (U21). The ranking includes 25 variables in four categories for 50 systems: Output, Research [expenditures], Connectivity, and Environment. It incorporates bibliometric measures with survey data and data from international organizations. See Appendix 20 B:1 for a list of the measures and their data sources and Table 20 B:1 for the Top 10 Countries by metric plus all ranked Asia/Pacific countries
QS in its new (2016) Higher Education Systems Strength Rankings incorporates the Flagship University for a Country into its rankings, defined as the one ranked highest in its rankings. See Appendix 20 B:2 for a list of QS’ measures, a critique of the methodology and Table 20 B: 2, the Top 10 Countries by metric plus all ranked Asia/Pacific countries.
The system rankings are compared in Table 20:3 It includes the rankings of the top ten systems worldwide in U21 and QS above the yellow line. It also shows all systems appearing in both rankings and the rank for the top university in each country from QS(2016) and ARWU (2015).
The model for the new Flagship University broadens the scope of the university’s mission within its regional and local community, raises the importance of the national educational system, and lowers the emphasis on rankings but not on quality. Private institutions and those in specialized fields may not fit the complete definition of a flagship. In some countries, cultural and financial resources are lacking
In the follow-up article we will broaden our scope to incorporate some of the demographic and economic indicators that impact the ability for many Asian and developing countries ability to reach world class or flagship status.
Alden, J. and Lim, G. (2004) Benchmarking the characteristics of a World-Class University: Developing an international strategy at university level leadership, London: Foundation for Higher Education. Characteristics available in Douglass (2016) and Salmi (2009).
Baum, S. Lapovsky, L. and Ma,J. (September, 2010). Tuition discounting: Institutional aid patterns at public and private colleges and universities, 2000-01 to 2008-09. College Board, 17 accessed 13 July, 2016
Douglass, J. A., ed. (2016). The New Flagship University: Changing the paradigm from global rankings to national relevancy. Basingstoke UK: Palgrave MacMillan.
Douglass, J.A. (2014). Profiling the flagship university model: An exploratory proposal for changing the paradigm from ranking to relevancy. Research and Occasional Paper Series CSHE 5:14 – summary of many of the points in the book, accessed 11 July 2016.
Millot, B. (2014). International rankings: Universities vs. higher education systems. International Journal of Educational Development, 40,156-165.
Niland, J. (3 February 2000). The Challenge of building world class universities in the Asian Region, On Line Opinion, accessed 18 July 2016. This is an edited extract from a public lecture delivered at the National University of Singapore on the 25th June, 1998.
Olson, G.A. (15 March, 2012). Standing out from the crowd. Chronicle of Higher Education, accessed 10 July 2016.
Salmi, J. (2009).The Challenge of Establishing World Class Universities. Washington D.C., World Bank. Accessed online 13 July 2016.
OTHER REFERENCES OF INTEREST:
Chan, T. (November 2015). Role of Universities in face of rise of international rankings. Paper presented at the Sixth International Conference on World Class Universities, Shanghai Jiao Tung
Frazer, M.(1994). Quality in higher education: An international perspective in what is quality in higher education. edited by D. Green, London Society for Research in Higher Education. 101-111 available online through ERIC.
A list of Ruth’s Rankings and News Updates is here.
*Ruth A. Pagell is currently an adjunct faculty [teaching] in the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawaii. Before joining UH, she was the founding librarian of the Li Ka Shing Library at Singapore Management University. She has written and spoken extensively on various aspects of librarianship, including contributing articles to ACCESS – https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3238-9674.