Another comment on the utility of university ranking systems – Prospective students appear to ignore them! [Speakers at London Meeting Analyze How Students Choose Colleges Abroad « Ninth Level Ireland]
The single most important factor in influencing where students look first as they seek information about programs abroad is the guidance of friends and family members, Rebecca Loades, an associate director at the Graduate Management Admission Council, said her organization’s surveys suggest. But there are regional variations. In Africa and the Middle East, undergraduates tend to look to their professors for advice, while students in Latin America are more likely to seek information from external publications.
Surveys of graduate business students reveal three key reasons behind their choice of a particular program, Ms. Loades said: quality and reputation; specifics about the curriculum, such as location and program duration; and career-related factors, such as how well a program meets specific employment goals.
What is really striking about this article is the lack of of reference to university ranking systems as a key variable in student choices. No mention whatsoever! So, rather than imagining hordes of students feverishly studying these rankings and choosing to apply to number 43 rather than number 87 (or some such ranking), students are much more likely to make applications on the basis of what is known within their own social networks, rather than a ranking system. Perhaps ranking systems owe more to the needs of universities to position themselves relative to each other, rather than the needs of students for such rankings? As noted here in a previous post, the two major ranking systems pay little attention to issues as UG/PG satisfaction, UG completion rates or prospective graduate employment salary uplift as function of institution. So why should students pay attention to the ranking systems? Additionally, neither system measures cost of education: the article notes that ‘as the rupee lost ground against the dollar … [there was a] steep drop in applications from India, while British institutions reported being deluged’.