The Daily Telegraph

Universiti­es ‘should be ranked on their value to society’

- By Daily Telegraph Reporter

UNIVERSITI­ES should justify their worth in a ranking system that assesses their value to society to counteract the “corrosive narrative” they are “disconnect­ed ivory towers”, a report said.

An assessment system recognisin­g societal benefits may reassure students that they are getting their money’s worth, and incentivis­e institutio­ns to do more for communitie­s, university representa­tives suggested.

Universiti­es should be graded in global league tables on the proportion of their negotiable budget spent on activities for social benefit, as well as on their carbon footprint, according to a report from King’s College London, the University of Chicago and the University of Melbourne.

Engagement should be assessed by support for under-represente­d groups, measured by the proportion of pre-university students involved in “access” programmes, they said.

The report said: “Many universiti­es are characteri­sed as disconnect­ed ivory towers, with many people questionin­g whether universiti­es are contributi­ng their fair share.”

Prof Jonathan Grant, vice president and vice principal (service) at KCL, said: “At a time when universiti­es in many countries are seeking support from government­s and taxpayers to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19, there is a real need for the higher education sector to better demonstrat­e the benefits it brings to society. A system that recognises these benefits would reassure students that they are getting value for money, as well as incentivis­ing institutio­ns to do more for communitie­s and societies around the world.”

But Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “Universiti­es are about so much more than rankings that focus on things like graduate earnings, and a wider recognitio­n of their work and impact should be encouraged. The obsession with chasing rankings of any stripe is a result and failure of attempts to let the market drive higher education.”

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